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Jacqueline Monahan

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By Jacqueline Monahan

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Benihana Opens New Restaurant at Fashion Show Mall

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your food after you order it but before it is served, you’ll find out when you visit Benihana at their brand new location on the plaza at Fashion Show Mall. Located right on the Strip at 3200 Las Vegas Blvd, Suite 1250, the iconic teppanyaki* restaurant (open since August 2016) promises to delight those who already know what the Benihana experience entails, as well as those who are new to the concept.

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Benihana Restaurant interior
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

*Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle (grill) to cook food.  The word is derived from teppan (iron plate) and yaki (grilled, broiled, or pan-fried).  Benihana is also known as a Japanese hibachi restaurant; in this instance, hibachi is synonymous with teppanyaki, not the tiny grate of a standard hibachi grill. There is nothing tiny about a teppanyaki table, able to seat 6-12 comfortably around its rim, like theater patrons waiting for a show to begin.

You will have first-hand knowledge of all this after just one visit.  At Benihana, your chef (one is assigned to your table) is also your host, performer, food presenter, and even magician, transforming various proteins and veggies into mouthwatering marvels.  He can “paint” images with a beaten egg or turn a stack of onion slices into a burning volcano in an entertaining food circus where the headlining aerial act just might be your colossal shrimp. The performance varies by order.

On a recent visit to the new location, your humble correspondent and company were delighted to have Benihana’s most requested chef, George, attend to our teppanyaki table.  Chef George is a food god, turning ingredients into culinary artwork after first clanging his metal prep tools in a kind of dinner bell attention-grabber that signaled the beginning of the performance.  

With spatula, barbecue fork, and ultra-sharp knife, Chef George deftly spun, carved, sautéed and served three separate entrees that went from the field (Spicy Tofu Steak) to the farm (Hibachi Chicken) to the ocean (Surf Side – scallops, colossal shrimp, calamari).

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Chef George in action
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Wearing the signature white chef’s jacket and tall red hat, Chef George started with the vegetarian entrée first, to avoid contact with the animal protein dishes that followed.  Gluten-free soy sauce was provided and used in preparation, to accommodate food sensitivities.   Handling a few ingredients at a time, in sequential order, Chef George maneuvered perfectly seasoned meal components into cooked serving portions that were delivered by spatula to the waiting plates that lined the rim of the teppanyaki.

Meat eaters can choose from Hibachi Steak (New York Strip) filet mignon, and beef tenderloin.  Lobster tail, salmon, and tuna steak are also offered as entrees with both straightforward (Hibachi Scallops) and specialty names (Splash ‘n Meadow, Land ‘n Sea, Samurai Treat) offering combinations of meat and seafood.

Entrees listed by protein come with five courses.  Specialties come with six (ice cream included!). Included with every entrée is Benihana Onion Soup, Benihana Salad with ginger dressing, choice of rice, Hibachi vegetables, dipping sauces, and Japanese hot green tea.

If raw food is your passion, Benihana’s sushi bar offers an alternative nosh, sans heat.  You can watch sushi, sashimi (sliced fish) and nigiri (sliced fish on a mound of rice) being constructed at the 10-person communal table.

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Vegetable Roll

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

With names like Ikura (salmon roe) Rainbow, Spicy Kiss, Dragon, and Emperor (there’s also a vegetable option) the sushi is made to order.  Sashimi and Nigiri comes in tuna, octopus, salmon, izumidai (tilapia) shrimp, eel, and yellowtail varieties.

Whoever said, ”don’t play with your food,” never witnessed a teppanyaki chef in action; or the manipulative skills of a sushi master; or the playful toss of a shrimp tail from on high into the waiting shirt pocket of Benihana’s Chef George.

And now there’s a Benihana’s right on the Strip.  Talk about a hot spot; there’s one at every table.

 

About Benihana, Past and Present:

Tokyo native Hiroaki (Rocky) Aoki, a Harlem, New York ice cream vendor, studied restaurant management at night and opened the first Benihana teppanyaki restaurant in New York in 1964.
Named after his parents’ Tokyo coffee shop, Benihana featured an authentic Japanese farmhouse interior and food prepared right in front of customers on the teppanyaki. The chefs’ intricate knife work and theatrics were a hit with customers, as was the food. Legendary food critic Clementine Paddleford’s rave review launched the restaurant into the public’s consciousness, and Aoki’s restaurant paid for itself in six months.

A second location in New York was soon followed by one in Chicago, and by 1972, there were six Benihana locations across the country.  Headquartered in Aventura, Florida, Benihana Inc. currently has 100 restaurants nationwide (66 Benihana, 7 Haru Sushi, and 27 RA Sushi).  10 Franchises operate in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean.

For further information:  http://benihana.com/locations/lasvegasfashion-nv-la/
See Judy Thorburn’s article in this issue.

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