Revisiting Benihana Before It's Sold

Categories: Musings

Alarmed by the news that Benihana might be sold, last night Short Order paid a visit to the teppanyaki temple, which is located off the 79th Street Causeway. However, it was business as usual at the waterfront eatery (which, like most Miami restaurants, doesn't actually have outdoor seating) and none of the employees knew anything about the possible sale. In fact, at 9 p.m. the Miami Beach location was fairly full with patrons drinking Mai Tais out of ceramic Buddha cups and gorging themselves on hibachi fare.

Photos by Jacquelynn D. Powers
That's a lot of shrimp!
Short Order did notice that Benihana has substantially upgraded their menu with more gourmet selections such as Colossal Mango Shrimp, Spicy Hibachi Chicken and Emperor's Salad (with grapefruit, avocado, asparagus, wasabi dressing and a choice of chicken, steak or shrimp). It's doubtful that (recently deceased) founder Rocky Aoki knew from such fusion cooking back when he opened the first Benihana in 1964 in New York City.

Chef Cedric making a heart out of chicken fried rice.
Despite the fact that Short Order could care less about the grillside show (we come here for the food, thank you very much), our toque Cedric performed the usual Benihana classics such as flipping shrimp tails into his jacket pocket and forming a heart out of the mound of chicken fried rice. Ditto to the tower of onions, which, when doused with water, resembled a volcano. And although the new menu items sounded tempting, everyone at our table stuck to classic dishes such as Hibachi Shrimp and filet mignon. Each of these entrees was doused with dollops of garlic butter, but hey, no one comes here for healthful cooking.

Many people do visit Benihana for their birthday, however, as evidenced by the fact that every table (except ours) was celebrating one. And who doesn't love hearing "Happy Birthday" sung in Japanese ten times through the course of the night? Of course, it's kitschiness like this that keeps Benihana near and dear to our (clogged) heart. That and the buttery, soy-saucy, grilled food. (Calories, be damned!) Let's just hope that if the sale does go through that the new owners will keep Benihana as "authentic" as ever.

benihana 3.jpg
A full grill at Benihana.
1665 NE 79 Street Causeway, Miami Beach

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