Out: Beni's been better

Benihana does not impress

 by Jessica Kokal
 published on Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Morgan Bellinger / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Morgan Bellinger / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE

Chandler recently saw the re-opening of one of its latest dining experiences, Benihana, with much hype about the trendy atmosphere and entertaining food exhibition. The restaurant embraces new interior design, setting large grill tables in open rooms with wall murals of natural images like green bamboo, yellow and orange leaves, and red flowers. Unfortunately, this artistic decorating approach does not make up for the restaurant's corporate and impersonal atmosphere.

Benihana does little to redeem itself in the way of food, either. The mainstay of its menu is the teppanyaki, a Japanese style of Japanese cuisine where chefs prepare meat, rice and vegetables on a grill built into the middle of the table. The liberal application of garlic butter and minimal spices are the only seasonings used in preparing teppanaki, and the meat cuts lack quality.

What Benihana lacks in quality it makes up for in quantity. Each Benihana meal comes with choice of meat, soup, salad, steamed or fried rice, a shrimp appetizer, and vegetables, giving diners the illusion they're receiving a lot for their money until the food arrives. The soup is a sorry attempt at Japanese onion soup, with broth that tastes like Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. The salad is a pile of iceberg lettuce with a sprig of carrot and red cabbage, similar to what you'd find pre-bagged at the grocery store. The watery ginger dressing is almost wholly lacking in flavor.

The sushi at Benihana is little better. It's made with ingredients that could taste fresher and is both loosely constructed and poorly cut. For being so haphazardly prepared, it's puzzling why its arrival takes so long. The sushi chefs are slow and sloppy, much like the servers at Benihana. While friendly, they struggle to attend to all eight diners at the table. Food arrives tardy, while water glasses often run empty. The stoic grillers are no improvement, preparing meats mechanically and barely interacting with the diners across the table.

With the number of other teppanyaki restaurants in the Valley, it's a diner's best bet to skip this corporate disaster. Benihana is a total disappointment, providing patrons with nothing more than boring preparation and unenjoyable dishes for unworthy prices.

jessica.kokal@asu.edu or foodinphoenix.com


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