Benihana - Chelsea
The first Benihana opened in 1964. At the time, the concept of having the chef prepare your meal at your table was completely unique. Today, there are numerous Benihana restaurants around the world so diners in London and beyond can now enjoy this special service.
One such branch can be found in Piccadilly, where it has stood for 21 years. The decor is sleek and elegant with a Japanese influence evident throughout. Benihana can also be found in the City, in another stylish venue serving delectable Japanese fare at the same high standards. For jetsetters, there are branches in Slovakia and Romania, and many more in the Middle East and in Asia.
We chose to visit the Benihana ensconced on bustling King’s Road, entering through a small, unassuming doorway into a grand restaurant. A polite member of staff who exemplified courteous Japanese hospitality greeted us. To begin, we made our way to the bar and sampled from the delightful range of cocktails while nibbling on homemade crisps. After a quick discussion of how we liked the modern and chic decor, we were shown to the chef’s table, which seats up to eight. We were seated next to a family celebrating a birthday, as they had done for the past four years. They had nothing but positive words for Benihana, which only served to increase our anticipation.
The offering includes traditional options that have graced the menu since Benihana first began in the 1960s, in addition to a selection of specials, which have been carefully crafted by the experienced chefs. There’s also a dedicated section of the menu for lunchtime diners.
I chose to start with warming onion soup that was perfect on such a cold December evening. This was followed by sushi – beautifully presented sea bass, salmon and tuna sashimi paired with fiery wasabi, and peppery ginger crafted into flowers. From the tempura selection we opted for lightly battered prawn, courgette and mushroom, all of which we devoured in haste. Creamy potato and wagyu croquettes and light Chablis completed the course.
By this point, our expectations for the main event were sky-high and Benihana did not disappoint. Chef Arthur took his place at our table and promptly began throwing knives around with ease. He started by cooking onions and soy-glazed courgettes with prawns. The speed at which he sliced and prepared each ingredient was unbelievably impressive – we couldn’t wait to see more.
The courgettes were wonderfully crunchy while the prawns were succulent and moreish. Arthur kept us entertained as we ate, drumming his utensils, performing tricks and shaping egg fried rice into a heart shape. Next up came a medley of seafood – fresh lobster tails, cod, scallops, squid and prawns. My personal favourite was the Alaskan cod, which was paired with miso soup and melted in the mouth, while my husband enjoyed the buttery lobster. Beansprouts and soy stir-fry rounded off Arthur’s theatrical performance, and were very tasty too.
To finish, we tucked into ice cream tempura and a cheesecake dumpling with fresh strawberries. It proved a wonderful end to our meal, and we vowed to return soon – we certainly want to try the cheesecake dumpling again.