Wow, it has been a long time since I last posted anything, so I am going to rectify that by attempting to write a few posts over the Christmas break. My first post is a restaurant review of Benihana on the King’s Road in Chelsea, where Luke and I had our celebratory birthday lunch (our birthdays are a few days of each other at the beginning of December). It’s a Japanese steak and sushi restaurant, with one of the big draws being that you have a personal chef who cooks at your table.
I wanted to try somewhere a bit different – if we’re going out for a special occasion I tend to look for restaurants with great views of London or something similar, but someone recommended Benihana to me and it sounded really interesting so I thought we should give it a go. Plus Luke loves sushi.
The seating is slightly communal in the fact that the tables seat about 8 people so if there are only two of you for instance, the likehihood is that you will be sitting with strangers. I didn’t mind this so much because they spaced us all out so that we only had one other couple at our table and you don’t feel obliged to talk to people if you don’t want to, but it is quite a fun atmosphere so generally you do end up having a bit of a chat.
The decor is quite dark but quite sophisticated, think lots of deep reds and low lighting. The service was really good, and the waitresses wore what looked to be traditional Japanese dress to my untrained eye.
The menu had quite a lot of sushi on it, plus Japanese steaks and noodle and rice dishes with plenty of seafood. I think even if sushi isn’t your bag, you could find something that you would like. As well as their main menu they also have lunch options which are a bit cheaper. I hadn’t actually tried ‘proper’ sushi before (my only forays are those un-fishy sushis you can buy in M&S) so I let Luke decide for me and I think we had tuna nigiri and salmon sashimi to start with. They serve wine as well as sake (I think) and we treated ourselves to a nice bottle of champagne.
I did really enjoy the sushi, I had about three pieces of each and I have to say that that was definitely enough for me. As I’m not hugely discerning about sushi, I don’t know if it was amazing or not by sushi standards, but it was really tasty which I think is the most important thing!
We then had our main dishes, which actually included a starter of prawns as well as a side salad and some vegetables. Once we had finished our sushi, that’s when the fun really started! The ‘personal chef’ comes to your table once you’re starting on your cooked food. On each table is a large sort of griddle stove top, and also massive extractor fans on the ceiling. Our chef had a really good, cheeky sense of humour and was cracking jokes left, right and centre. They cook everything in front of you, and they do it so that if you have a starter, as we did, they cook that first and then while you’re eating that they cook your mains. It’s not so neatly divided into courses as other restaurants are, but I found that we had all finished our starters by the time the chef was serving our mains.
The personal chef element is quite novelty and it definitely makes sense in terms of the type of food they cook, seeing as generally most people will have rice and certain things that they can cook all at once – and it’s just really fun watching them do it. They turn it into a bit of a show, with lots of knife-throwing (and catching I should add) and making an ‘onion volcano’ which I tried to capture in my photos. Our chef also made a heart out of rice, and spelt ‘I love u’ (pictured below) and then proceeded to put his spatula in the heart and make it look like it was beating – so cute! Then once the chef has finished cooking they leave you to eat the rest of your meal. I had green tea ice cream afterwards which was really good.
All in all, I think Benihana is good fun and definitely somewhere to go if you want something a bit different to the usual top nosh eateries in London, or if you just really like Japanese food. I think it would be great fun to take a group of friends as the showman-ship element of it really lends itself to having a few friends round the table and watching the show. It wasn’t too expensive, I think it was a few pounds for each sushi dish and then on the lunch menu, the options including starter, main etc was about £17. There were more expensive options including steak. I would definitely recommend Benihana and they have another one in St Paul’s and one in Picadilly, as well as other locations around the world according to their website – benihana .co.uk