Angry Rant from a New Yorker: Benihana’s Devalues the Name Benny

By Ben Adler

Having gone by the name Benny when I was a kid (my dad still refers to me thus) I was always intrigued by Benihana. (I thought it was spelled “Benny Hannah’s”, and did not realize it was Japanese-ish, until quite recently.)

Growing up in New York City the wonders of chain sit-down restaurant are largely a mystery to me. I never saw an actual Benihana until Spencer and Mandy drove me out to the suburbs to try one in Bethesda. Shockingly enough, I was disappointed.

I will say the following for the place: you get an awful lot of food for $17. Soup, salad, an entree and side vegetables. If only the food were good. The soup was a bland broth, although it did have the brilliant innovation of fried onions in it. The main selling point of the place, that you get to watch the the chef chop and sautee the food before your very eyes, is kind of neat. For instance, I never realized that fried rice uses relatively little oil. That makes me feel better about my proclivity for it.

But the chicken I ordered was mediocre. The dipping sauce, sort of an Asiany honey mustard (Mandy’s observation) was good on first blush but grew sickeningly treacly after repeated use. And I had the better dish. Mandy’s steak was squishy and insufficiently flavored. Spencer hated his tuna. The chef, named Gomez, had an irritating “Look at me, I’m incomprehensible and have a dirty sense of humor,” disposition. I nicknamed him Dirty Gomez (not to his face.) Overall Benihana reinforced my default assumption that all chains are terrible and food is better in New York where you are not subjected to them.

12 responses to “Angry Rant from a New Yorker: Benihana’s Devalues the Name Benny

  1. there is a benihana in new york. it’s on 56th street. i use to have birthdays there.
    Benihana also owns all the Haru Sushi restaurants, which -though wildly overpriced- do make the best rock shrimp you’ll find anywhere.

    fun fact: the guy who owns Benihana has a son. his son was named something like, i dont know, Jeff, but not Jeff. Then “Jeff” realized he wanted a name with more pop, more pizaz, more liza! SO he changed his name.
    to DJ Kid Millionaire. Legally.

  2. Think of what it feels like to be of Japanese descent and Benihana’s is what most people know of Japanese food. Scary. Fried onions in the soup?!?!

  3. Midwest Product

    Spencer hated his tuna.

    Spencer Ackerman hated something? Well now I’ve heard everything.

  4. The Benihana’s in Beirut has the only good sushi buffet I’ve ever been to.

  5. You’d have a better experience at Shiro in Kingstowne (Va.). I’ve eaten the sushi there once and it was okay. My kids like going to watch the chef so it’s a special occasion place for us because it is expensive.

  6. all chains are terrible and food is better in New York where you are not subjected to them.

    Yes, because lots of other cities also have two TGI Fridays within 3 blocks of each other….

  7. @dosdos – As far as I can tell from wikipedia, DJ Kid Millionaire really is the son of Rocky Aoki, who founded Benihana, and the flagship Benihana does in fact still sit on 56th St. What was the problem?

  8. Yes, you are correct. He is the son of Rocky. And yes, DJKM is his “name”. His STAGE NAME, not legal name. Just an alias. Not because he thought Steve didn’t have enough pop, pizaz or liza for daily use. He still goes by Steve. Just thought bend should get his/her facts straight before publicizing them on the almighty IFA.
    I apologize to the other readers for turing this NY rant into a pointless Steve Aoki rant.

  9. ok, maybe it is just his stagename. I’m wrong about the legally thing- even though that does make it a much more interesting story.
    I don’t know what Kid Millionaire’s friends call him. It reminds me of the Seinfeld when every calls Bob something or other the Maestro and when Elaine refuses he says that he once overheard someone call Leonard Bernstien maestro in a bar. Anyway…
    Jeff, née Steve, clearly chose DJ Kid Millionaire as a stagename because he wanted more pop, more pizaz, more liza. That’s what a stage name is. It’s not a nom de plume. It’s a stage name, like DJ Jazzy Jeff. You know why DJ Jazzy Jeff added the Jazzy? Because his proper named lacked pop, pizaz, and liza! It lacked, wait for it, JAZZ!
    Also, i mean i’m clearly not an authority on this, I thought Steve’s name was Jeff.

  10. Personally I think Steve is an awesomely jazzy name.

  11. As far as his son, you may be talking about Kevin. Rocky no longer owns the whole shabang but did keep some of them. I do remember when Benihana was first around in 1964 and probably ate there soon afterward. More recently was my experience with Rocky and Kevin doing a sake tasting at the restaurant in Westbury, NY. That was the first time that I got the low down on how sake was made and that there could be just as much sake differences as there is with wine. As for the food. Yes, it’s a franchise and as all franchises the food may never taste the same. Consider that with all restaurants there is someone making the food purchase decision. Thus the quality, freshness, etc. can vary.

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