Benihana, the renowned teppanyaki restaurant chain, is celebrated not only for its delectable Japanese cuisine but also for its unique and entertaining dining experience. While many are familiar with the sizzling grills and skilled chefs who perform culinary acrobatics right at the table, there are several intriguing and lesser-known aspects of Benihana.
1. The Founding Chef’s Remarkable Journey
Benihana was founded by Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki, a Japanese immigrant who came to the United States in 1959 with only $10 to his name. Aoki’s journey from a penniless immigrant to the creator of a global culinary empire is a testament to the American Dream.
2. The Name’s Origin
The name “Benihana” is derived from a red safflower, a common herb in Japan known for its vibrant color. The choice of this name reflects Aoki’s desire to create a restaurant that stands out and captures attention.
3. A Unique Dining Experience
Benihana introduced the concept of teppanyaki dining in the United States. Teppanyaki involves cooking food on an iron griddle, right at the table, while skilled chefs perform entertaining culinary tricks, such as flipping shrimp into their hats. This combination of food and showmanship is one of the key elements that set Benihana apart from other dining establishments.
4. The Signature Onion Volcano
One of the most iconic culinary tricks at Benihana is the creation of an “onion volcano.” Chefs stack onion rings into a volcano shape, pour a flammable liquid into the hole, and then set it ablaze, creating an impressive spectacle.
5. The Miso Soup Mystery
Benihana’s famous miso soup recipe remains a well-guarded secret. The exact ingredients and proportions are known only to a select few at the company. This adds an air of mystery to the delicious starter.
6. The Number of Locations
As of the last available data, there were over 160 Benihana locations around the world. The restaurants are not only scattered across the United States but can also be found in various countries, including Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia.
7. Celebrating Your Birthday
Benihana offers a unique birthday dining experience. If you celebrate your birthday at Benihana, the chef will create a special heart-shaped fried rice for you, complete with a cracking egg in the middle.
8. The Tale of the Aged Soy Sauce
Benihana is known for its unique soy sauce. The company ages its soy sauce for months before serving it, allowing it to develop a richer and more complex flavor profile.
9. A Celebrity Favorite
Over the years, Benihana has been frequented by numerous celebrities, including Muhammad Ali, Beyoncé, and Justin Timberlake. These famous diners have enjoyed both the cuisine and the captivating teppanyaki show.
10. Benihana in Pop Culture
Benihana has made appearances in various forms of pop culture. It was famously featured in an episode of the TV show “The Office,” where characters Michael and Andy visit the restaurant.
11. Benihana Cookbook
For those who want to recreate Benihana dishes at home, the restaurant offers a cookbook. “Benihana: The Cookbook” allows fans of the restaurant to try their hand at preparing some of the iconic recipes.
12. The Benihana Legacy
While the founder, Rocky Aoki, passed away in 2008, his legacy lives on through Benihana and the Aoki Foundation, which supports various charitable initiatives. The restaurant continues to provide a unique dining experience that combines delicious Japanese cuisine with entertainment.
Benihana has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and it remains a favorite dining destination for those seeking an unforgettable combination of great food and a captivating show. The next time you dine at Benihana, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the rich history and fascinating facts that make this teppanyaki restaurant a true culinary icon.