I owe you the fourth entry to our Thailand (mis)adventure but looking at the past few entries in the blog, I noticed something missing… food posts. I know that The Pink Tarha has been serving as a guide to your palates so here I am inserting a restaurant feature.
Ever wonder where the new restaurants are sprouting up? Before, it was in Tahlia Street but that area is now crowded with coffee shops and restaurants that are either burgers or Italian. And it’s always a busy street packed with vehicles, youth, police cars, and the perennial cruising muttawas come night time. Imagine, one of our thrills is crossing Tahlia Street at night because it’s kind of impossible to do so with all the activities going on in there.
Anyway, the North Ring Road, just outside the city center, is becoming a hot
pot spot for new restaurants. Or even old ones that are branching out.
Benihana, for instance, has opened this year in Exit 6. Benihana Restaurants are traditional Japanese hibachi steakhouses which feature teppanyaki, a Japanese cooking method that cooks food in an iron griddle. Benihana was founded by Hiraoki Aoki in New York in 1964. It has currently over 100 franchises in the world. Benihana in Riyadh is a boxy restaurant from the outside with its prominent logo displayed both in English and Arabic. It’s quite the popular dining place nowadays that you’ll have to line up before you can secure a booth. Is the wait worth it? Here’s our experience…
|Benihana in Exit 6: bachelor section’s entrance|
|Welcome to the teppanyaki master! (Family section entrance)|
|Retro photos in the reception wall|
The first time we went to Benihana last March, it was fairly new, so we’re pretty much lenient on the cook and the service. There is what we call a “soft opening” anyway so even if the cook in our booth made mistakes that are quite funny (like throwing the salt canister outside the booth instead of into his hat), we let those things go. After all, we enjoyed the company.
|My favorite skill has something to do with the egg. 😛|
|Slicing like there’s no tomorrow: the fast and the flurry (of activity).|
|Benihana is Japanese for safflower. Thus the logo.|
|The squid is slightly tough to chew in but well-flavored.|
The verdict on our first visit was that it was just okay. I mean, the food were expensive compared to other restaurants that offer the same dining structure: a booth good for families and friends with teppanyaki tables and wooden chairs. The ambiance and the interiors of the place are probably worth the little extra. The chef was a bit still unsteady with his exhibitions but he made a good effort.
The second time I ate there, this time to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary (31 years y’all, yey!) last April, I was more prepped for a better service. After all, they were already a few months into their operations in Riyadh. The restaurant is crowded with a line of 5 families ahead of us and it was already 10:30 in the evening! We decided to wait because we saw that there was a steady stream of diners going out. The waiting area was quite a nice place to stay in; but people can also wait in their cars just in case it gets really full. After around 30 minutes, we were already seated in a booth. Coincidentally, it was the same booth I ate in on my previous visit. 🙂
The teppanyaki tables already had a glass separating the chef from the diners. Someone must have been scared with all the flying knives and utensils, hehe. Or the splatter of oil from frying the goodies. Haha. Anyway, the glass partition is a welcome addition. In a group of 3 or more, order the usual mains and the chef can divide it according to how many are you in the table. The entrees are good for sharing.
Our chef, this time, is more experienced and friendly. He was able to properly execute the drills of cooking our seafood plate consisting of shrimps, lobster, and scallops. The seafood pieces came to our plates succulent. I especially love the scallops. The chef also did the utensils and food flips and in fairness, they weren’t flops. 😉
The Hibachi Steak (New York strip steak) was cooked medium well upon our request. I forgive the seasoning which tasted like the usual soy, salt, and pepper. It tasted ordinary, like something I can whip up in our kitchen (and I don’t even cook! Hehe!). But the tenderness is amazing. The chicken teriyaki was lacquered with the right amount of sauce. The heaps of vegetables and rice cut through the savory wonders and provide much-needed relief from the piquantly pleasant viands.
I know I should have taken photos of all the food we ordered but I was riveted to the fun “show” happening right before my eyes (thus no photo of the lobster, the scallops, the chicken teriyaki, and the… oh, I missed a lot, haha!). I wonder if there’s a school that teaches us how to properly “play with food” like what the Benihana chefs are doing. Anyway…
I love the salmon sashimi, which I solely devoured. I love it that I’m the only sashimi loving person in our family, hehe. The coral flesh of the salmon displayed prominently in one of the boat dish was a sight to behold. The pieces were moist and tasty. I like that it was placed on a bed of crushed ice. It kept the salmon cold and fresh.
The specialty rolls were delicious also. I’m pretty sure we ordered an eel hand roll (the triangular kind of sushi) but my brother ate it quickly. He said it was the most expensive food he ever had. One roll for SR 60!
Our drinks were like most of the “cocktails” in Riyadh restaurants. They sound and read better in the menu that they actually taste. Mine was a Pina Colada of some sort. It was too sweet. I had to order a soda and water after just a few sips.
Dessert came in the form of ice cream. And well, ice cream is ice cream. What’s not to like? It’s the universal frozen dessert.
Benihana is a good restaurant for celebrating an occasion with families and friends. With quite the hefty price tags in their menu and the distance from the city center, it’s not your average restaurant that you should frequent. But yes, if you’re looking for a restaurant that can satisfy your teppanyaki cravings of high quality meat and seafood, go to Benihana’s. Your kids will also enjoy the skills of the chef, who is not only a good cook, but also an entertainer. Benihana is a good place to gather your family and friends. The more the merrier!
Also, it’s nice to cruise along the North Ring Road at night. The buildings in the financial district is a sight to behold at night. All those lights! Ah, I wonder how much energy these buildings consume.
Have you been to Benihana’s? Share us your experience in the comment section below. Check the map here if you’re deciding on going. Benihana is open from 1:00PM to 12:00 midnight. The last time we were there, they weren’t taking reservations by phone. First come, first serve only. Not sure if they already changed their policy. Just in case, their number is below. 😉 ~ Sundrenched
Exit 6, North Ring Road
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia