Benihana At LVH
Some people enjoy attending murder mystery dinner shows, talking to strangers and actively engaging with their surroundings during the meal. Other people prefer to simply focus on the mechanics of eating without interruption or hullabaloo. The Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, at LVH, is for those who find their tastes somewhere in the middle.
As the maitre d' walks you into a large open room, you'll first find yourself amongst streams, walkways, and a peaceful rainfall feature. Arched wooden bridges, surrounded by Asian artwork & statues, lead off the side of your path to the bar and sushi area, and Chinese architecture choices such as red, curved roofs give the entire place a characteristic Asian feel. In the back of this calming open space, you're directed towards one of the large tables which each surrounds a cooking surface. Here, at this eight person table, a woman in a cheongsam (the traditional Chinese one-piece, full length dress) greets you to take your drink order.
Depending on when you arrive, you may or may not spend the next few minutes waiting for the rest of your table to fill up. If you do wait, it won't be long as I've never been to Benihana when it wasn't bustling with customers. That's amazing when you consider that eating there requires you be in just the right mood:
- You have to want to be engaged but not too engaged : it's far less involved than a dinner show, but it's certainly not the same as sitting at your own table at a typical chain restaurant.
- You have to want teppanyaki ; where the chef cooks, right in front of you, a slight variation of traditional Chinese food.
- And you have to be agreeable to sitting and talking with strangers : the level of conversation can vary widely from visit to visit.
On the night we went to Benihana, we sat with a couple gals on a romantic weekend getaway and a family celebrating a visit from their niece. It was an eclectic group and not particularly talkative, but I lead the conversation through various forms of stranger chit-chat (from where are you visiting? have you seen any shows on your visit? etc.) as I was in the mood to talk.
As the kitchen prepared the raw ingredients behind the scenes, the mandarin gown wearing waitress returned with an onion soup and a salad as well as a sushi appetizer ordered by the celebrating family. Not celebrating anything in particular myself but simply happy to be in Las Vegas, I ordered the Bonzai Cocktail in the ceramic souvenir Buddha mug. It came out during this pre-dinner time as well.
Before long, the chef arrived pushing a cart with all the ingredients for the dinner. He checked to make sure he had everyone's order correct and asked those who ordered steaks how they wanted them prepared, such as rare or well done. He then proceeded to begin the preparation, or as you may call it, "the presentation."
With a bit of razzle dazzle and pyrotechnics, he was the center of attention, quite literally, for much of the dinner's duration. Masterfully skillful with a knife, he cut and diced with a speed and seemingly carefree nature that left the table visually impressed and no doubt a bit envious as well. He tossed shrimp tails into his hat and told jokes that got small chuckles from the audience that surrounded him.
In teppanyaki style dining, each item is served as it finishes cooking, so you're nibbling on fresh grilled vegetables and then rice while the meats are still on the grill ; your neighbor will certainly be eating his rare steak before you're eating yours if you ordered the filet mignon well done.
On the night we went, my yakisoba (a noodle dish) took slightly less time than Jamie's spicy hibachi chicken, but it didn't matter in the slightest. We simply ate it as it came and enjoyed the surroundings. It was tasty, filling, and most all, a nice, non-extreme way to do something different.
When dinner was done, we said our cursory goodbyes to our tablemates, and I wondered to myself just how interesting it could be to spend a meal talking to people you'll never see again. Perhaps next time I'll be a not-so-secret agent or a celebrity party planner. Who knows?
Either way, Benihana is certainly a change of pace from the everyday and a nice meal to boot.
Just Off The Las Vegas Strip
5:30PM to 11PM Daily (Opens At 5PM On Fridays and Saturdays)