Bangkok Post reviews
Classic gets updated
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: December 2, 2011 at 10:47 am
Popular teppanyaki restaurant modernises decor and menu
With her cooking expertise and comical performance, the culinary host promises to delight both diners tastebuds and eyes at the same time.
My first visit to Benihana was in San Francisco in 1995 when my family chose the American-style Japanese teppanyaki restaurant for my birthday dinner. Images of a dynamic dining room where Japanese chefs pulled their "fatal" yet entertaining kitchen stunts that received constant rounds of applause from diners still linger pleasantly in my mind. And I often wondered when I would have a chance to go back.
It took 19 years for the second visit to happen. This time it was in Bangkok.
Benihana has been one of the most popular dining outlets of the Marriott Bangkok Hotel, now Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa. Having been opened for almost two decades, it finally went through a major renovation to keep up with changing trends.
So not only does the place appear fresh and new with contemporary touches, the menu, too, has been modernised with more trendy ingredients and selections.
A hibashi platter of Kobe Konnexion with Kobe beef strips and gigantic US scallops.
The evidence was clearly apparent with our first course, Tai Ceviche (425 baht), an appetiser from the a la carte menu.
This raw seafood salad dish, served in a martini glass, presented sashimi-style red snapper morsels with yuzu citrus, Hawaiian pink salt and Sriracha hot sauce. The chilled fish was creatively seasoned to yield a flavourful peppery bite that called for no other condiments. It was a pleasing concoction of Japanese subtlety and Thai spiciness.
Next up was Benihana's signature rolls. From eight choices of the restaurant's newly created makisushi, we passed the likes of Fire Ball sushi (tuna tartare with spicy mayo and chilli sauce), Dragon Sushi (glazed grilled eel with avocado) and BLT sushi (you know what). Instead, we went for the Motown (350 baht).
The ingredients were described on the menu as Alaskan king crab, flying fish roe, cucumber, tempura flakes, yellowtail and creamy wasabi mayo. Yet, from the sushi that looked like a sandwich stuffed with tuna salad, I found no hint of the expensive crab nor the yellowtail fish (which was said to come on top of the sushi). I was later told by the staff that all the seafood meat was finely chopped and mixed together to become a mushy filling. Disappointed, I found the moderately delectable sushi a bit below par.
Our lunch then progressed to the real hibachi tradition when griddle-cooked dishes were to be prepared and cooked at the teppanyaki station right in front of us.
Motown sushi made with Alaskan king crab, yellowtail and creamy wasabi mayo.
To dine hibashi style, you can go by the house specialties, which are 10 recommended options of the restaurant's griddle-grilled signatures. Or simply select from an extensive collection of meat and seafood, which, just like the house specialties, will be served with onion soup, salad, shrimp appetiser, hibachi-fried vegetables, steamed rice and Japanese hot green tea.
From the specialty menu, we picked Kobe Konnexion (1,850 baht), or Kobe beef with US scallops and pepper butter, to be shared among the three of us, while from the traditional menu, we settled on the Atlantic salmon (950 baht), passing choices like Australian Angus rib eye, Kobe strip loin, Matsuzaka beef strip loin, snow fish and pork chop.
The entertaining lunch officially kicked off when chef Rodthung, our culinary host, was at the station and gleefully introduced herself. With her cooking expertise and comical performance, we felt as much as much visually entertained as we are gastronomically indulged during the 90-minute session.
The food was no disappointment. My dining companions and I agreed that Benihana's Kobe beef, though offered to each of us in a thin short strip, was one of the best we've ever tasted. Flash grilled on the sizzling griddle and seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper, the imported beef was so tender and full of subtle beefy taste that, when chewed, the sweet fatty flavour just burst splendidly in our mouth.
The beef was served on the side of the gigantic scallops which yielded a pleasantly sweet zest and impressive succulent texture.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic salmon proved to be of top-notch quality. Perfectly pan-grilled with garlic butter, salt and pepper, the orange-pink fish tasted marvellous by itself or with the onion-ginger dip that came on the side.
Since dessert wasn't included in the meal, we had to order the sweet note separately. Our choice, ice cream tempura (225 baht), provided a perfectly sweet and crunchy ending to the meal.
Tai Ceviche, or sashimi-style red snapper morsels with yuzu citrus and Sriracha hot sauce in a martini glass.
Relaunched in October, the spacious teppanyaki restaurant is now set in contemporary Japanese style with 15 griddle-integrated dining tables and private rooms for large parties.