As a family, all of us love a good Japanese Steakhouse. Well, I should say, we all love Benihana. It is one of the few chains we visit a few times a year. I’m not sure why exactly, but it started as a pregnancy craving for me, so maybe it was just an inborn thing with my kids. And when they were little, it was always fun to have someone to occupy their attention. It also started my daughter on a short-lived goal to be one of the first female hibachi chefs (this really bothered her for awhile).
I always feel slightly guilty about the fact that we are going to a chain, and am always hopeful to find an independent option instead. Tomo is right by our house, and while I think it is known more for sushi, there is a hibachi area, and we decided to check it out. I liked that on the menu you could order what you want in various combinations, and my son liked that filet mignon was an option on the kids’ menu ($13.95) (they will do it at Benihana but you have to ask).
To start with, much is the practice at every Japanese steakhouse I have ever been to, you get a clear soup and salad appetizer (kids get one or the other). The soup was good- a little beefier tasting than others with sliced mushrooms and fried onions. The salad was your typical iceberg with a cucumber and tomato slice (not the season for those and it showed). The dressing is always a variation of a ginger dressing but I did not care for the creamy aspect of this one. I prefer the zingy taste of the pure ginger vinegar-type dressing. Hubby and I both had one bite and pushed the salad aside (they did give you a lot of dressing though).
The meals all come with fried rice included in the price (including the kids’), which is nice. Everyone really liked this version of fried rice. It had a lot of seasoning coming from sauces—soy and a creamy sauce they put on top. There was egg in there and onion, but less of any other veggies. It was popular at our table.
I ordered filet and shrimp and hubby ordered filet and salmon ($25.95 for either combo). You also get a couple of shrimp as an appetizer. You get a ginger sauce and a creamy mustard type sauce to dip in. The shrimp were pretty tough—cooked a little too long and without much finesse. And everything that was cooked on the hibachi seemed to be coated in a sweetish teriyaki-type sauce. I wasn’t a fan. It’s one thing if you order teriyaki chicken or whatever, but I like the cleanness of the shrimp, maybe a little lemon and butter and then the ginger sauce. With all the different sauces, and the fact that they were sweet, it just became a little cloying. And as for the ginger sauce—it too had a sweetness to it. I have read copycat recipes online for Benihana’s ginger sauce (I told you, it’s a favorite in my family) and many contain ketchup. I think this one certainly did and tasted like it had too much of it.
Hubby’s salmon was the best thing. Being a sushi place, we were hoping for a decent piece of fish that wasn’t overcooked and he did a good job, even though it, like everything else, was also coated in the same sauce. It was nice and medium rare in the thickest parts and was by far the best thing we had.
The beef unfortunately, looked like decent quality when it was raw, but after it was cooked way too much (even though we all said we wanted medium rare) and drenched in yet more of the sauce. We took most of the beef home to the dog, which was a shame.
The best part of the dinner was probably the theatrics—they were certainly more showy here than they are at Benihana. There was a lot of bursts of flames and our chef liked squirting things from bottles directly into patrons mouths as well as flipping bits of veggies into your mouth as well (I passed on both). Speaking of veggies, they did a decent job on these—there was zucchini, onions, broccoli and mushrooms and he let them cook on the grill long enough that they had cooked, but still had a bit of crunch left in them.
All in all, it was a bit of a miss for us. Ok, hubby said he would never do the hibachi there again—but we had a decent sushi experience in the past, and the sushi part of the restaurant was packed, so we will likely come back and try that again. I also really like the addictive Japanese gum they give you at the end. Intense burst of flavor that lasts about 5 seconds, making you want more. I could chew this stuff all day.
7411 North Keystone, Suite A