By bringing Japanese food into the mainstream, the Benihana chain of teppanyaki style restaurants has taken full foothold in current dining trends. With their first restaurant opened along the bustling streets of Tokyo Japan in the 1950’s, entertainer Yunosuki Aoki and his wife, Katsu, remained happy with their inventive form of blending food preparation and dining with an entertaining flair.
Sized as a coffee shop but still managing to operate as a full dining facility to many Japanese diners in Tokyo, Aoki and his wife had four sons to help them along their business journeys. All four boys grew to realize the importance of cleanliness in the kitchen at all times, stringent food preparation skills and the value of customer satisfaction early on.
Their eldest son, Hiroaki, gathering the need for an audience from his father’s entertainer’s heart, gained his own recognition as he was chosen to represent his country as a wrestler on the Japanese Olympic Wrestling team. Bringing him the opportunity to come to America, Hiroaki quickly understood that America was ready for the addition of a truly unique Japanese dining experience.
After going to school at night to study business management, while working during the day and saving to gain enough money, Hiroaki, also called “Rocky”, opened his first restaurant on West 56’Th street in New York in 1964. Taking the name “Benihana” from the meaning of “red-flower” in Japanese, a more recognizable and easily pronounced name was realized within the American dining public.
After a meager beginning and with family members working several jobs at once while running the small, café sized restaurant, Benihana’s hit didn’t take hold until after a special endorsement from restaurant critic, Clementine Paddleford. Reporting for the New York Herald News, Paddleford’s generous critique of the four table diner made it a fast act from then on. Within days of the review by Paddleford, Benihana’s of Japan had to turn some curious patrons away.
Serving foods usually unique even in the New York of that day, Benihana’s turned the usual evening dinner out on the town into an exciting show time meal. By tossing foods such as shrimp, chicken and strips of beef onto a hot grill, teppanyaki style food preparation came into first light. Teppanyaki, which means “steel grill” and “broil” in Japanese, became a new entertainment experience.
Adding favorites like broccoli, carrots, onions and mushrooms topping decorative bowls of white rice or noodles, patrons were seated directly in front of the preparation grill as their ordered meals were prepared by skilled chefs.
Tossing bits of food into the air, catching them again on the hot grill or even into hats, the food preparation at Benihana’s becomes almost as desirable as the expectations of flavors which await the hungry diners.
Discounts for Benihana’s can be found at 8coupons.com and are redeemable for a $30 dollar gift card for use during the month of the user’s birthday. This gift card can received by signing up for Benihana’s e-list at their site; www.benihana.com.