Just off Picadilly Circus Tube station is Benihana, a trendy Japanese restaurant. Currently undergoing renovations in certain parts of the venue, the drinks/waiting area was mainly cordoned off and in the interim, the waiting area consisted of two little round tables (of which I shared with another lady who was waiting). But the actual restaurant itself was a unusual delight. The way it was arranged was that everyone was sat with strangers around a metal grill, and the meal was cooked directly in front of you, but it wasn’t just basic turning the food over; there was a real visual firework to go with the preparation of the food – the chef sprayed some pepper over the vegetables and with a flourish, casually tossed the pepper shaker upwards and caught it in his big chef’s hat. Elsewhere, other chefs threw their vinegar or salt shakers into the air, span on the spot and caught it. For veterans of Japanese restaurants, food was thrown into their mouths for them eat. Fun was very much on the menu here.
I had the set menu, which was £23 and had 8 courses – all quite small, so that you got a taste of everything. Some of the courses were misses (a pot of rice with what seemed like half a bottle of soya sauce tipped on was far too salty to fully consume), but the meat (a choice of two from chicken, salmon, seabass, steak) was cooked to your preference, the sushi was fantastic, and the dessert, a tiny square of chocolate, was exactly what was needed to sweeten up the overall quite a savoury meal. Drinks were overpriced, even by London’s standards - £8.50 for a strawberry daiquiri that tasted suspiciously devoid of any alcohol whatsoever, but artfully designed in a way that the presentations of the cocktail was so lovely that you almost didn’t realise you were being conned. However, kudos has to go to the chefs for making mojitos, a drink I’m not usually too fond of – quite delicious with the aid of some lychees.
Overall, as far as overpriced restaurants in the city centre go, Benihana definitely sits up there, with more than enough charm to carry off its inflated menu prices. The amusing “show” put on by the waiters make it a good venue to pick when out with friends, or children, who will surely love it.