We all know about dinner theatre, but here the chef is the theatre
The world-renowned Benihana brand came to being in 1964 in New York, the brainchild of Japanese immigrant Hiroaki Aoki (also known as ‘Rocky’). Sadly, he passed away in 2008 but he was at the opening—25 years ago—of the first Benihana in Thailand, at the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort.
The unique selling point of Benihana is that the food is prepared on a heated steel grill (teppanyaki) that is part of your table, and that the chefs are skilled jugglers with the tools of their trade—and amazing entertainers to boot!
Our meal—in the red and black themed restaurant with Japanese ephemera strategically dotted around the interior—began with a Japanese onion soup which is light, and sets you up for the signature dishes next to arrive. The appetizers are created fresh, as you order them, and the first to join us on our table were the Grilled Scallop (B550), tender seafood morsels infused with a Japanese Rayu sauce, surrounded by crispy vegetables. By contrast, the Dragon Rolls (B440) consist of crab stick and avocado, wrapped in eel and topped with almond, lemon zest, and Teriyaki sauce, which really sets the taste buds alight. Finally, the Spider Rolls (B460), soft shell crab and avocado with a lightly spiced Tabiko mayonnaise and tempura flakes, all of which offered up their own unique taste. The appetizer menu is extensive, but don’t fill up on starters as the best is yet to come.
For the main dish we ordered Rocky’s Choice (B1,340), which consists of Australian Angus beef alongside corn-fed chicken in lemon butter sauce. The grill in front of us had been heating up while we had been enjoying the appetizers, but before the grilling began Teppan Chef Supachok Bunpo came to our table to introduce himself. He smiled, took a large metal spatula and foot-long two pronged fork from the “weapons belt” around his waist, and began an intricate juggling routine, with the instruments whirling through the air and spinning around his body. A Cirque du Soleil performer couldn’t have done any better. And when he set the whole Teppanyaki grill plate on fire in front of us it looked like a 4th of July fireworks display.
Supachok was a comedian, too, and he kept us smiling with his jokes and antics as he cooked our tasty meal—right in front of us—explaining every step of the cooking process along the way. The meats are cooked to your preference, and include another signature item, Benihana Garlic Fried Rice.
The in-house mustard cream and ginger sauces that come with the meal, and the spices added to the chicken and beef as they are cooked by your dexterous chef/entertainer, complement each other perfectly. Put it all together and it made for one of the tastiest, and most entertaining meals I’ve eaten in a long time.
By Robin Westley Martin
Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort
257/1-3 Charoennakorn Rd.
Open daily: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm
Tel: 02 476 0022, ext 1442