October 14, 2006

Pleasant Surprise

Brother, sister and niece sat in traffic today to come stay the night before we drive the rest of the long drive to gran's 80th birthday. I wanted to take them out to dinner to celebrate time in my town (since ordinarily, we meet up in theirs) and my trueness to myself in my job situation. I decided that with a 4-year-old, the perfect option was Benihana.

Mind you. This is not a food destination I would have chosen without a 4-year-old in tow. But, after tonight, with the great benihana chef luck falling in our direction, I will admit that I may have been wrong. There are times, even without a 4-year-old, that Benihana may not be a bad option to consider.

My sister ordered the salmon. It was steamed in a parchment calzone-of-sorts and surpised us all by arriving with vegetables perfectly tender, delicious, and wonderful.

I ordered calamari, which was, to be honest, the second best calamari steak preparation I've ever had, second only to my very own well-researched chili-lime preparation of the baja calamari that dad caught.

Brother had the chateaubriand and it was tender as all get out. E had the Deluxe offering of lobster tail and filet mignon. The cut of filet left a bit to be desired but the lobster tail was amazing -- they have the whole garlic butter thing on lock.

My niece had the child's menu of chicken and shrimp, it was delicious and she was totally happy.

Oh, and the whole reason we went? The server was hilarious. His trickery was top notch. Many hat tricks. Many pocket tricks. Knife tricks. Onion volcanoes. We clapped. We laughed. He made us laugh with comedic jokes (clearly, we got one of the better chefs available, his name was Benito, and yes, he was very hard-core on the Mexican angle speaking 1/8 spanish despite his perfect English. Somehow, it made the meal more enjoyable, especially because niece likes to practice her Spanish.)

All in all, I expected to be mildly entertained but happy that my niece was happy. I left surprised at the quality of several of the offerings (the salmon, the calamari, the lobster and the chateaubriand) and pleased by the price tag. I dare you to find a $175 meal for 5 in the bay area that contains food that is better than the reviews make it seem plus laughs, smiles, clapping galore, and a happy and entertained 4 year old for the entire meal. Plus, the gratuitous ice cream. How can you argue? (Note: for politesse sake, put the kid in the middle of your group and insulate the poor couple who's at your hibachi on a date. Sure, you wouldn't come here on a date and glare at kids at your table, and they didn't either, but still...)

In short, color me a very surprised and content food snob. Benihana was good. Well I'll be...

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