Visit:
Experience!

Overview

Have you been to Benihana lately?

Rediscover the personalized experience of having your choice of succulent seafood, tender chicken, juicy steaks, and garden-fresh vegetables grilled to delicious perfection in an extraordinary theater that will feed the senses and entertain the appetite.

In this section, you'll find everything you need to become an expert on fine Japanese cuisine and the Benihana experience.

At Benihana
All About Sushi
All About Saké

At Benihana

Welcome! To a unique and exceptional experience that's fresh and new every time you visit.

What goes on at Benihana?

At the heart of the Benihana experience is the teppanyaki table, around which guests gather and enjoy a meal expertly prepared and cooked to perfection on a steel grill, right before their eyes — by a chef who is as much entertainer as culinary master.

The meal begins with a delicate Japanese onion soup, followed by a salad with ginger dressing. The chef will prepare your chicken, beef or seafood, along with vegetables, hibachi-style on the sizzling grill surface. Be sure to enjoy the show, because Benihana chefs literally play with your food as they cook it.

Your entrée will be served with homemade dipping sauces and steamed rice, or if you prefer, Benihana's mouthwatering Hibachi chicken rice. You may also order tempura, sushi and specialty rolls. See our full menu here.

Who can I bring to Benihana?

Bring a friend, a date, your children, your whole family or your office gang — anyone who enjoys a delicious, freshly cooked meal with a little fun thrown in.

Benihana can accommodate groups of all sizes, and the more the merrier at the teppanyaki tables. Even if you come on your own, you can join others at the table for a fresh cooked meal and a show. Please call your favorite Benihana restaurant to reserve group dining.

Sushi

More than just a food, sushi has become an art form enjoyed for its taste as well as presentation.

At Benihana, we may be known for hibachi-style cooking, but we also feature a scrumptious sushi bar menu, with delicious fresh items including specialty rolls, which can be enjoyed as a meal or an appetizer.

The following information is just a brief overview of the sushi experience. New ingredients and types of sushi are being introduced every day, so don't be afraid to try something new!

How is sushi made?

Sushi uses Japanese sticky rice seasoned with a sweet rice vinegar (a mixture of sugar and rice vinegar) as it is cooled and then adorned with raw fish, vegetables, Japanese omelet, or even barbequed eel (anago or unagi)

Some popular forms of sushi include:

Nigiri the most popular form of sushi, with various toppings are placed on top of a bite-sized rice base.

Maki-zushi rolled sushi, made by rolling various fish and vegetable ingredients and rice into a sheet of dried nori by using a bamboo mat called a makisu. The roll is then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Norimaki sushi rolls of rice, seafood, vegetables etc. rolled into nori.

Te-maki “hand roll” style sushi, made by rolling a variety of ingredients into nori, usually smaller than some of the other roll types and shaped like a cone so that it is easy to eat with your hands.

Chirashi-zushi this “scattered sushi” is a colorful sushi casserole typically served at home. Ingredients include cooled, vinegared rice and a variety of ingredients, from cooked and uncooked seafood, vegetables and omelets to pickled ginger and shredded nori. The ingredients are generally tossed with the rice or placed on top as a colorful garnish.

Gunkan-maki sushi in which the nori is wrapped around the rice to create a sort of shallow dish. In this way, toppings such as sea urchin or salmon roe are contained on the top of the rice base and can be enjoyed.

Hako-zushi sushi pressed in a box and cut into bite-size pieces. This type of sushi is most like the origins of sushi in which fish and rice were pressed and fermented in a box for many months before serving. Today, hako-zushi is not fermented but is served fresh.

Inari-zushi deep-fried tofu pockets into which seasoned rice is stuffed.

Nare-zushi the only form of sushi today that is still fermented, however only for a period of a few days.

What is sashimi?

Sashimi is fresh, sliced raw fish, elegantly presented on a platter with a variety of colorful garnishes such as shredded daikon (giant white radish) and carrots, cucumber, seaweed, basil leaves and sometimes even edible flowers. Sashimi that is sliced thicker (about 1/2″) is typically eaten by dipping it into a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi (horseradish). Finely sliced sashimi is typically eaten dipped into a mixture of ponzu (citrus vinegar) and finely sliced scallions.

How are sushi and sashimi eaten?

There are basically two different ways to eat sushi. One is by picking it up with chopsticks and the other is by using your hand. In both cases it is important to only dip the fish side of the sushi into the sauce since dipping the rice side of the sushi into the sauce usually makes it fall apart. Since sushi is known for its very delicate flavor, it is important not to use too much soy sauce or the taste will be lost. Sashimi on the other hand is only eaten with chopsticks.

Condiments placed on the sushi platter, such as pickled ginger and wasabi, are eaten to refresh the taste buds between eating different types of sushi.

History of Sushi

There is hardly a person alive today who is not familiar with Japanese sushi. Even though it has only been over the past 20 years that sushi has gained great popularity in the West, sushi in Japan is a traditional food which dates back over 1,000 years and is believed to have developed in Asia as a way of preserving fish. The fresh, raw fish was pressed between a mixture of rice and salt over a period of several months. As the rice fermented, lactic acid was produced which pickled the fish and kept it from spoiling. It is believed that this way of preserving fish was introduced to Japan from Asia at the same time that rice cultivation was introduced. The first evidence of sushi in Japan dates back to the Lake Biwa area in Shiga Prefecture where it was made from local carp. This sushi, called nare-zushi was fermented for about 2 months.

Traditionally the fish was eaten, however the rice was discarded until about the 15th century in Japan when it was decided that the rice was too precious to waste. This was the beginning of a kind of sushi that is still popular in Osaka called hako-zushi or “boxed sushi”. However, it wasn't until the Edo Period (1603-1868) when sushi as we know it today was first developed. In 1824, Yohei Hanaya started the practice of serving fresh raw slices of seafood on bases of vinegared rice at his food stall located in the popular Ryougoku district of Edo (present day Tokyo).

Over the years, sushi stalls sprung up all over Tokyo, however they were banned after World War II by the Allied Occupation due to sanitary concerns. Gradually, these stalls gave way to the counter type Sushi restaurants that today have come to typify the sushi experience worldwide.

How to “speak” Sushi?

Here is a basic vocabulary of the items you may find at a well-stocked sushi bar.

akagai - ark shell
ama ebi - raw shrimp
anago - sea eel
awabi - abalone
bakagai - round clam
buri - adult yellowtail
chutoro - in between fatty and lean tuna
daikon - giant white radish
ebi - cooked shrimp
fugu - blowfish
hamachi - young yellowtail
hamaguri - clam
hirame - fluke
hotategai - scallop
ika - squid
ikura - red salmon roe
kaibashira - sweet center of small scallop
kaiware - sprouts of vegetables such as mustard greens or daikon
kani - crab
kanpyou - seasoned gourd
karei - flatfish
katsuo - bonito fish

kazunoko - herring roe
kohada - gizzard shad
kuruma ebi - prawn
kyuuri - cucumber
maguro - tuna
mekajiki - swordfish
mirugai - horse clam
natto - fermented soy beans
nori - sheets of dried seaweed
oshinko - Japanese pickles
ponzu - citrus vinegar
saba - mackerel
shake - salmon
shako - mantis shrimp
suzuki - sea bass
tai - sea bream
tako - octopus
toro - fatty tuna
torigai - cockle
uni - sea urchin roe
unagi - eel
wasabi - horseradish
yaki tamago - Japanese omelet

Saké

Saké (pronounced sah-kay) is a clear alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice, containing about 16 percent alcohol. In English, saké is translated as “rice wine,” however it is not actually wine since it is not made from grapes. Like beer, it is made from grain and is brewed, and it is not carbonated.

There is an entire culture associated with the making, serving and drinking of saké, which has been a part of Japanese life for hundreds of years as well as an important part of Japanese heritage.

Types of saké

In Japanese, the word “saké” is generally used to describe any alcoholic beverage including saké, whiskey, wine and beer. The Japanese typically refer to saké as nihon-shu — “nihon” meaning Japan and “shu” meaning saké or sei-shu which literally means “refined saké.”

Like wine, saké has many different varieties and is evaluated by its quality and grade. There are more than 10,000 different brands of saké that can be distinguished by subtle differences in ingredients and the specific brewing process. There is one type of saké, called amazake, or “sweet saké,” which is non-alcoholic and enjoyed by young and old alike.

About 20 percent of all saké produced is referred to as “special designation saké” or tokutei meishoshi with the remaining 80 percent broadly termed futsuu-shu or “normal saké.”

Each type of saké has a unique flavor profile:

Junmai-shu or "pure rice saké" is made by adding rice to the fermenting mixture without the addition of added starches, sugars or brewer's alcohol. Characterized by the milling process (seimai buai*) in which at least 30 percent of the rice kernel is ground away, Junmai-shu is smooth and full-bodied and typically served warm or at room temperature.

Honjozo-shu (regular brewed saké), is made by adding a small amount of distilled pure alcohol during the brewing process for a slightly lighter and more fragrant flavor. Like junmai-shu, honjozo-shu has been milled to where no more than 70 percent of the original rice kernel remains.

Ginjo-shu (special brewed saké) differs significantly from junmai-shu and honjozo-shu in that 40 percent of the rice kernel is polished away and special yeast is added during the fermentation process which takes place at lower temperatures than the other two. The result is a delicate and light-bodied saké which is typically served chilled or at room temperature.

Daiginjo-shu is ginjo-shu except that the rice has been milled to where no more than 50 percent of the original kernel remains. Daiginjo-shu is then brewed by a painstaking process creating an especially fragrant saké ranging anywhere from dry to sweet.

Namazake is one of the few types of saké that is not pasteurized. It is characterized by a livelier flavor and is one of the most commonly enjoyed sakés on the market today.

Nigori-saké is saké that has not been completely pressed from the fermenting rice solids resulting in a cloudy, creamy, sweet-tasting saké.

Jizake, or locally brewed saké, refers to saké that is made by smaller breweries throughout the country and is typically not mass-produced or marketed nationwide.

Mirin is a sweet cooking wine made from saké that has a low alcohol content.

*Seimai buai is the process by which the outer hull of the rice is ground away to remove any traces of oil, protein and ash that impact the flavor. Generally speaking, the more the rice is milled, the finer the saké.

Saké etiquette

The Japanese system of etiquette is probably one of the oldest and most complex in the world. This prescribed code of manners governs much of what a person does and how it is done — and the serving and imbibing of saké is no exception.

To begin with, when men speak of saké they simply say, “saké.” Women, on the other hand, typically use the honorific “o” prefix designated for things of status or honor such as o-cha for tea or o-kome for rice. So for women, saké is usually referred to as “o-saké.”

In serving saké, the first rule is never to pour saké into one's own cup. Saké is always poured by either a host or hostess, but more commonly, individuals in a group pour saké into each other's cups. When pouring, the flask should be held by one hand at the top with the palm facing down.

The second rule is to always hold the saké cup gently in both hands while it is being filled. Once the saké cup is full, it is polite to bow your head in appreciation, and place the filled cup on the table in front of you. Once everyone's cup has been filled, it is customary to make a toast with a hearty, kanpai — then to take a sip. If someone offers to refill another''s cup although it is still full, it is polite to take at least a small sip before the cup is filled again. The best way to communicate that one has had enough to drink is to simply place the full saké cup on the table.

The etiquette governing saké is also commonly applied to all other drinks including beer, soda, juice and tea.

Saké is usually enjoyed with food, and there is a special cuisine popularly served with saké called otsumami. Otsumami consists of many different little dishes of traditional Japanese delicacies. Some are more exotic and strictly seasonal such as spring vegetables, certain fish roe and seaweeds; while sashimi, eda-mame (steamed soy beans) and oshinko (Japanese pickles) are among the more common.

History of saké

The history of saké in Japan dates back to the fourth century and is steeped in religious and ceremonial tradition

According to Shinto legend, the emergence of saké is credited to the gods as told in the legend of Susunoomiko. The brother of the sun goddess Amaterasu, Susunoomiko saved Princess Kushinada by enticing the Great Serpent of Yamato Lake to drink saké he brewed, and then slew the serpent with his sword.

The first evidence of saké in Japan was a saké-like substance called kuchikami-no-saké or “saké which is chewed in the mouth,” which appeared in the third century. Kuchikami-no-saké was made by chewing the rice or other grain, spitting it out into a container and allowing the enzymes in the saliva to ferment the grain for several days. This form of brewing was one of the early Shinto rituals traditionally performed at religious festivals.

Although saké has evolved greatly since these ancient times, it is still offered to the gods and consumed as part of many Shinto rituals and celebrations including present-day Japanese wedding ceremonies.

More sophisticated brewing techniques came to Japan from China around the seventh century, allowing it to be refined into a clear liquid more like the saké we drink today. During the Heian period (794-1195) saké-brewing techniques continued to improve, and with the emergence of a popular culture, for the first time saké became a social drink. Sophisticated brewing techniques brought from the West during the Meiji period (1868-1912) further advanced the industry, making mass production possible. Today there are more than 10,000 brands of saké on the market.

While saké is best known as a drink, it is also used in cooking, as a polish for pinewood and as a skin conditioner.