By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
It seems silly to review a restaurant that has been so remarkably prominent for 50 years in over 100 locations, but there is a reason why Benihana is as successful as it is. However, this review focuses specifically on the Short Hills, New Jersey location (Morris Turnpike in Short Hills, New Jersey).
I am almost positive Benihana has not changed its hibachi menu once since I started dining here, but I see no problem with that. Why fix what isn’t broken? The menu is actually quite large; there are tons of items to eat here, but I almost always go for hibachi chicken with fried rice and udon noodles.
Each basic hibachi entree comes with miso soup, salad, rice, zucchini, mushrooms, shrimp, two sauces, and your choice of meat. It is relatively inexpensive and will likely leave you with plenty of leftovers for an entire second meal.
Benihana offers a sake menu, wine menu, specialty cocktails menu, and a signature martinis menu. This time, I tried both the Blue Ocean Punch Bowl (Malibu rum, Skyy pineapple vodka, sake, blue curacao, and tropical fruit juices), as well as the Osaka Cherry Smash (Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Cherry Heering, Choya plum liqueur, orange juice, and cherry bitters). The Blue Ocean Punch Bowl is fruity, light, and perfect for sharing. The Osaka Cherry Smash is strong and deep—it packs a hard punch.
Benihana also serves non-alcoholic frozen drinks, an assortment of flavored lemonade, iced tea, Ramune (a Japanese soda), soft drinks, and hot tea.
If the food and drinks don’t separate Benihana from the crowd of other Japanese hibachi restaurants, the service certainly does. I have been dining at Benihana on occasion ever since I was a young child and no matter my age, I have been treated consistently with respect. As a teenager, I dined here most often with my friends and we were treated like adults. This was something hard to come by, which is a large part of what kept us coming back.
Today, the service remains impeccable. The chefs seem to truly love what they do and the waiters are attentive.
As for the ambience, Benihana offers a fairly standard hibachi setting. The main room is large and open with what must be about a dozen hibachi tables. Classic, but refined Japanese-inspired art lines the walls and the restaurant is pretty loud. Of course, I can’t complain about the noise; nobody would dine at a hibachi restaurant expecting an intimate and quiet experience.
Still, Benihana in Short Hills will make you feel right at home.