Discover Bethesda, Maryland...365 Days a Year!

Day 78: Benihana Teppanyaki

Benihana of Bethesda

When I was 10 years old my parents took me out to a “special” dinner in Bethesda.  The restaurant was Benihana, a Japanese hibachi steakhouse, and it used to be located in the basement of the Air Rights Center building on Wisconsin Avenue.  Years later I used to put on an ill-fitting suit and take my homecoming dates out to dinner there with my friends.  The main reason was not my love of Japanese cuisine but because when I was in high school the waiters here used to ignore my boyish looks and lack of facial hair and accept an order for a beer from a teenager.  I thought I was so cool.  Of course today that would never fly.  A number of years ago the restaurant moved to nicer digs at their current location at 7935 Wisconsin Avenue.

Our whole family loves the Benihana cooking and dining experience.  For the uninitiated you are seated at a large wooden table that seats 10 guests and has a large built-in stainless steel griddle.  You are often seated with other restaurant guests and this communal interaction adds to your dining experience.  The meal is made up of one part great tasting freshly prepared food, including mouth-watering seafood, steak, chicken and vegetables, and one part showmanship courtesy of your personal table chef.  The Japanese term for this cooking method is “teppanyaki.”

Kids Love Benihana

My favorite chef at Benihana is “Hutch.”  He’s a quiet, dignified Japanese man, who is not very flashy at the grill (other chefs entertain the kids with pulsating rice hearts, choo-choo trains made out of onions, and various acrobatics with the kitchen utensils.  There is even a chef who flings food around and even throws the tails of shrimp into his chef’s hat).  No, Hutch does not engage in this foolishness and fun, he focuses instead on the food and the pleasure of your palate.  The meal begins with a bowl of onion soup, a refreshing salad, with shrimp appetizer and steamed or fried rice.  I like to order the Splash ‘N Meadow, a hand-butchered and aged USDA choice sliced steak combined with garlic-buttered grilled colossal shrimp.  A cup of green tea and a bowl of delicious ice-cream send you home with a smile.  Wow!

The Benihana chain, with 80 restaurants world-wide, is a popular destination for any occasion including birthdays where the staff will serenade you with Happy Birthday and a Japanese song.  I’m pleased to report that the high school dinner/dance tradition remains strong here as we often see young couples here with beautiful corsages and boutineers on.  Whether you have guests visiting from out-of-town, a birthday or anniversary to celebrate, or just want some tasty food,  Benihana’s of Bethesda won’t disappoint.  ~Brian

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