Crowds of people can be found swarming in and out of the popular restaurant, Benihana, typical for a Friday night in Waikiki. Benihana is located in the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel.
My boyfriend and I approached the busy restaurant after walking a ways from our parking spot. Parking at the Hilton cost around $30 the last time we were there, this time, we parked by the dock behind Red Lobster. The Pay-to-Park was only $1 an hour, and probably the cheapest you’ll find in Waikīkī.
As we were escorted to our seats, I observed people of all ethnicities enjoying food at each table laughing and having a great time together.
It was my turn to experience Benihana for the first time. I had heard about it for years in songs and from family and friends.
“Is the grill on?” a tourist next to me asked.
The couple was visiting from California.
“I hope it’s on, well it should be on,” the waiter said as he hovered his hand over the grill, laughed and walked away.
I found English on the menu and ordered the Hibachi chicken.
“Hi, I’m Jerry, oh no, I’m Tom,” our waiter Tom said, as he laughed at his own reference to the cartoon “Tom and Jerry.”
The chef poured some kind of oil onto the grill and the sizzling started. Tom continued to chop and twirl his spatula around and throw it behind his back. I was somewhat relieved he wasn’t throwing any knives around.
He quickly stacked the onions to make the shape of a mountain, added water, creating steam and pointed a laser making the illusion of a volcano.
The onions were laid out in five rings on the grill.
“This is ‘Hawai’i Five-O’,” Tom shouted.
This guy knows how to keep a group of people laughing. With his humorous jokes, tossing around spatulas and egg yolks, our chef was top-notch entertainment, which helped to make up for some or those pricey $40 dishes.
Chefs at other tables were even dimming the lights above their table and tossing around what looked like salt and pepper shakers with blue and red lights on them, creating a light show.
The room got smoky and filled with the smell of cooking butter on the grill. My stomach started grumbling.
For at least 20 minutes you are fed appetizers and offered drinks. Shrimp, zucchini, fried and white rice fill your plate before your entree.
The zucchini, onions and shrimp tasted as if they were steamed and lightly buttered that it had a sweet buttery taste, but not too overwhelming.
A choice of three sauces to dip our shrimp and veggies added a strong flavor of peanut, something spicy, and one that was ginger based. The veggies were cooked so flavorfully, the sauce was almost not needed.
Finally, the entrees were placed on the grill, several steaks and my hibachi chicken.
There were some tricks, but getting the food to the hungry customers was the main focus now.
The loud sizzling filled my ears, and the aroma of cooked me danced through the air. I couldn’t wait to dig into the chicken and really start eating.
The chicken was moist, tender and cooked with perfection.
Sadly, our chef bid us farewell after the entrees were cooked and gave one last twirl of his spatula.
After a night of much eating and comedic entertainment, the final bill was pricey, about $70, but the family style, humorous and appetizing atmosphere made it worth it.
Next time, I’d like to try another dish, maybe one that would require a bit more creativity on the chefs side, and see what kind of jokes the chef can come up with.