The greatest shame of my life is that my siblings--raised on the stove of a Mexican mami--loves crappy food. The eldest son of the Arellano clan has covered food for the Weekly for more than six years, knows all the great joints in Orange County--but they prefer Papa John's. I urge them to visit Rufino's, they elect Olive Garden. I say Ma's Islamic Chinese, they want Panda Express, orange chicken. So when my sister celebrated her 22nd birthday on Sunday and asked I picked a restaurant, I knew that whatever choice I could offer, it would inevitably turn into Benihana.
My siblings are a bunch of wabs? I've long ridiculed them for getting wowed like Iowans at the sight of chefs over a teppanyaki table flipping shrimp tails into their breast pocket. It's overpriced, it's vile, and I know many better Japanese restaurants with even wackier theatrics. I suggested we visit Kappo Suzumaru, or--if they wanted the yakitori experience--Shin Sen Gumi Ramen in Fountain Valley. We ended up at Benihana.
I will praise chain cuisine when required. Jack-'n'-the-Box has perfected legalized meth with their tacos. McDonald's still makes the best breakfast sandwich on earth--the Egg McMuffin--and its apple pie is with few peers. In-n-Out rules. So don't think that my hatred of Benihana has to do with my gastronomical elitism, or my over-romanticization of hole-in-the-wall restaurants. No, I don't like Benihana because the food is as gross as (insert your favorite Japanese fetish porno here).
Everyone in my clan of six went for specials that included:
1. Onion soup--more stale broth than twangy 2. Salad with wilted greens and a too-tart dressing. 3. Fried rice with too much butter--and I love butter. 4. Vegetables--again, with so much butter you couldn't taste anything else 5. A meat entree--passable. 6. Green tea.
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Wanting to try something different, I ordered the chicken rice, which I discovered was the same rice everyone else enjoyed. I also asked for sauteed scallops--four puny guys for $8.
I paid $155 for the six of us, and all my sister got was a picture. AH!!!!!!!
The only worthwhile show was the cook--a Mexican--who was funny and charming, but if I wanted to get wowed by a wab, I'd call my cousin Victor.
Benihana, at any tourist trap/gabacho hell near you.