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.
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.