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    Ginger Salad Dressing Condiments, Sauces, Seasoning
    Japanese Fried Rice Main Dish
    Magic Mustard Sauce Condiments, Sauces, Seasoning
    Mustard Sauce Condiments, Sauces, Seasoning
    Style Steak Main Dish
    Benihana is the name of a chain of Japanese restaurants known for the flavor of its food as much as the showmanship with which it is prepared in front of the customers.

    History

    Benihana has its roots in Japan in the years immediately following World War II. Yunosuke Aoki, a samurai descendant and entertainer, along with his wife, Katsu, opened a small coffee shop in Tokyo. The shop was named "Benihana" ("red flower" in Japanese) after a red safflower that grew in the streets. Run by the Aokis and their four sons, this coffee shop eventually became a full service restaurant.

    The eldest son, Hiroaki (later Americanized as Rocky) took after his father's appreciation for the theatrical, including the notion of combining Japanese food with entertainment. Rocky opened his first restaurant in 1964 in New York on West 56th Street with room enough for just four tables.

    The interior of the restaurant was styled after a Japanese farmhouse. The food was prepared before the customers at their tables in the teppanyaki style (Teppan meaning "steel grill" and yaki meaning "broiled"). Partly due to the restaurant's proximity to Broadway, Aoki believed showmanship and entertainment at Benihana was of great importance. The chefs would not only cook the food with flair, but also make sure all the different ingredients were served simultaneously. With emphasis placed on high customer contact service, the restaurant can be recognized as a service innovation, while Aoki's grouping of eight people per table ensured a profitable cycle time. See Service management.

    Within six months after opening, particularly following a rave review by Clementine Paddleford, restaurant critic for the New York Herald-Tribune, business boomed, and the Aoki family initiated massive expansion projects. Again, the experience at Benihana was highly choreographed, with guests spending time buying alcoholic drinks in the bar while waiting for a table to be assembled for eight guests. For many years, Benihana was the face of Japanese cuisine within America, thanks both to corporate-owned and franchise locations through the country and the novelty of preparing food in front of patrons. While the authenticity of Benihana's Japanese cuisine has been questioned by food experts, it remained the most popular exponent of Japanese food until the explosion of credible sushi bars throughout the United States beginning in the late 1980s.

    Legacy

    Benihana claims that they have served more than 100,000,000 meals since the opening of their first restaurant in 1964. Many people credit Benihana with bringing ersatz Japanese food to the attention of many Americans as well as making sushi and soy sauce household words. Benihana's famous figural "tiki mugs" for exotic cocktails, the most common of which depicts "Hotei" a chubby buddha-like figure with arms raised in the air, have become highly collectible.

    Pop culture references

    . Richard Pryor played "Hana Benny", a house-calling showy chef, in an opening skit for one episode of his short lived Richard Pryor Show. He visits someone taking a shower in a humorous parody of the famous Psycho shower scene.
    . Tony Soprano mentions that the bills at Benihana when he was young 'killed him', financially speaking.
    . In the TV show Road Rovers, Colleen mentions she got her "Hi Yah!" from a Benihana's.
    . On the TV show Yes, Dear, Greg Warner's father asks if they can go to Benihana.
    . At one point in the movie Shanghai Knights, Jackie Chan says his name is "Benny Hana".
    . Rupert Jee of New York's Hello Deli was at one point featured on the Late Show with David Letterman trying to quickly train as a Benihana chef, with less than optimal results.
    . The Christmas 2006 episode of the NBC comedy The Office is entitled 'A Benihana Christmas' Benihana is referred to as 'Asian Hooters'.

    Links

    Benihana Restaurant homepage
    http://www.benihana.com/
    Benihana logo
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