Presents a Californian Wine Experience
by Mick & Di Barker
“It’s a culinary circus, a foodie playground and a piece of gastronomic theatre that hits all the right spots” says Mick and Di, The Food Lovers…
Benihana has been providing “eatertainment” since its conception in 1964. Now there are over 116 franchises around the world and the name is synonymous with top notch food served in an ambiance of fun, amusement and exuberance.
Here in Pattaya, Benihana is under the auspices of Avani Resort and Spa and located on the 3rd floor of Royal Garden Plaza. Its reputation is based on its teppanyaki style of cooking: teppan meaning “steel grill” and yaki “broiled”. Their chefs receive sixteen weeks of intensive training before the final accolade of a red kerchief is awarded to confirm their proficiency. Interaction between chef and guest is positively encouraged and the culinary cabaret is great fun, natural and bodacious
Mick and I were invited recently to join the assembled diners to experience an evening of tasting a collection of carefully chosen Californian wines, paired with a five course gourmet menu.
Our host for the evening was Matteo Clini, Area Sales Manager for IWS (Independent Wine & Spirit (Thailand) Co.Ltd.) who imbued us all with his enthusiasm for these lesser known wines. California produces nearly 90 percent of all American wine and is the fourth world producer after France, Italy and Spain. It has been said that Californians are serious about their wine but relaxed about everything else.
The evening was launched with a welcome drink of Prosecco Extra Dry served with snacks before being seated around the teppanyaki tables for the pageant of dishes to come. Our dinner set off charmingly with a Kendall-Jackson Sauvignon Blanc, a Vintner’s Reserve from Sonoma County. The food pairing was a Tiger Prawn salad with Japanese pumpkin and rocket leaves with a sesame-ginger dressing. The prawn was sweet and perfectly deep fried while the salad just loved their sweet yet tangy dressing. However, the star of the plate, for us, was the Japanese Kabocha squash. Very much prized in Japan for its sweet taste and velvety texture, we predict that its popularity will soar over here for its versatility and delightful taste. The luscious Sauvignon Blanc was the perfect opener affording a fresh open window into the pleasures of Californian wine. Fruity and floral with a subtle mineral content we loved it and the appealing interplay between the food and wine.
Next to hit the table was an amazing violet-purple soup (Okinawa potato) crowned with a Hokkaido scallop. These sweet potatoes have bright purple flesh which is much sought after in Japan and some claim it can help you live to 100. We licked the plate clean. The selected wine was from the Wente Vineyards and goes by the remarkable label, Chardonnay 2016, Morning Fog, Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay. Named after the summer morning fog that billows into the San Francisco Bay, it creates a Mediterranean climate perfect for these grapes. This Chardonnay pays homage to the phenomenon with its bright, crisp flavours and hints of toasty oak blended from 98% Chardonnay and 2% Gewurtztraminer. Another corker which was a winner at our table.
At this stage the Benihana Master Chefs made their appearance and within minutes the atmosphere was high energy, knives (and eggs) were thrown, flipped, juggled, lobbed and pitched with skill resulting in a delicious bowl of Hibachi rice with bacon and mushrooms, topped with honey glazed ham. Grilled lamb cutlets were next to receive the Benihana treatment accompanied by a herb butter and mint sauce. Wente Vineyards produced the next Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 again from the San Francisco Bay, Southern Hills. A delightful herby wine with flavours of black cherry and some subtle dark chocolate undertones.
Wagyu beef tenderloin provided the deluxe ingredient for the next course. A luxury beef item benefiting from the speedy teppanayaki treatment to produce a juicy, tender, steak. Another Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 was then served, this time from Kendall Jackson and their Sonoma County Vineyards. A magic marriage indeed. The curtain was then lowered on this gourmet feast with a dessert of apple compote with a homemade Yuzu sorbet.
We had a “funtastic” evening, the food was top notch, the wines an eye opener into the interesting complexities of Californian vineyards and we shall certainly be looking out for them from now. Benihana scores on so many levels having creating a totally distinctive ambiance where the preparation of the food is driven by the prowess and skill of its highly trained staff who not only produce the product but entertain, surprise and amuse along the way. It’s a culinary circus, a foodie playground and a piece of gastronomic theatre that hits all the right spots.
Benihana is located on 2nd Floor, Royal Garden Plaza, Second Road, Pattaya. Tel: (038) 412 420 Ext.1395 or visit www.benihana-of-tokyo.com for full menu and prices.