When I first moved to the city, I knew one person – my best friend growing up was out here going to grad school. Luckily, when I learned I was hired in NYC and had 5 days to move, she offered to let me share her bed for the foreseeable future. And then I knew 3 people. My best friend and her two roommates. The four of us lived in a 5th floor walk up (for those of you non-NYers that means there’s no elevator). We had one air conditioning unit in one of the teeny tiny bedrooms, and it was so hot that summer we often all crammed into that one small back bedroom to sleep. And I existed like this for about 3 months.
Fast forward about 7 1/2 years… and I’ve developed a great group of friends where we actually have holiday traditions together. It started at least 4 years ago at this point, but the night goes something like this: meeting at FAO Schwartz, dinner at Benihana, a walk down 5th Avenue to look at the lights, a stop at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and a nightcap at the Plaza. It is the quintessential Christmas in NY night, and I’m so happy the tradition continues. Now…to the food.
You’d be surprised, I think, at the vegetarian options at Benihana. Usually, when a place is hyper focused on cooking in front of you, there’s a lot of meat involved, but they did a great job of accommodating the two vegans in the room. All the hibachi meal items come with soup and salad – the miso soup is of course vegan. We also went for some edamamae because we were starving by the time we sat down at the table.
R’s meal came with the grilled zucchini appetizer while mine came with a tofu appetizer. Both were delicious. And how could we not love the show our cook put on? I’m a sucker for the onion “volcano” though I’m pretty sure it used to actually start on fire. Our cook, Andrey, told us they’re no longer allowed to use open flames…
Let’s be honest, the food at Benihana isn’t the only reason you go there. In fact, the food is always just pretty decent, but it’s the fun that you have while you’re there that keeps you going back. Our group is always pretty rowdy, and we love cheering on our cooks as they throw knives around, catch shrimp in their pocket, and make a “beating heart” out of the fried rice.
I ordered the vegetarian delight as my main entree and opted for brown rice instead of white or fried. This is probably by far the healthiest option on the menu, it comes steamed in its own bowl thing that’s placed directly on the grill. So you’re left with a big plate of steamed veggies and brown rice – doesn’t get much healthier than that! I added a touch of teriyaki sauce to the rice to make things a little more flavorful.
R ordered the tofu entree, which had just a touch of spice to it and was also a solid option, especially when we were able to share between the two of us.
I can’t leave you all with out a full picture of Benihana Christmas, so here’s the rest of the non-food related items. (Those of you who are here for food porn feel free to exit at this time). After dinner we headed down 5th avenue and I snapped a couple pictures of the lights along the way.
And then of course nothing is complete without the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
Happy early holidays everyone! Do you have any holiday traditions you look forward to every year?