At global chain/Seattle institution Benihana, the chefs bow to you from behind your communal tabletop grill, and then prepare, before your eyes, an Asian feast—a very bland feast, but a feast nonetheless. Moreover, these chefs put on a show—flipping metal spatulas about and clanging them upon the grill in a nerve-shattering manner, launching shrimp tails into the air to catch them atop their brightly colored toques, lofting half-lemons to stab them out of the air with carving forks, and slicing and dicing with very sharp knives at relatively impressive speeds. The clientele leans toward out-of-towners and, in season, prom dates; by the end of the meal, like it or not, temporary bonds aplenty are forged. "This is the way America oughta do it all the time," a guy from Colorado summarized one night, gesturing drunkenly at the grill top: "You put it on the thing, mix it up, and you all get along." While Benihana is a memorable, endlessly fascinating circle of hell, it is an expensive travesty of a restaurant.
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