Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Benihana, Amwaj Rotana

In a nutshell: great food, great service and great vibe.

Last night we had our second Japanese meal of the week but what a difference from Sakura! Benihana is an international chain but they do provide a fantastic Japanese experience - I've eaten at them in Seattle (USA), Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Amman (Jordan) and never been disappointed. The Amwaj Rotana has just opened in Jumeirah Beach Residence. We weren't sure where it was so we drove the whole length of the cobbled Walk and it was of course at the opposite end to where we started. It's almost opposite the Sheraton Jumeirah which is down the last crossroad on the main road if you're coming from Dubai (1st one from Jebel Ali). They also have an Italian restaurant (Rosso) that looked really good so we will try that next time.

The layout of Benihana suits solo diners as well as groups. The drinks bar is combined with the sushi bar where the chef makes sushi more or less fresh to order. If you're dining alone then you can sit at the drinks/sushi bar, alternatively the walls of the kitchen are all glass and they have a bar along the full length of the window into the kitchen so you can watch the cooking action as you eat. At the far end of the room, shielded by screens is the teppanyaki area with 3 large teppanyaki tables and of course diners all have to sit next to each other around the hot plate which can be a great way to get to know your fellow diners. We chose to sit at a regular table since the noise from the teppanyaki, plus sitting in a row around the cooking station make conversation a bit difficult at times. Sometimes you can leave a teppanyaki restaurant smelling of oil and food, but the screen separators meant that we weren't affected by the live cooking at all.

The menu is very comprehensive and includes a huge array of sushi, sashimi and maki as well as other Japanese staples such as yakitori, tempura, soups, salads and of course teppanyaki. We had some edamame and a single portion of california rolls (6 pieces) to whet our appetites - the edamame were a little undercooked but the california rolls were extremely fresh and we were asked if we'd like to have them rolled in sesame seeds since we didn't want roe. It is possible to choose a variety of starter dishes to share and then follow this with teppanyaki (the price includes grilled vegetables and rice) but we went for the teppanyaki specials which include miso soup, Japanese salad, your choice of teppanyaki with rice and vegetables plus dessert. At AED 170-210 (depending what you have) that is fantastic value for 4 courses.

The miso soup was nice, but the same as anywhere. The salad was also fine (lettuce, carrot and a mustard dressing) but nothing special. It was the teppanyaki that was the show-stopper. Simon and our friend Dara went for the Surf 'n' Turf which was beautifully presented with a lobster tail on top of the lobster and steak and the mixed vegetables layered underneath the meat. Both the lobster and steak had been sliced so they could be easily eaten with chopsticks. Louissa's chicken and steak was similarly beautifully presented. My assorted seafood was gorgeous. A medium sized piece of salmon with 2 large prawns and 5 scallops...melt in the mouth, juicy and divine! There was more than enough vegetables to go with all the fish and the rice was served separately - as with most places, brown rice was sadly not an option and that is the only thing I would say would have made the meal even better. For dessert we were offered a choice of banana tempura, tempura'd ice-cream, a scoop of ice-cream, a scoop of passion-fruit sorbet or fruit salad. Simon, Dara and I all had the sorbet which was delicious and tasted like freshly squeezed passion-fruit whilst Louissa had vanilla ice-cream.

I will definitely go back to Benihana, although first we'll have to try Rosso. Some of the staff didn't speak very much English, possibly because the hotel has just opened and they are still learning. Our waitress, Dimple, was the epitome of great customer service and the real WOW factor: she used my name throughout the meal! Since I'd made a reservation they had my name and both she and the manager made a point of personalising the service by using it - now that makes you feel special.

We had our voucher from our last Rotana meal (Channels) so with that and the 25% Rotana Rewards discount we had a total of AED 560 taken off our food bill. We did have quite a lot to drink but ignoring that, the meal itself for 4 people came to AED 850 (before discount) which is just over AED 200 a head for 4 courses. We then received another discount voucher for AED 400 plus we were given a scratch card and we won a free night's stay in the Amwaj Rotana! The free night's stay and the discount vouchers are all part of Rotana's summer promotion and it really works. If we hadn't got the voucher from Channels we wouldn't necessarily have looked to go to Rotana again last night and with our 2nd voucher we now plan to go to Rosso before the expiry of the voucher in September. The free night stay doesn't include tax, service or breakfast and when staying the night we'll also have to have dinner and lunch so it is a great way to get people into the hotel spending money they wouldn't otherwise have spent. Simon and I won't actually be using the Amwaj night because we have another one for the Bustan Rotana from dinner at Flavours on Two - I'll have that review up very soon.


  1. I was also impressed with Dimple's knowledge that sorbet is dairy-free!

  2. After reading all about these delectable dishes i am over joyed to visit the united Arab emirates and try them for myself

  3. Have a great trip, sure you'll have some great meals!

  4. Great, as Fishing in Dubai was been always my favorite sport in Dubai, but this time i will check out all these dishes too. they look amazing. i like seafood