Teppanyaki: From East to West to Warsaw

Culinary traditions and customs are fashioned by time, people and their appetites. When it comes to food, stories of origin and success often include a voyage, a clash of cultures, a family’s secret recipe or exotic ingredients and cooking techniques. The history of teppanyaki is no different, and has secured a place in the annals of western gastronomy. Its genesis dates back to 1945 Japan when the idea of cooking Western-influenced food on a teppan (iron plate) in front of the customers was introduced and proved most popular amongst foreigners.

Its journey to the West was the pursuit of a dream. Son of a coffeeshop owner in Tokyo, Hiroaki Aoki travelled to New York City with the goal of opening his own restaurant. After finding success with a modest ice cream operation, ‘Rocky’ (as he became known in the U.S.) saved up enough cash to jump-start America’s first teppanyaki restaurant on West 56th street. Named after his parents’ coffee shop in Tokyo, ‘Benihana‘ opened doors in 1964 and quickly gained popularity thanks to the quality of its food and the appeal of its rather original concept. Not long after, the positive review of an acclaimed food critic gave Benihana the boost necessary to expand the brand. By 1972 there were six locations across the United States, and today Rocky’s legacy extends across the globe with more than 130 restaurants, including franchises in Sao Paulo, London, Dubai, Shanghai and Warsaw.

Set in the Helmut Jahn-designed Cosmopolitan building on the edge of smart Plac Grzybowski, Benihana Warsaw is a stylish, modern eatery featuring teppanyaki grill tables where highly-skilled and entertaining English-speaking chefs will slice, grill and season your order in front of your eyes – with no shortage of showmanship. Benihana’s hallmark is that their food basically comes with free entertainment in the form of their chefs’ knife juggling and culinary acrobatics. Is it any surprise that in addition to running a coffeeshop, Rocky’s father was also a popular entertainer; or that his ancestors were samurai?

 

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