Benihana (San Diego) - happy hour visit
Dennis and I had $60 of promotional credit at Benihana and only one month left before it expired. Rather than using it all on two entrees with the dinner show chefs, we decided to explore as much of the happy hour menu as possible. And we were able to try so many items!!
Our first visit was on a Thursday around 6:30pm and there was a little bit of a wait. We bypassed it by getting seated at the sushi bar instead.
The Crunchy Roll (4.75) was very bland and the panko crumbs were already beginning to taste stale. It definitely required some soy sauce to balance out the dryness.
The Caterpillar Roll (6.00) was standard but an improvement over the first because the avocado gave it some creaminess!
The Chili Shrimp Roll (5.50) was our first good roll of the night. Lightly battered shrimp was set on tempera fried california roll with a touch of cream cheese inside. On the very top was a jalepeno slice with a dab of sriracha. I promply removed the jalepeno on mine since I don't eat those! We liked that this roll had more 'meat' overall than the others.
The Crispy Spicy Tuna (4.75) was the other good item that evening. The base had black sesame seed rolled rice, which was crispier and chewy on the outside and a bit like sticky rice on the inside. The sesame flavor was quite strong in these but we liked the way it was. On top was plenty of spicy tuna with more jalepenos to top it off.
The Sashimi Ceviche (6.00) on the left had some nice pieces of fish but the ones on the bottom had a little too much soak time in the lemony juice. We ordered a Mai Tai (5.75) on the right. Just a spoon full of sugar-y [drink] helps the icky rolls go down!
At the end of the night, we had spent $35 after tax and tip. Another hh visit was required!
For our second visit, we arrived on a Monday and it wasn't busy at all. Easy seating at a happy hour table!
We started with some Teriyaki Wings (3.50), which were a bit salty, but had a sweet yet spiced flavor overall. These were fried well underneath the sauce.
The Spicy Tuna Hand Roll (1.75) had an ample amount of spicy tuna inside so it worked fine for us.
The Dragon Roll (6.00) was also just okay. Typical with eel meat and mini slices of avocado on top and the sweet sauce dribbled over.
The Gothom Roll was extremely uninspired and tasted mostly like cream cheese. The soft cooked salmon did not add anything to it, and the tempera batter wasn't very fresh. This was probably the worst roll here.
The Las Vegas Roll (4.25) also had lots of cream cheese. I really liked the green sprinkled seasoning on this one. The huge taro chips were a little bit oily but did give the taste another dimension. The spicy crab meat portion improved the flavor a bit. It's one of the better ones here but still subpar to the Chili Shrimp Roll IMHO. After two cream cheese rolls, I kind of understood why Dennis hates ordering them... we were definitely CREAMED OUT and feeling quite heavy at the end of the night.
We ordered another Chili Shrimp Roll since the rest of the rolls more or less failed! This time the photos were better too because we were seated at a table with lighting!
Then at checkout, I found out I accidentally brought the USED promotion cards... which meant we had ONE more visit to benihana left to use up the credits... *doh*
Three days later, we were back again on another Thursday. This last visit was the busiest of them all. The lobby was FULL of people and I had to squeeze through to get to the table. And this was about 8 minutes until happy hour was over so we flagged down a waiter ASAP to put in our orders!
We decided to try more appetizers this time. The California Poppers insides were stuffed with crab rather than whatever usually goes in jalepeno poppers. I thought it was a nice twist to the usual poppers and actually ate the pepper parts since they weren't really spicy. If the fried shells were a little lighter, they would have been really tasty.
Closeup of the California Poppers so you can see the insides. There's a lot of breading though!
This was the Tuna Sashimi with Spicy Sauce, which turned out to be not spicy at all. Deceptive name! Although, I secretly was happy that it didn't burn my mouth! It looks fresh but was so-so.
The Pan-fried Beef Gyoza Dumplings (3.25) were average, nothing to run home about but we liked the crispier pan fried side to them. The insides were very simple with ground beef.
The Seaweed Salad (2.25) was just a bit slimy for my taste and the flavor was a little off for me. It was also super wet. Dennis prefers the pickled korean type more.
We were planning to get the trio of fish tacos but they were out that night. We've had them in the past before and I remember liking two out of the three, but nothing note-worthy. Instead, we once again ordered the Chili Shrimp and the Crispy Tuna and our funds were FINALLY used up! One thing we didn't order that's kind of crazy is the Blue Ocean Punch Bowl, normally $26 but only $10 at hh. This is meant to be shared because it is HUGE and the two of us weren't able to finish it!
Now that we've tasted a good portion of the happy hour menu, I don't think we'll be back anytime soon. There is lots of selection and it's pretty dirt cheap but not too many standouts either! Even the regular dinner menu itself is just okay and runs up your bill pretty quick. But with the birthday dinner coupon, it's not as bad if you go in a small party. Expect more show than anything.
477 Camino Del Rio S
San Diego CA 92108