June 29, 2008

Samurai - The Falls, Miami

Samauri is owned by Benihana, and is located near the entrance of The Falls, an upscale shopping mall in the Pinecrest area in Miami. We have had several meals there and it's always decent food as well as entertaining. The place is chock full of couples on dates and birthday celebrators--and it's always packed. It's a large restaurant and if you don't want to wait for 2 hours for a table, get there before 7:30 PM on a weekend night. I recommend this restaurant for consistently good, uncomplicated main courses and for the cooking theatrics of seeing a chef making the food on a hibatchi right in front of your eyes. All of the entrees include a number of courses- Japanese Onion Soup, Benihana salad (iceberg lettuce with ginger dressing), shrimp appetizer, teriyaki vegetables, plain or fried rice, hot green tea and ice cream for dessert. Let's discuss.

The soup is okay, the salad is super-chilled and it is obvious that not much thought went into it. Shrimp appetizer- depending on your chef du jour, it can be fine.

The shrimp goes on the grill with butter and lemon and is served immediately. Not much can go wrong there. I might even go so far as to say it's addictive because I always want more.

Next, the vegetables. Same thing- on the grill with butter and soy sauce. A combination of zucchini and onions. The chef starts to prepare the fried rice- eggs, a pre-chopped vegetable combination (which doesn't include peas, which is why TLMM will eat at Samurai), and chicken. The fried rice is also doused with sauces and seasonings and is served right off the grill and is simply delicious.

Finally the chef starts to cook the entrees. The seafood is first, then the chicken and finally the beef. JAM ordered the calamari, which is sliced cuttlefish with asparagus and sometimes fresh tomatoes. I say sometimes because the last time he had it, it included fresh tomatoes but this time it didn't, which could be a result of the tomato-related salmonella scare.

That's JAM's calamari. TLMM ordered the Land and Sea combination, which is filet mignon and scallops. I ordered just the filet- medium rare.

The chef got the temperature right and the meat simply melted in my mouth - along with some of the vegetables and the fried rice, the food was all tasty and plentiful- which is what you would expect.

So much of your dinner experience depends on the other diners at your table, unless you have a party of eight in which case you would have your own table. The other factor which figures into the meal is the wait staff. We haven't had problems communicating or getting consistent service except for one visit.

Samurai also has a sushi menu--we usually order a roll as an appetizer. The last time we ordered a roll, something new happened. A guy rolled out a cart with examples of the sushi along with a sushi menu and asked for our order. We ordered our roll and he delivered it, along with a check for just that roll. When we have ordered sushi in the past, the cost of the roll is automatically added on to our total dinner bill. We asked the waitress to add it on to our total bill, and she said that they couldn't do that since they had already printed out the bill for the roll. When the sushi guy came back to take the money, we again asked that it get added on to the bill, and he agreed to do it. A few minutes later he came back with great flourish to let us know it had been taken care of and would be transferred to our check. Clearly there is something going on behind the scenes with the sushi side of the restaurant. We got the idea that it had to do with tipping, so we made sure that we tipped the guy who brought the roll. Whatever the problem is, it's distracting and, well, just plain silly to have to pay in a chopped up manner (pun intended)- and I suggest that the restaurant figure it out so that the diners don't have to be pestered. 

The other problem we had was that since this restaurant is so popular and the lines for a table boggle the mind, they tend to try to bus your table before you finish eating. This happened to us on our last visit, and while we might not have been gobbling down our food, we weren't taking an inordinate amount of time- there is a lot of food, and we were eating at a normal pace. When you're paying nearly $200 to feed three people, being rushed just isn't necessary.

Samurai, and other Japanese-style hibachi steakhouses (originally called Teppanyaki), have been around for decades and have mastered the market of feeding hibachi-style food to the masses. It's nothing to write home about--so don't expect it to be and you won't be disappointed. Everything is fresh and simply made - it's a show and an experience. That's what makes it so popular. If you get a chef who can juggle knives and make the preparation seem magical, you've got a great evening in front of you. I must admit that I had fun, I mean, c'mon! He let me wear the hat and everything...and the eggs.

Samurai Japanese Steak on Urbanspoon


The Little Kahuna said...

Looks good. I used to go to Benehana a lot, but haven't been lately.

JB said...

that made me crave the one we have hear but I don't like eating with strangers so I will have to find a group.

Anonymous said...

You look like a natural on the grill, maybe a second career? Kidding.


JB said...

The Captain would be very Jealous of that hat.