Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vegan MoFo #25: Benihana - Downtown, Houston, TX

I was recently out with some new friends for someone's birthday party. Their tradition is to end their adventures at a hibachi place called Benihana in downtown Houston. I saw some stuff on the online menu that looked vegan or veganizable. I picked the spicy tofu steak, but it was not spicy at all. The sauce tasted mostly like hoisin sauce. I asked the lady taking our order about fish sauce and she said there was nothing like that in the sauce. I also explained I was vegan and did not want animal products in my fried rice. She confirmed that the rice could be made without eggs. She also said the salad is topped with ginger and vegan, but the onion soup is made with chicken broth. The shrimp appetizer that should have gone with my order was given to other people at the table. When the hibachi chef was making the fried rice, he made the vegetarian version first. He plopped something onto the rice and I asked repeatedly what the ingredient was, because he called it peanut butter and the person I was sharing with cannot eat peanuts. He repeatedly called it peanut butter and then smashed it into the food. I told him I couldn't understand him and he still mixed it into the food. Turns out it was garlic butter, according to another girl at our table. He used that on the rice and the sliced zucchini that was split amongst the table. I didn't eat either thing, but I did ask that he not use any butter to cook my tofu entree. It was rather annoying that I had asked him questions and he still plopped some random ingredient into my food without clearly stating what it was first. I will generally avoid going back here because of the smokiness from the grills, but I know now to specify NO BUTTER before ordering. Whyyyy would a hibachi place use butter?!
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  1. I went to the Benihana in Austin, and they did the same thing - well, the guy was *about* to plop butter on my stuff, and I was able to catch his attention before he did it. He looked put out, but thankfully didn't put the butter on the grill.

  2. Eek, if this is what happens when chefs are being watched and spoken to by customers, imagine what they get away with behind closed kitchen doors! The tofu dish itself looks tasty, at least!

  3. He didn't announce it until the spoon was above the food and he was ready to flick. When I was questioning him, the butter blob was already on the food, but there was salvageable food. I figured I would let the community food go and just focus on my entree. Luckily, my partner let me eat of his leftover tofu. He ate the buttery things since he's a vegetarian.