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August 6, 2015

Sometimes when I make plans to go out to eat, I like to visit an area I rarely go to and try a restaurant that is new and unfamiliar. But other times I like to walk across the street from my office and visit the most popular Japanese Hibachi restaurant in the country: Benihana.


On this particular day, my friend and I nestled into a table with 7 random people excited for a filling meal, a mai tai or two, and to hopefully see our chef catch a shrimp tail in his coat pocket.


All three happened.


Our chefs name was Hiroto, but now that he lives in America he goes by Jeff. He started his game off strong in the way you’d imagine a chef at a popular hibachi restaurant would. He banged the metal spatulas on the grill a few times, precisely poured too little of the sauce into our cups, and made a volcano out of onions.


While the “show” was going on, we were served our appetizers: soup and salad. Not wanting to miss a minute of Hiro…I mean Jeff…cooking, I barely touched my salad and tried to make eye contact with him to ensure that I would get the extra helping of rice. 

Every time I go to these types of restaurants, I always get the same thing: chicken and steak combo. I did have to be obnoxious for a minute and let him know that I had a shellfish allergy and needed him to make sure he wouldn’t cook the shrimp and scallops at the same time he was preparing my chicken and filet. I usually never (ever) make a fuss over my allergy, but we were seeing “Inside Out” afterwards and I didn’t want to get rushed to the emergency room because I had already bought my ticket.


Jeff cooked my steak to the perfect temperature, the chicken was deliciously juicy and the rice – omg the rice – was so good. 

While my friend and I were devouring our plates I looked up and noticed this woman sitting directly across from me, struggling to eat her rice with chopsticks. I went to elbow my friend for him to notice her when I realized she wasn’t some dumb tourist attempting to be cultured. She was none other than Grammy award winning Gloria Estefan. (Hence the title of this post. Honestly, I wish I could have done better, but that’s all I could come up with).


My heart stopped and for the first time in my life, the food on my plate was not my biggest priority. I kept trying to think of a way for her to notice me while I ate my grilled zucchini. “Hola chico,” she would say. “I noticed your beautiful eyes from across the table. Es Azzzuuuull.”  Alas, this never happened. 

Overall, excluding the Congo-queen herself, I have to say I was pretty disappointed with my experience at Benihana. I did not find the servers - or even Jeff - to be friendly or accommodating. I thought the food was bland and they didn’t even have that special “white sauce” famous at hibachi restaurants. I think from now on I will have to stick to the hibachi restaurants I know and love – mostly Makotos back home in Florida. 

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