When the first Benihana opened in 1964, Japanese cuisine was unknown to the United States and the idea of having a chef prepare a meal at your table was completely unheard of. Blending exotic Japanese dishes with a dazzling chef performance may have been a radical idea, but it was the recipe for success at Benihana. More than 100,000,000 meals have been served since 1964.
By bringing Japanese food into the mainstream and pioneering its "eatertainment" style of presentation, Benihana has also paved the way in America for the popularity of other Japanese cooking styles and food products. Sushi is now a favorite all over the U.S. and soy sauce has become a staple in numerous American kitchens, all thanks to Benihana.
This incredible American success story really had its roots in Japan right after the war. At that time, Yunosuke Aoki, (Yoo-OOH-No-Soo-Kay Ah-OH-Kee), a samurai descendant and a popular Japanese entertainer together with his wife Katsu (KAHT-Soo), opened a small coffee shop in Tokyo. A red safflower, found in the neighborhood streets gave the Aoki's the inspiration for the restaurant's name - Benihana - which in Japanese means "red flower."
Aoki’s eldest son, Hiroaki (HE-ROH-AH-Kee) arrived in the United States in 1960 and adopted a more “American” name. Rocky Aoki set off to have his dream become reality. He worked seven days a week selling ice cream in New York City and studied restaurant management at night. Through saving and borrowing, Rocky scraped together enough money to finance his first four-table restaurant on New York's W. 56th St.
As they worked within the authentic Japanese farmhouse interior, the Benihana dining concept gradually came into focus. Food would be prepared right at the table "teppan-yaki" style (Teppan meaning "steel grill" and yaki meaning "broiled") with dazzling effects by highly trained chefs. Rocky also believed that because the restaurant was near Broadway, the showmanship of the chefs was extremely important. Beef, chicken and shrimp would be the stars of the menu, all prepared "hibachi-style" (an American-style term for "teppan-yaki" cooking). Guests at the communal tables would place their orders with the chef and watch in amazement as these items were sliced and diced, and flipped into the air. The timing in cooking was critical. These different ingredients had to be ready to serve onto the guests' plates simultaneously.
In 1964, after all the preparation and planning, Benihana of Tokyo was only serving one or two customers a day. Aoki family members moonlighted at other restaurants just to pay the bills. But, six months after the restaurant opened, an enthusiastic review by Clementine Paddleford, legendary restaurant critic of the New York Herald-Tribune reversed the trend for good. New Yorkers flocked to the four-table Benihana and Rocky Aoki suddenly found himself in the position of having to turn dining guests away.Certificate:
Common Stock, issued in the 1980’sPrinter: Security-Columbian / United States Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w)State: DE-Delaware Subject Matter: Restaurants and Fast Food Vignette Topic(s): Company Logo Featured
| Stylized Modern Condition:
Vertical fold lines, punch hole and stamp cancels in signature areas and body, and stray staple holes and markings.