This past Saturday night I went against my initial thought and decided to try something that I thought would be a mistake. A good friend of mine from high school was celebrating his birthday and there was a large group of us that joined him at Benihanas in Scottsdale. For those of you that are not familiar with Benihana it’s where they cook in front of you. My opinion is this is a celiac and cross-contamination nightmare so I had some food before I joined them but what happened when I got there surprised me big time. Of course my friends were probing me to eat and told me to ask if they had gluten-free options but we all know that’s not good enough. I always think we should be activists so I decided why not!
I spoke with the waitress and she asked me what my allergies were. I told her I was allergic to gluten, diary, soy and grains. I got the typical look of wow how do you eat? I felt right then and there I was done. But then she said to me they could help me and had options for me. I told her that I just wanted steak, shrimp and chicken cooked in olive oil with salt and pepper. She then told me that it was a requirement for the manager to come out and talk to me about the food allergies. Before I continue, I started to feel a lot more comfortable and was impressed. When the manager came out he asked me what the allergies were, explained to me how they take them seriously and said can your food be cooked here or should we do it in the back? Oh wow, really? They actually understood how serious cross-contamination was!!! I’ll be honest, I took a risk and said as long as they cleaned the grill and used separate utensils I would be ok. He said, “Are you sure?” Yes, I’ll be fine but I knew I was taking a big risk because would this information get transferred to the cook right and with all the soy in their cooking I figured I was doomed.
The first item to come out was the soup and the waitress said to me that I couldn’t eat it because the broth had wheat in it. Then, they brought out the salads and mine was completely dry but they gave me oil and vinegar. Ok, hold the phone! I didn’t ask they just brought it out that way and my friends were like they really listen and were equally as impressed. But now it was time for the cooking to get started and I was a little nervous. The chef came out, immediately cleaned the grill even though it was clean, spoke to me and reassured me of what he would do. He cooked all of my food away from everything else and constantly cleaned the grill between different courses. During the entire process Benihana in Scottsdale made me feel extremely comfortable and the chef was outstanding. Finally, when they took the dessert orders they informed me that I couldn’t have the sorbet because the only option had dairy in it.
I was thankful for their knowledge; care and understanding about the seriousness of what happens with those that suffer from food allergies. The food was great, the company was even better and I will go back. In the end, the best part about this was since they cook in front of you, it’s very easy to see if they make a mistake. It has now been well over a day since I had the food and I’m having no symptoms of getting glutened. Phew!!
DISCLAIMER – I was not compensated for this review as I’m choosing to write it because of my experience. I didn’t ask them if all Bentihanas follow this protocol so I would say check first before you just pop in. As always make sure you lead the discussion and ask all the questions necessary.