When we were kids, my brother and I loved going to Benihana. “Cook right on the table” we called it, and whenever one of our birthdays came up, we’d beg to be taken to “cook right on the table” to celebrate. Now that I’m a grown up, there aren’t very many large corporate chains that I jump up and down at the mention of. I few years ago, longing for that “cook right on the table” experience, I went to a Benihana and found, in place of all the magic I remembered, the telltale signs of mass produced image manufacture. You know, the kind of details that bring you to us, in spite of all those Mariotts and Hiltons in the neighborhood. Alas.
What a pleasure, then, to be taken recently to Kyoto Palace. It’s got all the lively bustle, the seeming flirtation with danger, the smoke and steam and just plain old fun that I so much loved about the “cook right on the table” experiences from my childhood, plus its very own personal intangibles. If the chef wants to start throwing his knives, he may very well do it, there’s no corporate overlord around to keep things antiseptic. (I hope that came off as the ringing endorsement I intended it to be, my point being that a place like this is only fun if it feels kind of wild and unruly, words that corporate chains are allergic to.)
This is a great place to come for a party, a great place to bring a group with nothing serious to discuss. This is a bad place to come if you’re looking for intimacy. It’s also an imperfect place to come if you’re looking for a super high-level culinary experience. They light things on fire in the dining room at the Kyoto Palace, it’s that kind of a joint. Come for that kind of revelry and you’ll be very happy you did.