Benihana sizzles in Chicago again

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Beneath the John Hancock Center, spatulas scrape along metal grills; slender,two-pronged forks bounce off the shining surface with a tinny echo. with a dash of oil, food sizzles and the aromas fill the air.

Welcome to Benihana's signature Teppanyaki grill, back in Chicago for the first time in nearly a decade.

Chef Raymond Mendez has spent more than two decades with the Japanese steakhouse chain, working in several cities across the country. He trained for a year to master the Hibachi techniques and has taught many Benihana chefs in the years since. On Wednesday, he gave me a crash course in the art-form.

Mendez's utensils became a blur as he tossed the spatula in the air, sliding vegetables across the 500-degree grill with afork.

Whether stacking the onion volcano or slicing shrimp, I could match neither the veteran chef's precision nor his acrobatic feats.

I did manage to toss a shrimp tail in my hat, but he outdid me by catching a raw egg in his breast pocket.

It's not an easy cooking technique; it's not fast either. But the finished product--a diverse, colorful plate--makes the wait worthwhile. And Chef Raymond Mendez will entertain you until it's time to dig in.
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