A wrecking ball has come for the familiar blue pagoda in North Bay Village.
The Benihana, built in 1973 with one of the best views of the water on the North Bay Causeway, was demolished to make room for something both old and new: another Benihana.
A new, larger version of the restaurant is scheduled to reopen in early 2020 at 1665 N. Bay Causeway, according to a company spokesperson, just ahead of the Super Bowl.
While today Benihana feels like a throwback, originally it sought to bring a quasi-Asian experience to America. The late founder Rocky Aoki, equal parts entrepreneur and showman, tapped into the American market by creating a high-end restaurant with Japanese influences that were sold as authentic. Japanese architecture and courtyard and landscaping filled out a restaurant where chefs cooked meals to order on flatop grills in front of diners with knife flicks and spatula-tossing theatrics.
The late franchisee Bruce Hyatt, who died in May of 2018, brought the restaurants to South Florida, first to Fort Lauderdale, and in 1973 to Miami-Dade county. (Benihana bought the restaurants back in 1983.)
No doubt, it was a hit. South Floridians from Miami Beach flocked to the location. It served seven million diners, the company estimated, until it closed in June for the renovation. There, it served more than eight million servings of its Hibachi Chicken Rice.
The new 267-seat restaurant will cover 9,215 square feet with new cooktops, a sushi lounge and an indoor/outdoor cocktail bar with a patio overlooking Biscayne Bay.