After more than two decades under the Benihana banner, the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort has rechristened its iconic teppanyaki restaurant as Misono Japanese Steakhouse.
Whatever the motivation for the move away from Rocky Aoki’s American branding towards this new, exclusively Gold Coast moniker, it certainly hasn’t resulted in a dip in quality or a change in the restaurant’s focus.
The menu has been refreshed, but veteran head chef Henry Bongay is still the man at the helm, and the venue’s chief appeal is still its theatrical approach to teppanyaki dining.
We headed down to The Marriott for the night to experience the revamped restaurant’s charms for ourselves. After snorkelling with tropical fish in the extravagant resort pool and enjoying a few drinks and canapés in the Elandra Retreat Club, we kicked off the evening in earnest at the Misono cocktail bar just outside the restaurant itself.
The signature cocktail — the Samurai Kiss, which combines sake, strawberry liqueur, Malibu, passionfruit, muddled lime and strawberries with apple and cranberry juices — sets the tone perfectly. It’s delicious, it looks great, and it hints at the fun to come.
Our attentive waiter, Riley, takes us through to the restaurant, which is made up of rows of teppan grills that comfortably seat eight diners each. Whether you come with a large group or just as a couple, it’s an undeniably social experience — it’s virtually impossible to avoid talking to the other diners around you.
Even the most socially awkward diners will have no trouble with that interaction, however, because it’s all led by the chefs, who are masters at bringing their teppan tables to life.
Our chef, Perry, is a natural-born entertainer, juggling kitchen utensils with ease, constructing flaming volcanoes out of onion rings, dispensing rapid-fire one-liners and expertly aiming trick shots down the gullets of diners who position themselves like seals to catch airborne bites of prawn and egg.
It’s a highly choreographed routine, but he makes it feel improvised — it never feels as if we’re just going through the motions, even though, from his perspective, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
It’s pure showbiz — dinner theatre, but far more intimate, and without the schmaltz and cheese.
Well, okay, there is a little cheese — at one point, a waiter bursts into the room and sparks a sing-along of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. But if loving ’80s pop rock sing-alongs is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Of course, there is a practical purpose to all this slicing and dicing — cooking on a teppan enables chefs to achieve that ideal grilled taste, and you won’t find a better example of that in Queensland than you will at Misono, as they sear the meats and veggies to perfection without losing the juice and flavours.
We go for the Cherry Blossom, a banquet for two that features Australian Wagyu beef alongside large prawns, scallops, bug meat and teriyaki fish in a paper bag served with hibachi chicken rice.
The Wagyu beef is loaded with flavour and frankly to die for, and the fish isn’t far behind — it’s impossibly tender, and has that melt-in-your-mouth effect. Lovers of seafood (or garlic butter, which is certainly applied liberally) will find themselves in heaven with the prawns, scallops and bug meat, which are all top-notch.
(All the teppanyaki banquets are also served with miso soup, prawn appetiser and Misono salad; these will keep you going while your chef works the grill but they’re not necessarily anything to write home about. If teppanyaki’s not your thing, you can order sushi and sashimi from the kitchen instead, but honestly, why would you do that?)
We close the night with a few Misono Bombs (Sake, Jägermeister and Red Bull) and stumble back to our room, convinced that we’ve just had one of the most entertaining nights out you can possibly have at a restaurant in Queensland.
If you’re looking for a quiet, private and romantic dinner for two, Misono isn’t a wise choice. But if you’re looking to have fun while you eat a great meal?
This is impossible to beat.
Misono Japanese Steakhouse is located at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa (158 Ferny Avenue, Surfers Paradise). For more information, visit www.marriott.com.au.
Disclaimer: The author dined as a guest of the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa.