Flicking knives on Valentine’s


Valentine’s Day is one of those occasions that has the potential to fail miserably. If you’re single, it can make you feel very alone. If you’re part of a couple, apart from being the romantic zenith of the calendar ,it can be very expensive, tacky, and can have the opposite of its intended effect by making you realise that no, you’re not the only person in the entire universe that loves someone. Then again, there’s also that breed of folk who deliberately ignore Valentine’s in the hope that it’ll go away, only to incur the wrath of their poor, high-maintenance (I mean neglected) partner. But mostly it’s just another excuse to spend way too much on cards and flowers in the name of commerce.

Many years ago, before my rose-tinted glasses cracked somewhat irreparably, I was invited to a Valentine’s dinner by a young man on whom I had a humongous crush. In preparation, I blow-dried my hair straight and left it long for full flirting flickability. We spent the evening at a Very Cool Jazz Bar where everything was dimly lit and the music so loud that I spent a lot of time leaning across the table, trying to hear what my date was saying. Then, a strange odour wafted up my nose.

“It smells like something’s burning,” I said, trying to locate the source of the stench in the club’s gloom.

“It’s your hair,” replied my date.

As I’d leaned across the table, my hair had dangled straight into the Valentine’s red candle and now a whole, thick strand had burned, had water thrown at it, sizzled, and disintegrated in a mere few seconds. The smell of burnt hair did not leave me for weeks, no matter how often I washed it. As for the budding romance, I think it’s fair to say that this one fizzled out.

Last year, Monsieur and I decided we should make a bit of an effort, rather than hiding ourselves away from the red rose salesmen, heart-shaped chocolate boxesand shop windows full of all things pink or red. Monsieur was decided. He wanted to go to a restaurant; I, on the other hand, wanted very much NOT to go to a restaurant. In the end, being the selfless love goddess that I am, I relented, on the proviso that I choose the venue. In fact, I cheated a bit because I already had an idea of where to book and it certainly wasn’t a place where we’d be an island in a sea of couples, all crooning sweet nothings to each other as they tried to dodge the little men with the buckets full of roses, swaying along to Frank Sinatra singing about flying to the moon. Those are the couples who don’t actually mind that their food is not much quality for a rather expensive quantity, or that champagne costs double the usual or that they’ve had to book weeks in advance to experience nothing short of mediocre. Well, Monsieur and I certainly do not fall into that category of couple-dom. We went to Benihana.

The reasoning behind this was that I hadn’t been to a teppanyaki place for ages and I quite enjoy them. Granted, it’s not the best Japanese that you’re ever going to taste, but flicking knives and flying devilled prawns should ensure that no rose salesmen would get anywhere near us. In case you haven’t yet experienced a Benihana (and admittedly there are quite a few people who don’t like them very much), patrons are seated on high stools surrounding the hot plate, in groups or blended with total strangers. This would surely be the perfect environment for practicing our Valentine’s Avoidance Techniques.

I managed to reserve a special Valentine’s dinner, which just happened to be the only dinner available and which was really just the usual fare teamed with a couple of glasses of fizz. The restaurant was packed and (cringe) there were quite a few couples there, but to dilute the atmosphere of lurve there were also groups of besuited businessmen and several families whose kids were thoroughly enjoying all the samurai knife action. Was it an Anti- Valentine’s success? I’d have to say, yes.

Now it’s that time of year again, when hearts and flowers and greetings cards are everywhere you look. So what do we have in mind for our special day? Well, for once it’s a weekend so domesticity reigns. The aerial guy is coming to fix our TV connection, and we’re (hopefully) going to have a peaceful day at home with some Epic cooking and a DVD or two. No hefty bills and no red rose salesmen in sight. Having said that, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll get any mail tomorrow, and we’re not talking the sort of mail that comes in a brown, window envelope.

Useful links:


*You might want to look up Benihana on You Tube. There are lots of films of Benihana samurai chefs flicking their implements around the place.

Image above borrowed from here: DiscoverNikkei

6 Comments Add yours

  1. epicurienne says:

    In case you’re wondering why this wasn’t put up on Valentine’s Day, it’s because I made the classic mistake of doing a WordPress post-publish and apparently it didn’t work. This should have gone up automatically at 1800GMT on Friday 13th. Ah well. As I always admit, I have to earn many more stripes of geek-dom. Or perhaps it was just a Friday 13th thing… Anyway, Monsieur and I not only had Aerial Guy, we also had 2 plumbers visit us on Saturday. Now that’s what I call domesticity.


  2. w1kkp says:

    Ah, yes, this post-publish thing happens to all of us. If you are like me, you may not have clicked on publish after you put in the time. I thought that meant it would publish it right then and there.

    Two plumbers?? If I get one it’s a miracle.


    1. epicurienne says:

      Thanks Pat. Good to know I’m not the only doof in the woods.
      Re: plumbers. Well. Now we need a new boiler apparently. That should be more domestic fun and games. We’re having a lot of those right now.


  3. w1kkp says:

    I forgot to say something:


    You crack me, sister. Benifreakinhana is still around?

    How many loose digits on the floor along with bean shoots?

    Seriously, you kill me.


    1. epicurienne says:

      Yep, Benifreakinhana is certainly still around. I think we have three in London alone. Recently I saw a tv show where a food guy is given a week to become the best barrista in the state or a week to learn vegetable sculpture or a week to learn how to be a Benihana chef! The things they do with eggs is something else. Hard work. I couldn’t do all those knife tricks, in fact, I’m always quite proud of myself whenever I finish chopping an onion without cutting myself.
      PR – The reason they don’t know this sort of restaurant in Japan is because it was invented outside of Japan by a Japanese chap who thought this would be fun for the Western market. It’s a marketing ploy, really. I think they were developed in the States in the sixties. http://www.benihana.com/about/rocky-aoki


  4. planetross says:

    I think I went somewhere similar on my 21st birthday: the Japanese Gardens in Victoria B.C..
    For those in the know, the place was originally the city morgue before the teppanyaki guys moved in.
    A good show and a bit of fun … and I even had a photo taken with a samurai topknot skull cap thingey on my head!
    It’s funny that I’ve never seen that type of restaurant over here. There must be some but nobody knows what I’m talking about when I mention them.


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