Benihana Coming to Westwinds of Boca

We’ve heard rumors for years now and it’s finally true. Benihana is coming to Westwinds of Boca (aka the Home Depot plaza) on the southeast corner of 441 and Glades. Originally we heard this what was going into the new building that now has Pei Wei and a few other stores.

The old Denny’s; photo by Warren Redlich

While we heard all those rumors, people also kept asking us “what’s going on with the Denny’s building.” Now we have the answer. There is a proposal pending before the county, titled “Benihana at Festival Shoppes of Boca Raton” (the old name of Westwinds). The essence of the plan:

The Applicant is requesting to reconfigure the Site Plan and add square footage. The Preliminary Site Plan indicates the existing Type II Restaurant (3,154 sq. ft.) to be demolished and a new (8,060 sq. ft.) restaurant to be constructed.

The zoning commission has scheduled a hearing for December 4th, and then it will go in front of the County Commissioners on January 7th. Sometimes these dates get pushed back, but it appears to be coming soon. One reader even tells us she saw workers at the building.
There are already a couple of Japanese steak houses in West Boca, with Tempura House at Clint Moore & 441, and Saito’s at Lyons and Glades. Benihana is may be a step up in quality, but we’ll see if and when they open.

Benihana to replace Denny’s in Westwinds of Boca, southeast corner of Glades and 441; image and map data by Google.

Overall the parking in that plaza can be a nightmare, though the worst of it is closer to Home Depot and Publix. Doubling the size of this building will bring in a lot more cars, but we think there’s room for it. Plus we’re excited to try it.
It’s always a good sign for the local economy when businesses want to open and expand.
The full zoning application is below:
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Nikuya in Loggers' Run: Restaurant Review

After Marcus Kosher Chinese closed, it didn’t take long for Nikuya to open in its place. Billing itself as a Thai and Sushi bistro, they actually have a deeper Japanese menu that attracted us. It’s located in the Shoppes at Loggers’ Run, on the north side of Palmetto Park Road about a mile and a half west of 441:

It’s not cheap, and that’s a good thing. Nor is it terribly expensive. Entrees are mostly between $12 and $17. We didn’t get there sooner because we mostly do our reviews at lunch time and they’re don’t open until 4 pm. We hear they may add lunch service soon. The interior is clean and fresh. There’s room for maybe 30 people at the tables and another 8 or so at the sushi bar. Due to the layout it might be difficult to seat a larger party and we recommend calling first if that’s your plan.
We started with one of our favorite Japanese appetizers, Gyoza. These are dumplings that can be served either steamed (which we prefer) or fried. At $7 it might seem pricey but it came with six pieces and they were excellent.
Please note that better versions of most of the photos in this article can be seen by clicking on them.
Next up was something we didn’t order. Maybe it’s normal or maybe it’s because they noticed the camera, but the waitress brought us out a tuna and avocado appetizer as a courtesy from the chef. Both the tuna and the avocado were noticeably higher quality than another West Boca Japanese place we visited on Christmas Day. The tuna was lightly marinated in a delicate sauce that was perfect for the dish.
We also decided to try a roll that seems popular in South Florida – The JB Roll, with salmon and cream cheese. And maybe we got a little carried away with the camera:
At $8, again it’s not the lowest cost sushi around. But it was a long roll with a lot of pieces and we liked it. Perhaps the only downside of the meal was that the pickled ginger didn’t seem quite right. Maybe it’s just a different flavor but it’s not what this author expected.
One of the kids with us ordered the chicken fried rice, which is a fairly standard dish in Japan – Yakimeshi (炒飯). It’s similar to fried rice in a Chinese restaurant but typically uses a higher grade of rice which seemed to be the case here. It also had a rich comfort-food smell and taste.
The highlight of the meal for this author was something one rarely sees in South Florida – a good bowl of ramen. Americans tend to think of ramen in terms of the cheap instant cup-noodle dishes we see in stores. Ramen is a staple meal in Japan and excellent when done well. For a funny view of that see the Jyuzo Itami movie Tampopo (though not for kids).
At Nikuya they have both Chashu Pork Ramen ($14) and Miso Butter Pork Ramen ($16). I tried the latter and it was the best bowl of ramen I’ve had in a long time.
Sixteen bucks is a lot for a bowl of soup, but this is a very filling entree size and they nailed it in all ways including smell, flavor, consistency, and presentation. They even had the Japanese spice Togarashi when I asked for it.
The other adult at the table had the Cashew Nut Chicken from the Thai menu. It was colorful and enjoyable, another example of a restaurant doing a great job in how they plate the food and present it to the customer.
We got a little carried away and ordered two desserts, the Tortino Chocolate Lava and the Fried Banana.
As with everything else these were presented well. The chocolate lava cake was delicious. The fried banana was pretty and tasted pretty good, but we probably would not order that again. Also the ice cream didn’t seem to be top grade, but went well with the desserts. Next time we hope to try the Cheesecake Roll and maybe the Thai Donut.
We will go back again soon and try more of the Thai menu. There seem to be fewer curry choices than we usually see at Thai restaurants, with both Green Curry and Panang Curry notably absent.
For lower cost Japanese food we’ll keep going to Jidai Kaiten Sushi on Powerline Road in Boca Grove, especially with their ongoing lunch deal.

Ninja Nightmare: Restaurant Inspection Report

East Boca’s Ninja Spinning Sushi got hit with one of the worst set of inspections we’ve seen since we started doing our inspection reports. It started on August 29th with a whopping 36 violations including 10 considered “high priority” including “mold-like growth” on egg noodles and a stop-sale from food subjected to “temperature abuse.”
Here are the high priority ones:

Employee washed hands with gloves on. **Corrected On-Site**
Food with mold-like growth. See stop sale. Egg noodles.
No sanitizer of any kind available for warewashing. Only use single-service items to serve food to customers until sanitizer is available for warewashing.
Nonfood-grade containers used for food storage – direct contact with food. Sanitizer bucket used to store edamame.
Potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit. (Reach in cooler- on cook line) pasta 46° tofu 46° cooked chicken 46° raw chicken 48° batter 54° dumplings 54° egg rolls 47° soybean paste 45° raw shrimp 58° soft shell crab 50° eggs 63°
Potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) hot held at less than 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Rice 79°, 87° and tempura batter 83°.
Raw animal food stored over ready-to-eat food. Raw beef over chicken stock in WIC. Raw chicken over onions in WIC. Eggs over avocados in WIC.
Raw animal foods not properly separated from each other in holding unit. Raw beef and chicken in same bus tub-walk in cooler.
Stop Sale issued on potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food due to temperature abuse.
Vacuum breaker missing at hose bibb. Outside mop sink.

An inspector came back the next day and still found 16 violations, though only one was still high priority. About five days later the inspector came back again and they had gotten it down to two minor violations.
This inspection was based on a complaint. Back in April their last routine inspection resulted in 20 violations, though only 2 were considered high priority.
Nearby a new Japanese restaurant – Yoko-San – had its licensing inspection and it was a rough start. The inspector reported a total of 28 violations including 5 rated high priority involving a dishmachine, food temperatures and food storage.
On the bright side the inspector came back five days later and found zero violations.
Also in East Boca, HotDog-Opolis was hit with 11 total violations including some troubling ones:

Potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit…….turkey, hot dog, cheese burger 52°, cut tomato 49° in flip top reach in cooler in grill station. Food being held more than 4 hours. Stop sale issue. Salsa, kimchi 58° in flip top cooler in sandwich station cross from EMBER GLO. food being held less than 4 hours. Food moved to another acceptable cooler. Corrective action taken. **Repeat Violation**
Ready-to-eat, potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food not consumed/sold within 7 days after opening/preparation. Soup date marked was 8/20/14. Operator discarded it. **Corrected On-Site**
Stop Sale issued on potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food due to temperature abuse…..turkey, burger, cheese, hot dog, tomato, cheese.

We’re a little bummed by that one. We wanted to try the place and this might stop us. A follow-up inspection will be required but it hasn’t happened yet.
The somewhat similar House of Dog on Powerline had 7 mostly minor violations, though they did get a warning over not having proper paperwork.
The best inspections in this report go to Tutti Frutti in Shadowood and the Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club. They had a perfect zero violations on a routine inspection.
Some other West Boca places did well. In Boca Grove on Powerline, Bonefish Grill had only 2 minor violations. Domino’s Pizza in the same plaza had only 1 violation. Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt on Palmetto near Powerline also had only one violation.
Off Kimberly between 441 and Lyons, Mama’s Pizza & Pasta had only 3 minor violations. We’re not sure what “Hollywood at the Hamptons” is, but they also had only 3 violations.
Some other notables to report:
Davinci’s at Town Center had only 4 violations.
La Ferme in Yamato Village Center passed their licensing inspection, also with only 4 violations.
Maggiano’s on St. Andrews had five minor violations.
Brickyard on Palmetto near Powerline had six minor violations. We’ve been meaning to try that place.
El Jefe Luchador in Town Center had 7 violations with 4 as “high priority.”
Tempura House on Clint Moore had a much-improved 7 mostly minor violations. Palm Beach Bagel in the same plaza had 11 violations with 3 high priority.
China Spring on 441 near Sandalfoot had 8 mostly minor violations.
J. Alexander near Whole Foods also had 8 violations, with two marked “High Priority.” Packy’s in Loggers’ Run, Padrino’s in Mission Bay, and Restaurante Brasil in Sandalfoot Square also had eight each, with two high priority.
China House on Kimberly had 9 violations, all minor.
Toojay’s in the Polo Club Shoppes had 9 violations with 2 high priority. D D Flats in that plaza had 17 violations with 4 high priority, but did not require a follow-up inspection.
Here is the data, in Excel and as a PDF:
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