I recently visited Banzai, a Japanese restaurant in Hamilton, NJ, with a bunch of friends. The experience was less than stellar. Below is the review I left on Yelp:
It is unfortunate that the lowest rating available is 1 star. I would much prefer to rate Banzai 5 x’s. The hibachi is the epitome of mediocrity. The service of the waitresses and management, on the other hand, leaves very much to be desired. Examples of things it leaves to be desired are common courtesy, respect, consistency, basic customer service, and generally giving a damn about the patrons.
I visited this restaurant twice and can assure you I will not return. The first time, a group of us had reservations for 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night. When we arrived (on time), we were told the table wouldn’t be ready for another 10 to 15 minutes. I was baffled because what is the point of making reservations if you’re forced to wait anyway? So we waited…and waited…and waited…and waited. It was not until 10 p.m. that we were seated. Yes, 10 p.m. All the while, the staff kept assuring it would only be 10 more minutes. The hibachi chef surfaced at 10:15 p.m. Needless to say, we were famished. We asked to speak to the manager and were rudely told that the manager was not there. We asked to speak to the person in charge in the absence of the manager. Apparently, there is no such person. The following day, I emailed the manager detailing our displeasure with the service and have yet to receive a response four months later.
When we had finally brushed off that experience, we decided to give Banzai another shot. Assuming the past was a decent indicator of the future, we made later reservations in hopes that we wouldn’t die of starvation while waiting an hour and a half. We called around noon to place reservations for 9:30 p.m. The person on the phone took the reservation without issue. But, when we arrived at 9:30 p.m., we were asked if our entire party was there (which they weren’t) and instructed to call the rest of the group because, apparently, Banzai “starts closing” (whatever that means) at 9:30. That was an interesting revelation for two reasons: First, the last time we were there, they didn’t seat us until well after 9:30 despite our 8:30 reservation. Second, if indeed the “start closing” policy were something more than a spur of the moment fabrication to justify closing early because they didn’t happen to be busy that night, then why would they agree to a 9:30 p.m. reservation earlier in the day? These are just a few of life’s unsolved mysteries…
Anyway, it doesn’t end there. They kept rushing us and told us to make our way to the hibachi table to get started and that our friends could join us when they arrived. Luckily, the remaining friends arrived as we were being escorted to the table like rogue cattle being herded to slaughter. The waitress had no patience and rushed through our drink orders. Despite the rush, the hibachi chef (who did put on a good show) did not even have all of our orders and, in fact, ended up screwing up one of the orders, giving someone steak instead of filet mignon. The food was overcooked and lacked flavor.
Then came the moment of reckoning. We had printed coupons that Banzai emails, one of which is $20 off two hibachi dinners. On our previous unpleasant visit, we had used these coupons with no problem. This time was different. The waitress said that they were only valid for the first 25 customers. We stated that we had used them previously when the place was packed and that there was no restriction enforced then and asked about the counting mechanism to track the 25 customers because it was dead on this night. We asked to speak to the manager, who, as you may have guessed, was supposedly not there. They said there was nothing they could do. For about 10 minutes, we adamantly expressed our frustrations, explaining the problems we had encountered the prior time, and eventually they said they’d honor the coupon. That promise lasted for about two minutes. They then came back to the table and made up some other limitation on the coupon. At that point, I refused to even turn around and told them to figure it out on their own and honor it. They eventually did.
Overall, based on the food quality (or lack thereof) and the poor management, I would not recommend this place to anyone. In fact, this place should not be patronized until the management and wait staff learns to treat customers with a basic level of respect.
On a final note, Yelp asks multiple choice questions about the business. The first question is whether the place takes reservations. The options are yes, no, or not sure. I’m going to opt with not sure because, literally, they take reservations, but practically, they’re meaningless. Another question is whether there is waiter service. Again, the answer choices are yes, no, or not sure. And, again, I’ll opt with not sure. I’d categorize it more as waiter disservice.