Monday, November 10, 2008

New fare of Familiar Vietname Comfort Food @ Benley : A Vietnamese Kitche (Long Beach)

This place surprised me on where it was located at and what type of food it offer to attract people in coming here.

Even though the name suggest a Vietnamese restaurant, Benley is an Asian fusion place with a reboot of French influences mixed into the cooking. The location is on a very sketchy plaza, but the interior of the place suggest a French bistro with very dim lighting to offer a low case atmosphere to get you relaxed to dine here.

It was challenging to read off the menu only because it seemed like it was going for fine dining, but with Vietnamese cuisine as the centerpiece to draw people in. I can only fathom a thought of pho or vermicelli (thin rice noodle), spring rolls, and a few bo luc lac (marinated beef) as part of that dining experiences. So it was a little bit shock to me what had came out of that kitchen for the big surprise.

Pork & Spring Egg Roll

Our starters came out with Shrimp & Pork Egg Rolls which was a nice little beginning. Then came our tasting portion of each of the noodles I had mentioned.

A Taste of Pho

We got a bowl of the "Taste of Pho" which is essentially beef tripe with white noodle. Nothing really stood out other than the fact it was a starter that cost $8. Yeah, shoot me! A regular bowl in most places cost $4-$5 and had more to offer in that bowl of noodle.

Taste of Vermicelli

The "Taste of Vermicelli" was not going to be any better either.

We had about six different main courses to try out:

Bo Luc Lac

*Bo Luc Lac, which they called it Shaken Filet Beef was not bad, but I had other places that was more seasoned than this plate of beef I got. Surprisingly it lacked the lime or lemon juice I have gotten from a few other places. So this was something different I noticed at this place.

Chicken with Lemon Grass

As we start feeling full, we had the Chicken with Lemon Grass which is the Flattened Chicken with Red Wine at this place. This was probably the best dish of the night. I thought this was done correctly and very nice bok choy to go on this plate really complimented the chicken very well.

Vegatable Sprouts

Vegetable sprouts which is the Ong Choy with Garlic at this location. I am beginning to crave for this vegetarian dish. This is the second time in as many weeks which I thought this greenie was a nice wing man to the Lemon Chicken as I had before at Battambang (San Gabriel). I figured it would go hand in hand next time time when I ordered the same two dishes together.

Catfish with Tomato Confit

*Catfish with Tomato Confit. It passed, but barely passed on my tastebud meter. It is what it is... a fish with tomato sauce with little greens on top.

Pan Seared Salmon with Sauteed Green Leafs and Cilantro aioti

Next up is the Pan Seared Salmon with sauteed green leafs and cilantro aioti. Take a look at that little guacamole-like sauce and you'll understand what aioti is like. It tasted like a puree or a reduction sauce for the salmon. Goes well with it, but something I didn't believed it was needed.

Short Beef Rib Stew
Coming right after was the Short Beef Rib Stew. It looked like a pot roast to me. I'm not a big believer in braised beef or pork and this was another test of will for me on this particular stew. It wasn't bad, but had a shortcoming against it as it still look and taste like a pot roast.

As we finished the main courses, it was the dessert that really blew everyone away and rejuvenate the table.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

The most satisfying dessert of the night was the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Lime Anglaise. This was a marvel and a must order if you decide to come here. I heard the nephew of the owner of the place learned some of the techniques from what he learned at Campanile. It's a good thing he got this marvelous dessert with him.

Melting Vairhona Chocolate

With our desserts almost winding down, we had the Melting Vairhona Chocolate. Since there's no chocolate souffle, this is the closest to a chocolate bomb. Well worth that admission price.

Casava Cake

Finally, we have the Casava cake. Funny thing about this thin gelatinous layer cake was that it reminded me banana pancake sliced in four pieces. Better than a crepe I thought. Another delicious dessert.

With the dessert rescuing from the impending doom left by some of the other dishes, I was ready to give it a much lower grade from my initial impressions. I looked at some of the other parts of the menu and thought there were potentials to come back here to try out more of the adventurous dishes they had offered.

The service was awesome throughout the night and make this dinner an even more enjoyable meal.
Just to imagine a Vietnamese cuisine reinvent itself with updates of contemporary French and New American style. What you get is the food you will experience at Benley.

Benley: A Vietnamese Kitchen
8191 E Wardlow Rd
Long Beach, CA 90808
(562) 596-8130


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