New Haven Noodles (Part 3): Bentara- “How Sweet It Is (To Eat Mee Hailam)”
As part of my mission to explore food in New Haven, I decided to visit three Yale noodle house staples and gauge their quality for myself: Ivy Noodle, York St. Noodle House, and Bentara. If you missed part one or part two, check out the review of Ivy Noodle and York St. Noodle House.
A ten-minute walk down Orange Street reveals a commercial revitalization of downtown New Haven. Restaurants and boutiques line cleaned up streets in an attempt to jump- start the urban economy.
In its current location since 1997, Bentara’s décor is modern with an asian flair, reveling in its simplicity. I first visited Bentara for lunch, and ordered the Mee Hailam, a soy sauce based egg noodle soup. This soup is well executed, and the diner’s choice of heat is a nice touch. I choose to go with medium, as not to overwhelm my westernized palate. For the reasonable price of around eight dollars, I receive a very large bowl of Mee Hailam with beef.
The dish is spicy, even for medium, and after forging halfway through the extremely deep bowl, my mouth burns and begs for water. Although the meat tastes delicious, there is simply not enough, especially considering the volume of noodles and broth. The sweet and slightly tangy broth starts out well, but after eating the entire bowl, the broth becomes sticky and a little too thick.
Returning for dinner, I encounter a slightly different menu. I notice and appreciate the mellow James Taylor playing in the background. Soon, I decide to go with a dinner noodle soup for comparison. I order the Tom Yum soup with chicken; a hot and sour shrimp based broth with rice noodles for fourteen dollars. The same size bowl that I encountered for lunch arrives; as wide as a small pie pan and four times as deep, the amount of soup and noodles contained within presents a daunting challenge.
Similar to the Mee Hailam, the Tom Yum soup hides the meager amount of chicken. Despite this lack of protein, the pliable rice noodles match well with the broth, which is just sour enough to entice me to eat more. Bentara’s noodle dishes do not face the same noodle to vegetable ratio issue of York St. Noodle House. However, the sheer size of the bowls presents a different problem. Three quarters of the way through the bowl, and on the second run through of James Taylor’s “Mexico” (That’s right, Bentara played solely James Taylor for the entire meal) I decide to throw in the towel, and I feel like I wasted the extra five or six dollars I spent on this bowl versus the lunch bowl. For the same size bowl, and a similar quality, the lunch deal at Bentara makes much more sense in terms of noodles alone.
Save for a few flaws (lack of meat and excessive portion size), Bentara’s noodle dishes are generally well though out. Although Bentara serves a wide variety of non-noodle, asian infused dishes, when looking for noodles Bentara’s best deal is lunchtime.
76 Orange Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06510
76 Orange Street, New Haven, CT 06510