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New westside Thai -- any reports?

grayelf Jun 15, 2013 11:24 AM

http://www.benjarongcuisine.com/#!foo...

V. interested in this newish Thai place which was brought to my attention via a Dealfind offer. The menu has some different dishes, and I like that they have a link to Asia Market on their website. It's also in my hood. Has anyone ventured in yet?

  1. e
    eatrustic Jun 15, 2013 08:13 PM

    Haven't made it yet although I've noticed it.
    By the way their location map off the website is hilarious. The only thing I recognize (for good reason) is the name Vancouver. You'd never know from it they're on Broadway and Arbutus.

    Went to Jitlada last night and it was pleasant enough.

    4 Replies
    1. re: eatrustic
      Sam Salmon Jun 15, 2013 08:47 PM

      It's Vancouver WA.

      1. re: Sam Salmon
        fmed Jun 16, 2013 12:17 AM

        The Map they used is wrong (like Sam says - the map pins them to Vancouver WA). The (correct) address is 2120 West Broadway St.
        Vancouver.
        (corner of Broadway & Arbutus)
        Phone : 604 730 0880

        1. re: fmed
          grayelf Jun 16, 2013 12:42 AM

          They're in the old Transylvania spot, apparently.

          1. re: grayelf
            grayelf Jun 16, 2013 12:17 PM

            I grabbed a "groupon" which is actually available through Social Shopper for the next half day. Will report back when we go.

    2. b
      betterthanbourdain Jun 23, 2013 08:23 PM

      It is the same owner as Asia Market. Asia market imports products and produce direct from Thailand. So at least the ingredients are legit. Should TOFTT..

      1 Reply
      1. re: betterthanbourdain
        grayelf Jun 23, 2013 10:07 PM

        Good intel! LMK if you want to head over, btb...

      2. LotusRapper Jun 23, 2013 11:03 PM

        Nice website too. Wow those are like '90s menu prices.

        1. p
          Philx Jun 25, 2013 08:59 PM

          I had lunch there today; we ordered their pad thai and pad prik khing specials, The pad thai was well prepared; nice al dente noodles and proper flavours (ie tamarind and no ketchup) with a slice of lime, The other dish is basically a chicken and green bean stir fry with a curry sauce on the chicken, It was OK but not spicy enough for me. We asked for medium spicy but I think they need to be encouraged to challenge local palates a little bit more. I think it is certainly worth trying; hope to get back and try some of the other mains etc. The server and manager were both pleasant and interesting.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Philx
            grayelf Jun 26, 2013 05:33 AM

            Thanks for TOFTT, Philx!

            1. re: grayelf
              grayelf Jul 6, 2013 08:52 PM

              Just back from test meal using coupon -- some hits, some good, no misses. Will post a full report soon but had to let everyone know they will do Isaan dishes and any Thai dish you remember fondly from traveling there/other restos. Chowdown!!

              1. re: grayelf
                v
                vandan Jul 7, 2013 12:58 PM

                Isaan dishes eh, even Thais from elsewhere find the food from there incredibly spicey, i know i just got back from Thailand a few months ago

                1. re: grayelf
                  À
                  À la carte Jul 7, 2013 04:05 PM

                  Ooh, love Isaan food. I assume one would have to call ahead/pre-order? Would love to see the full report as I've been craving good Thai lately.

                  1. re: À la carte
                    grayelf Jul 7, 2013 04:15 PM

                    Yeah, a pre-order is the thing for the specialty dishes, hence the Chowdown idea. There are still 7 and a bit hours left to get the coupon if y'all want to (I nabbed a couple more today): https://bay171.mail.live.com/default....

                    1. re: À la carte
                      grayelf Jul 7, 2013 06:24 PM

                      Just for you, a la carte : -).

                      A note about the name: Benjarong is a type of Thai porcelain, and they actually serve the four condiments in a version of it that is absolutely beautiful. I've included a pic.

                      And now, the food:

                      We tried a few things I haven't seen on other Thai menus around town, and a few standards for reference. The meal would have been $100 for 4.5 diners without the $60 voucher, so pretty good value -- we didn't have leftovers but everyone was FULL with only one order of rice.

                      For those of you who enjoy Thai iced tea ($2.50) but find it a bit too rich and sweet, Benjarong is the place for you. They serve it with or without milk, and it is delivered to the table unsweetened with sugar syrup on the side.

                      We tried the golden bags and crispy moon which are sort of a riff on egg rolls or wontons. Deepfried therefore I like but not super special ($6.50) and I had mine with the excellent nampla prik I ordered as I'm not a fan of sweet dips. Another tip on the nampla prik -- doctor it with a little of the white vinegar that comes in the condiment pots (which you have to ask for) to make it even more betterer.

                      The deep fried asparagus and prawn starter, while not appearing to me to be remotely Thai, was very good indeed ($9 for four skewers) with no oil taste and no dripping.

                      The catfish and mango salad was also worthy though it would have benefited from premixing with the sauce. The serving is quite pretty in the three leafy bowls ($14) but the catfish is just tiny deep fried granules on top so don't expect any pieces of fish -- a very light dish that I would not categorize as a main as they have on the menu.

                      The moo manow was new to me. It is described as poached pork with garlic and lime dressing ($12). The meat is indeed poached and that is not my fave prep for pork. The sauce was also very thin and not layered in any way, without even a real punch of lime and no hint of garlic. I'd pass on this one.

                      We ordered two soups, one the tom sap or northeastern sour and spicy soup with tomatoes, roasted rice powder and herbs. Also lots of mushrooms. I really liked this soup ($10), which was light but full flavoured with a nice sour twist to it. I will order it hot rather than medium next time though as I think more spice would really elevate it.

                      We also tried the tom ka with chicken ($10) which was full bodied and lighter than usual on the coconut milk which allowed the broth to really shine. Recommended.

                      We ordered phad kapao Benjarong (beef stir fried with holy basil and a house sauce $12) because my brother is a fiend for Thai basil. They use the real stuff here and it imparts a strong, almost bitter flavour that you either love or don't love. I don't love, but the dish was well executed with tender but not overtender beef and al dente green beans. Recommended for the Thai holy basil worshipers.

                      For another bench mark we ordered the pad thai kung sod ($12) which comes with the appropriate tamarind sauce and nicely cooked noodles. Very good version here, possibly my favourite in town after only one try.

                      We ended by sharing an order of a daily special, sticky rice with rice custard ($6.50). Not the most eye-appealing dish but quite lovely, like a deconstructed rice pudding but better. Recommended also.

                      The room has good air conditioning (yay!) and is not covered with the typical Thai gewgaws, but rather is quite elegant. There were a number of Thais dining in as a matter of fact, which I think is a good sign. Don't forget to check out the fresh sheet (some nifty looking mussel dishes last night plus fried rice in a pineapple) and the sandwich board outside for specials (that's where the custard was). There were several other dishes I wanted to try but as I said, we were more than satiated with what we had. I think this place has promise.

                      Photos: Tea with syrup (not vinegar!), tom sap, catfish salad, nam pla prik (fish sauce with chiles), moo manao, golden bags and crispy moon, pad thai, beef with Thai basil, tom kha, gorgeous condiment jars, custardy rice

                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                      1. re: grayelf
                        grayelf Jul 7, 2013 06:45 PM

                        Oops, missed the asparagus and prawn skewer!

                         
                        1. re: grayelf
                          flowbee Jul 7, 2013 07:09 PM

                          Great report and pics, Grayelf! I just had Longtail Kitchen for the second time this weekend and the initial excitement has died down a bit for me. I'll have to try Benjarong to compare.

                          Gotta say though that Facebook is perfect for posting/discussing meals dish-by-dish. CH should at least implement the ability to add captions.

                        2. re: grayelf
                          À
                          À la carte Jul 7, 2013 08:34 PM

                          Thanks GE, much appreciated! Sounds like they're sticking to real ingredients (yes, I'm a Thai holy basil fiend) and steering clear of dumping extra sugar into everything, which is my main peeve with most Thai places here. Will try to head over soon.

                          1. re: À la carte
                            Sam Salmon Jul 7, 2013 08:44 PM

                            OK I'm sold!

                            Great pics BTW-Thanks.

                2. p
                  Philx Jul 8, 2013 12:04 AM

                  Hey Greyelf: Got to agree with you about the Pad Thai; my only issue was the shrimp were not very impressive, particularly as I ordered the dish with chicken. Nevertheless I was very happy with the preparation and suggested to the manager that they add Khao Soi noodles, my favourite Northern Thailand dish, to the menu as it is hard to find in Vancouver. I think this place has promise. .

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Philx
                    grayelf Dec 9, 2013 05:57 PM

                    So we've been back to Benjarong several times since the summer, including an Issan chowdown that was very well received. Pook and Nook have now implemented Issan set menus, available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, which we're planning to check out on the 19th. The regular menu continues to evolve with new items being added on the chef specials inserts. Last night we enjoyed the spring rolls, tom yam goong, nam khao, goong op woon sen and pork jowls (last two are newish additions). The nam khao continues to impress, and it's the only place I know of you can get it in town. We also received a small complimentary dish each of a black rice, taro and coconut milk dessert that was quite lovely. $54 before tip filled up three of us with leftovers for lunch. Deffo my favourite by far of the Thai restos in town.

                    1. re: grayelf
                      Sam Salmon Dec 9, 2013 08:22 PM

                      I swear I saw an advert for Benjarong offering a 'First Anniversary' discount but there's nothing on their website.

                      1. re: Sam Salmon
                        Sam Salmon Dec 9, 2013 10:39 PM

                        OK here it is from another site

                        http://www.clipdeals.com/company/benj...

                      2. re: grayelf
                        e
                        eatrustic Dec 9, 2013 11:48 PM

                        Missed you last night! We were in early for a quick dinner (first time) and quite enjoyed ourselves.
                        Has the Pork Jowls, Duck curry and the Pad Thai.
                        Loved the Pork and the Duck Curry although the prawns on the Pad Thai were pretty meh.
                        Also got the little dish of Black Rice pudding. Yum! Tasted like more.
                        I'll try and make one of the Issan dinners. Sent a shot of the menu off to my brother who is planning a 3 week Thai/Cambodia trip next Spring and needs to get up to speed before he heads out.

                        1. re: eatrustic
                          grayelf Jan 31, 2014 11:38 PM

                          I was sad to have to miss the Dec 19 Isaan chowdown as I was hammered by the evil virus going around. What with one thing and another, we didn't get back to Benjarong till tonight. What a sad waste of dining opportunities! We have now vowed to make this our "local" and stop complaining about the dearth of quality eats in Kits. Dinner this evening was really spot on, with crunchy, light spring rolls (Dad's favourite and rightly so), tom yum goong that sings, really outstanding made to order "salad" rolls that are even better than they were before (more pork and garlic, maybe), a choo chee curry that only fell down a bit because of slightly rubbery scallops -- prawns were delicious, as they were in the soup -- and the as-always topnotch nam khao, listed as lettuce wrap. They've improved on a good thing by adding a touch of salt to the complimentary taro dessert describe above. Four of us were stuffed (and two had Thai beers) for $62.00 taxes in. Not every dish on the menu is a home run but rare is the resto where that is the case. You can build a great meal here from the good stuff without having to resort to the standard Thai stuff that everyone seems to be serving these days.

                          1. re: grayelf
                            grayelf Mar 8, 2014 09:09 AM

                            Thanks to CH a la carte and her SO, we were able to try the Isan prix fixe a couple of nights ago. Best dish was the bamboo salad, really spicy and lots of Thai flavours, with a surprising note of fresh mint that worked really well (not usually a mint fan). Som tam is originally Isan so I wasn't surprised to see it on their set menu -- prolly the best rendition in town which is kind of damning it with faint praise as Thai is pretty weak in Van but it was a little one note.

                            An excellent fried chicken that had a spice I can't figure out but loved. And a largish tureen of a pork stew with those lovely green and white mini-eggplants, cabbage, assorted greens and mushrooms, along with Thai mung bean vermicelli. Dessert was a take on rice pudding with slightly salty coconut milk and cubes of ?? (jackfruit, mebbe). We were stuffed for $30 per couple.

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