Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Benjarong, TTK Road, Alwarpet - Flavours of Vietnam


Chennai seems to be opening up to different types of cuisine lately. People are not afraid to try something new. My experiences with Vietnamese food is down to dining at Chao and I don't have any other experience to compare this food to. Anyways I was invited to Benjarong to sample their ongoing Vietnamese food festival. There was something which I realised by the end of the meal, which is, the Vietnamese cuisine is not all that different from our Indian cuisine.




After a round of quick intros with the manager and the chef, it was down to work. The meal started off with Iced Coffee with a Vietnamese twist. On inquiring I found out that the coffee beans are roasted a bit longer which makes em a bit darker, more chocolaty in colour. The strong black coffee is passed thru a filter into 5ml of sorts of Condensed milk. Quick stir and poured into a glass of crushed ice, Wola!!! One terrific Iced Coffee. I loved it so much, I had another one.


Then I was served with Pho Ga ( Rice Noodle Soup ) which is essentially a Chicken soup in a clear chicken broth with rice noodles with a topping of sprouts and chilli. Loved it! Sure will work, when you suffer from cold. Since I was the only Non-veggie at the table and the other person was a veggie, I had a ball of time, sampling both Veg and Non-Veg dishes. From what I understood by having a look at the menu was the lack of food items for vegetarians. Moving along.



The starters started to come along, I was served with a Chicken Salad while my friend who was the vegetarian was served with Mushroom Salad. Both very identical in ingredients apart from the main element, but still very different in flavours. I somehow felt the mushroom was better. There was also a Squid Salad. I do love squid, but comparing the Mushroom, Chicken and Squid - Mushroom > Chicken > Squid was better. There was a little bit sweet taste to the salad which definitely works. There was also a Banana Blossom with Tofu which totally different. Could not believe that banana stem could work like this.


Next up, we were served with non-veggie & Veggie sampler of sorts. The non-veggie sampler which I relished were: (First the highs) Bò Cuộn Sả Nướng Bún Tươi Nước Mắm Tỏi ỚtI have no clue what it means. But it is actually Charcoal Grilled Beef on Lemongrass Sticks served along with Vermicilli ( aka Iddiyappam). I loved it. If this was a steak I would eat it regularly. Next was the Gà Xiên Que Nướng Mật Ong Cơm Nắm Mè Dưa Chua which is BBQ Honey Chicken Skewers. BBQ honey imparted a sweet flavour which I dint mind. Then came the ChảCáThìLàNướcMắmXoàiTượng which is fish on a skewer. There was also some deep fried vegetable spring rolls, which were quite fresh and rich in veggie flavour. 




After gorging on these delicious delights, we moved on to the main course. I was served with Cá KhoTộ Cơm Trắng Rau Luộc which is Caramelised Fish in Claypot and  Càry Gà Nước Cốt Dừa which is Vietnam Chicken Curry in Coconut Gravy to go with Miến Xào Cua which is stir-fried Glass Noodle with Crab Meat and Xôi Đậu Xanh which is Green Mungbean Sticky Rice. 

The Caramelised Fish had great depth of flavours, but it was a bit salty for my taste. I was offered a bit of steamed rice to cancel out the saltness, but I was too full to even try. Vietnam Chicken Curry in Coconut gravy will pass off as a Kumarakom Gravy if the chicken was swapped with fish. Green Mungbean Sticky rice was first for me. I have heard Kylie Kwong talk about sticky rice. But to taste it was just divine. Finally the Stir-Fried Glass Noodles with  Crab Meat was at a whole different level. 




Binging down the mains we were served with Bánh Đậu Xanh which is a Mungbean Cake and Bánh Chuối Hấp Nước Cốt Dừa which is a Crystal Steamed Banana Cake served with Cream Coconut. Comparing both I loved the Crystal Steamed Banana Cake. Somehow I could relate to the flavours. It was more like belose (Indian Banana based sweet dish).

Over all the meal was a Stunner!!. This Vietnamese food festival is on till the July 27th. Most dishes here have fish based ingredients. If you do suffer from Seafood allergies I would recommend you to inform the Chef well in advance. 

A meal for two would cost around Rs 2500/- . I am pretty sure one cannot resist the iced coffee and it is bound to have another round. 

Benjarong is located on TTK Road, Alwarpet next to French Loaf.

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*A review about a place holds good only for 6 months as there can be a change in quality and quantity of the food, the service and the staff, due to reasons best known only to them. So kindly consider these factors while visiting the places.
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