Sunday, March 16, 2008

Foodgasm: Pho at Benley

A friend has been pushing me towards pho for months. I imagined pho as dressed up Top Ramen, so I avoided it. I have never been so wrong about food. Pho is a a traditional Vietnamese rice-noodle soup dish. It is pronounced like my favorite four letter word, fuck - but without the ck. Pho is amazing. What the hell was I thinking?

My wife and I have been using Yelp to find new restaurants, we found Benley: A Vietnamese Kitchen on Saturday. What followed was one of those rare movements when eating transcended the ordinary and became divine.

Heather, our enthusiastic waitress, explained our options while guiding our food choices. We started with Lemongrass-Charred Pork Spring Rolls before moving on to the main course. I would have been happy simply eating the spring rolls. The sticky texture mixed with the spicy peanut sauce was irresistible.
Spring rolls
When it was time to order our pho, I explained that I had never really experience it before. Heather explained what I was in for and guided me to the bowl of pho with braised brisket. My wife ordered the chicken.
As we waited for our food, I admired the photography. A doze vintage 1970 eara photos decorated one wall, while several large contemporary photos decorated the opposing wall. When our food arrived, I sample my soup without any additional spices and found it wonderful, with the additional spices, I started to sweat (and smile).

The true measure of meal for my wife and I is how much conversation we manage during the meal. We spoke in whispers, only commenting on the flavor. I can honestly say, this was another benchmark experience. The soup was so good that we did not want it to end.

We were fortunate in our choice. Benley is a Zagat rated jewel. By all accounts I've read, our choice for a first bowl of pho may well be the best in Los Angeles. I would never have stopped in without Yelp, Benlay is hidden in a strip mall. I've driven by at least 100 times without noticing.
cassava Cake
Heather gave us a free dessert in honor of our first visit. A slice of delicious cassava cake. For this alone I will return again.

I love foodgasms - with today's tendency towards corporate food, foodgasms are rare. Thanks Benley. I'll be back. And, I will bring people who like to eat.

Benley, a Vietnamese Kitchen
8191 East Wardlow Road
Long Beach, Ca 90808


Imogen said...

YUM! After reading your post this morning, my stomach grumbling and mouth watering I decided to try this place out for dinner. Yum is all I can say. I got the beef and chicken pho, and both were very delish.

You're right this place is a gem. Nice understated interior, and the atmosphere is definitely chill. It's a shame I couldn't stay, I got my order to go. I'm going back with friends! Thanks for the tip.

slut said...

That sounds so wonderful. You are lucky to live in an area where you have such a vast choice of restaurants. Here there's not even a very good Chinese restaurant, forget about Vietnamese. I'm going to have to look for pho next time I'm visiting civilization.