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.
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.
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