Benjarong has been around for so long, that I don’t remember what that spot looked like before the restaurant opened up. I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel like we always visit last those places that are closest to us!
Having never tried Thai food in Chennai, I was excited to explore the lingering taste of Thailand! Benjarong is a warm and cozy dining space, where the lights are still bright enough to see your food. (This is important! There has been an influx of restaurants which intend on letting you eat in the dark, all in the name of ambiance.)
At the very beginning, you are offered a tray with an assortment of little cups and big, green leaves in the centre (Thai-vetthalai?). In the cups were coconut shavings, finely chopped onions and chillies, a sweet and sticky sauce, ginger pieces, peanuts, and finally lemon slices. The way to eat this is to stuff everything in your leaf, squeeze lemon juice over the stuffing, roll it all together and place it in your mouth. This is meant to act as a palate cleanser and appetizer.
I tried the crispy vegetarian spring rolls (Poh Pia Je) to start my meal with. Stuffed with glass noodles and shredded cabbage, and served with an accompanying dip; I couldn’t stop eating these spring rolls! If I remember right, these spring rolls are a signature dish. For the main course, I had the mushroom fried rice with a generous amount of ginger thrown in (Khao Pahd Hed Khing). I enjoyed this dish immensely, but if you are not a fan of having to chew pieces of ginger hidden in mouthfuls of rice, I would suggest you try something else. There is an enormous amount of variety at Benjarong – their menu is divided into vegetarian and non vegetarian sections; with soups, starters, curries, rice and noodle dishes in each section. Sipping my hot tea (delicately flavoured – Is that a hint of lemon? Or was it ginger?) and eating my fried rice, I kept wishing I had room for dessert!
The staff is courteous, observant (never failing to refill your water or lemon tea), and proficient at pronouncing every Thai word on the menu. Next door to Benjarong is French Loaf; so if you are in the mood for different desserts than the ones available, you don’t have to go too far.
Other tiny details: Spring rolls and fried rice cost about Rs. 650. Portions are generous, dishes can be shared comfortably. A steady stream of diners can be seen at Benjarong, it is best to reserve a table.
I would love to go again, there is so much left to try!