I have had the best bowl of Pho in my life.. and it wasn't in Westminister, Alhambra, Los Angeles, San Diego.. it was in Long Beach, California!
Benley is one of the better Vietnamese restaurants I've had the pleasure of going to. This isn't one of the "typical" pho joints with spring rolls and all that.. this is more like Slanted Door in San Francisco... fancier dishes, some traditional Vietnamese dishes with an enhanced twist , and some more "American style" dishes. It's also a wine friendly restaurant with low corkage.
I came with a very large party, so they set together some dishes for us that they thought we'd enjoy. We had two of each dish for a table of 8-9.
First dish wasn't part of the set menu, but the organizer said this was one of his favorite dishes! Fried Calamari.
Nice salt and pepper on the flour. Light batter , good ratio of batter/ calamari. My only problem was the use of cilantro, a bit too sharp.. I think I'd prefer basil with this.
First appetizer from the menu were Eggrolls with sliced beef.
The eggroll is stuffed with sliced marinated beef, cucumbers, vermicelli, and mint. The wrapping was fresh and soft, the right blend of chewiness and firmness. The beef itself was a little bit overcooked. The peanut sauce was very rich almost soupy. I liked it a lot!
Next dish is more "traditional" Vietnamese food, Banh Beo.
Banh Beo is pressed rice cake with ground shrimp on top with a generous amount of green onions and fish sauce. The Banh is soft and foldable, you can get one piece in per bite. The sauce is just the right amount, sometimes fish sauce gets overwhelming but this was a good balance. This is the best version of the dish I've had, all the ingredients were well done and worked together perfectly.
Next dish was a Cabbage salad with sliced chicken.
I'm not a fan of raw cabbage, it tends to be too bitter. As well they used too many fried shallots. The chicken was tender and the fish sauce was flavorful. If you ate small bites of this, it'd taste good, but if you took too big of a bite you get too much of the shallot and cabbage.
Next dish was fried Texas Shrimp
The shrimp were frozen shrimp, which kinda sucks... but the batter was nice and crispy. The mustard sauce was overwhelming, it was just far too strong... Kind of a Eh~~~ dish.. but you don't really go to an asian restaurant and order plain old fried shrimp do you?
The next dish was stir fried filet mignon with potatoes and red onions.
Look familiar? Looks like Lomo Saltado Beef @ a Peruvian restaurant! But it looks the same but tastes very different. * In a good way*.
The potato is well cooked, not too mushy. The beef was of good quality, but the very best part was the sauce they used to cook it. A combination of fish sauce, pepper, soy sauce, and some other things. Creates a sweet and salty mixture. I give it an A!
Sorry for the fuziness of this picture, this is their "flattened" chicken.
A spicy chicken dish cooked with lemon grass, red wine, and other spices. A bit of a crisp exterior, the inside was still moist and flavorful. A delicious dish, when I come here again I will definitely get it.
The next dish was the bass cooked with mushroom and ground pork.
The fish itself is a bit too bony for me and the pork really overpowered the fish. The fish itself is a "meaty" type of fish, so if that's not your style you'd definitely not like the dish.
And now.. the star of the night.. the Pho!
This bowl is the "sample" size bowl.. it's $6. They have a larger bowl for 8.50. The soup is INCREDIBLY rich with beef and spices. I have never had a bowl of pho with such concentrated flavorful soup. The owner said the broth is simmered for over 40 hours to get the dense beef flavor.
The noodles were also of good quality, al dente!
Like my usual self, I order my meat on the side to dip.
Look at that beef. So shiny and pink. Great quality! All Pho meat ought to be eaten lightly cooked. I really can't gush more about the quality of this bowl of pho.
The restaurant itself is very small, probably 6-7 tables.. I suggest you make a reservation.
Benley: A Vietnamese Kitchen
8191 E Wardlow Rd
Long Beach, CA 90808