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Benjarong: New location, new dishes, for an old favorite

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ONE of the new dishes at Benjarong is Por Pia Tom Yam: a Tom Yam spring roll served with coriander chili sauce.

DUSIT THANI MANILA’s popular Thai restaurant, Benjarong, is poised to open at its new location at the ground floor of the Makati Hotel and as a lead up to its late-October opening, Dusit Thani held a Thai cooking demonstration to further whet the appetite of those excited to see Benjarong’s new look.

“We’ve been open for 15 years so we’re keeping the heritage of Thai food… the new Benjarong will have a different touch when it comes to food and presentation and some of the ingredients as well, but we’re keeping 20 to 30 traditional dishes like Tom Yum Goong and Pad Thai [on the menu],” Bruno Cristol, the hotel’s general manager, told the media on the sidelines of the Sept. 28 event.

The new Benjarong, which will be housed in the former Basics coffee shop at the ground floor, was relocated so that most of the hotel’s F&B outlets will be on a single floor – Benjarong had been at the second floor since it first opened.

The old location will be converted in function rooms, though much of the Benjarong décor like the chandeliers from Chiang Mai will remain there. Instead the new Thai restaurant will have a “more modern feel” with more muted color schemes.

The new menu, while retaining many of the well-loved Thai dishes, will also incorporate several of chef Watcharapon “Ja” Yongbanthom’s dishes including Por Pia Tom Yam – a Tom Yam spring roll served with coriander chilli sauce – and the Gaeng Khieo Wan Peek Gai Yad Sai – a green curry dish with stuffed chicken wing, basil, finger chilli, eggplant, and Kaffir lime.

Ms. Yongbanthom cooked the two dishes during the demonstration, and the favorite at this writer’s table was the green curry because it was perfectly balanced – the sweetness of the coconut milk was undercut by the heat of the chilli and the acidity of the lime, and the chicken wing was cooked very well.

“Thai food is quite unique due to the balance of tastes,” said Thanatip Upatising, the Thai Ambassador to the Philippines, in his welcoming remarks at the event, and the green curry served by Ms. Yongbanthom exemplified the singular balance of tastes Thai cuisine is known for.

Set to open in late October, Benjarong, in its new location, will be bigger – it will be capable of seating more than a hundred people – and will have a small function room and a bar.

“We wanted to get the younger market as well – the 20-35 age crowd – so the new Benjarong will also have a bar,” said Mr. Cristol. – Zsarlene B. Chua

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