Makati eats: Benjarong's 8-course dinner is a genuine gourmet experience

Jeeves de Veyra

Posted at Jan 22 2022 05:41 PM

MANILA -- Dusit Thani’s premiere Thai restaurant Benjarong reopens its doors with a very special 8-course meal by resident chef Watcharaphon Yongbanthom.

Dubbed the Benjarong Experience, the meal puts an exclamation point on the restaurant and the chef’s reputations for leveling up Thai cuisine.

Yongbanthom, affectionately known as Chef Ja, put Benjarong on the culinary map back in 2018 with the restaurant landing on CNN’s Hot New Global Restaurants list. 

Chef Watcharaphon Yongbanthom. Jeeves de Veyra
Chef Watcharaphon Yongbanthom. Jeeves de Veyra

For this meal, Chef Ja takes diners on a tour of her garden back home in Thailand with a multi-sensory explosion of colors, aromas, and flavors.

Even before the dinner starts, diners are already given a preview that this is an extra special meal. Instead of a menu card, Chef Ja gives out hand drawn sketches of the what’s to come. 

The rustic black and white sketches are one thing, but seeing the dishes with all the Chef Ja’s creativity with plating and colors is another thing all together. 

If there is food that tastes as good as they look, the dishes in the Benjarong Experience are a feast for the eyes and the palate.

Pla Samun Prai. Jeeves de Veyra
Pla Samun Prai. Jeeves de Veyra

Chef Ja’s plating is stunning with the first dish. The Pla Samun Prai should be eaten with one bite. This piece of salmon with tom yum mayo and lemongrass wrapped in a betel leaf is a proper amuse bouche and just opens up the palate.

Hor Muk Gung. Jeeves de Veyra
Hor Muk Gung. Jeeves de Veyra

Chef Ja’s Hor Muk Gung is layers and layers of coconut goodness. Shrimp floss and coconut tuille sauced with coconut sabayon with prawn red curry. Let this sit a while so that the curry and sabayon seeps into the coconut meat. Well worth spooning out every last bit of the sweet-hot coconut meat to finish of this course.

Yum Sum O. Jeeves de Veyra
Yum Sum O. Jeeves de Veyra

The Yum Som O is not so traditional pomelo salad. This shows Chef Ja’s mastery of contrasts as the salad first hits you with its fruity spice to be balanced out and cooled with a spoonful of pomelo sherbet.

Kaho Giep Pu. Jeeves de Veyra
Kaho Giep Pu. Jeeves de Veyra

The Khao Giep Pu is an absolute delight for crab lovers. Crab dumpling filled with crab meat and roe in what’s like a Thai version of crab laksa. The dumpling is unique that the wrapper is a little firm like noodles. When cut up, this ends up like a crab curry noodle soup.

Geang Phed Ped Yang. Jeeves de Veyra
Geang Phed Ped Yang. Jeeves de Veyra

The first of Chef Ja’s mains is the Geang Phed Ped Yang. This seared duck and red curry with kropek made with white, black and blue pea. Make sure you get duck, the curry, the cracker, and basil in one bite. The crunch goes well with savory basil and the rich duck meat cutting through the red curry.

Nuea Pa Lo. Jeeves de Veyra
Nuea Pa Lo. Jeeves de Veyra

The second main dish is the Nuea Pa Lo -- US beef short rib with quenelles of red and white rice with green mustard pickles. This is a nice interplay of textures as the exterior takes some crunch from the sear yet the juices are still packed in the braised beef. Spicy and earthy green chilies are on the side for heat for those who want it.

Pa Ka Krong. Jeeves de Veyra
Pa Ka Krong. Jeeves de Veyra

Pa Ka Krong is a sort of “pre-dessert.” This exquisite bite-sized marzipan-like luk chup are made from scratch at the Benjarong kitchen.

 I Tim Durian Thedd. Jeeves de Veyra
I Tim Durian Thedd. Jeeves de Veyra

The Benjarong Experience ends with a high note with I-Tim Durian Thedd. Everything on the plate is edible from the soursop ice cream encased in blue pea coconut jelly mochi to the edible flowers and palm sugar popcorn.

Benjarong is located at the ground floor of Dusit Thani Manila and is open for lunch and dinner service. The 8-course Benjarong Experience with wine pairing is priced at is priced at P2,800 nett, while a 5-course version is priced at P1,600 nett.