Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ben Thanh Viet-Thai Restaurant

Ben Thanh Viet-Thai Restaurant
36 Northfield Dr. West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6A1

Cambridge store
10 Pinebush Rd.
Cambridge, Ontario

Ben Thanh just opened one store in Waterloo several months ago. It was such a relief for more driving down to Cambridge just for a bowl of soup noodles. They used to have a store in Kitchener but it was closed down due to the expansion of Kitchener Farmer's Market.

I've been to that Kitchener store so many times but most of time I ordered their soup noodles. The soup is delicious and it is the fastest item; it seemed to take forever if I ordered something else. However, this "rule" doesn't apply to the Waterloo store. Almost every time we go, we get slow service; there was always on item which arrived much later than others. Since I like the soup noodles from this restaurant the most, I don't really possess much bargaining power. Luckily the service was ok during our last visit.

Here are the items we normally have (List is arranged based on how frequent we order that specific item):
#1 (106) Beef, Tendon. Frank Brisket Rice Noodle Soup: they slow cook the tendon and brisket so they are extremely flavorful, tender yet not slimy. When I go to a restaurant, I like to order things I can't make at home.
#2 (501) 2-Spring Rolls (deep fried): the spring rolls are crispy outside and juicy inside. What makes it different from those in other Chinese restaurant is the fish sauce dressing.
#3 (030) Sour Sop Neclor Shake: the sourness is actually quite minimal. J likes to sip on it during summer time. I'll share some if he orders it.
#5 (422) Pad-thai (Fried Rice Noodle w/ Mixed Seafood): I would have ordered this item more if not because I waited for good 30+ min several times (in the previous Kitchener store). The seafood portion is generous, the sauce is interesting. I could never figure out what goes in it; I could taste ketchup, chili pepper, soy sauce...that is about it.
#6 (303) Grilled Pork Balls, BBQ Pork, Spring Roll with Vermicelli: I don't order this item very often. I am not a big fan of grilled pork balls to begin with. I used to like BBQ Pork prepared in Vietnamese style but I've had better version than what is offered at Ben Thanh. I'll just order the spring rolls alone if I crave for some. (It's ranked #2 on my list )

We don't normally have this item but I feel I should recommend this:
(101) Special BEN THANH Beef Noodle Soup
It is like a treasure hunt. Sometimes you can find beef tribe, brisket and other miscellaneous beef parts in the soup. I know exactly what parts I like (thinly sliced beef, brisket and tendon) so I rarely order this item.

Will you appreciate their soup noodles more if I tell you how much effort it takes to get the soup right? J's mom gave us the family recipe for making the Vietnamese soup noodles. It is chicken-based. To make a bowl of decent soup noodles, we will need to prepare the stock - chicken bones, chicken, onion, celery, carrots and other spicies. babysit the soup for at least 2 hours (let it simmer and skim of all the impurities). Luckily, J's mom makes awesome soup noodles (chicken stock).

By the way, if you want to go to the Cambridge store, the parking spots are a premium. We tried to park in the parking lot for the box stores (Michael's, for example) then walk over. It is actually faster than finding for a parking spot. Don't blame me if you get tickets though.


ruonan said...

i went to ben thanh's today and ordered 101, knowing it's a treasure hunt. Surprisingly, the small was more than enough to fill me with generous portion of noodles, beef, tendon and my favourite.... TRIPE! the pho place in the plaza usually put like 2 strands and that's it for the small but at ben's.. it's absolutely filling. maybe they just grabbed a handful today for me.. but I also ordered the noodles with no MSG and it tasted just as great and i dont feel deathly thirsy 3 hours later. the menu had so many selections, i wish i wasnt in such a rush but i will definitely return anytime im near the conestoga mall!

Anonymous said...

It's a fusion Viet-Thai restaurant, not Chinese. Try the 128, it'll blow your mind. I remember the Kitchener location as it served as my second kitchen while at school and it never had slow service. Recently went to the Burlington restaurant and times have certainly changed. The decor was incredible, the food was always as remembered, and the prices were only slightly higher. Service was prompt.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this place has gone downhill or my standards have changed, but I used to love it here and frequented it a lot when it first opened. We left KW and moved to Toronto a few years ago and have recently moved back for good, and we decided to go back here. Boy were we severely disappointed. The food was bland, prices were high, and I could not believe how packed the place was still (we waited a good 20-30 minutes to be seated). Maybe we had an off night, maybe our tastes have changed after having the quality/variety of places in Toronto, or maybe the quality of the place has dropped and people don't realize since it's become such a staple restaurant for them. I doubt we'll give it another chance as every single dish we ordered was disappointing and our bill was way too high. I guess it's being spoiled by being in Toronto with restaurants having competitive pricing, but it just doesn't seem right charging so much for a meal where rent is so much cheaper.