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Benjarong, Family-Owned Thai in Wintergreen Plaza in on Rockville Pike - Closed


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Benjarong used to be one of the better Thai restaurants in MoCo, not as good as Ruan Thai or Dusit in Wheaton but better than Tara Thai or Tara Asia. Judging by our meal last weekend, they have slipped badly. What I prize in Thai cuisine is the exquisite balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet - the initial palate explosion of fresh herbs and chilies, with the preserved spices and flavorings providing a bass note to round and deepen the flavors. There was none of that happening at Benjarong. These are standard dishes for us and how we judge an unfamiliar place:

Tom Yam Goong was a thin broth with a multitude of button mushrooms, cilantro, and two overcooked tasteless shrimp. There was no discernable flavor other than dried chili: no citrus, lemongrass, lime leaf, or even fish sauce.

Pad Thai was overly sweet and loaded with bean curd and tasteless shreds of egg, with no discernable peanut flavor and no citrus to squeeze on top. I am hardly an expert Thai chef but my pad thai is 100 times better than that.

Pad Prik King Muu is one of our benchmark dishes - a spicy dry curry of pork and green beans, aromatic with wild lime leaf, green peppercorns and holy basil. Benjarong's version disappointed in every way. Tough morsels of pork with undercooked, unpleasantly chewy green beans in a soupy sauce tasting of nothing but chili.

The kid's order of chicken with vegetables in oyster sauce was a thin soupy mix of baby corn, cabbage, and tough tasteless carrot slices with a few chicken pieces mixed in.

One scant cup of cooked rice was provided with each entree.

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My continuing explorations of Rockville Pike lunch options took me to Benjarong exactly once. That's all I needed.

Tom Yan with mixed veggies was way heavy on the sour without the sweet. The lack of sweet also meant that the fish sauce gave this an overly salty character.

I, too had the Pad Pik Khing, which is one of my Thai staples in evaluating a restaurant. It too was disappointing, with no fire and no taste to the sauce.

What stood out for me was how muddied the flavors were (not too mention how muddy the sauce and soup broth were).

I think that you'd do much better with the food at Thai Farm in the King's Farm development.

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44 minutes ago, DanielK said:

I went once in a while because it was 5 minutes from my house (and better than Tara Thai), but it paled in comparison with Sabai Sabai in Germantown or any of the better places in Wheaton.

My parents liked Benjarong -- which is always a real kiss of death. 

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1 hour ago, DanielK said:

I went once in a while because it was 5 minutes from my house (and better than Tara Thai), but it paled in comparison with Sabai Sabai in Germantown or any of the better places in Wheaton.

For the record, the owners of Sabai Sabai are the former owners of Benjarong.  They sold Benjarong and then opened Sabai Sabai (sorry if this was mentioned up-thread).

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31 minutes ago, pras said:

For the record, the owners of Sabai Sabai are the former owners of Benjarong.  They sold Benjarong and then opened Sabai Sabai (sorry if this was mentioned up-thread).

I ate there in the 90's.  Fairly consistently and because I thought it was good then.  Possibly its all in the owners.  Interesting.

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4 minutes ago, DaveO said:

I ate there in the 90's.  Fairly consistently and because I thought it was good then.  Possibly its all in the owners.  Interesting.

They waited a year or two before opening Sabai Sabai and when they did, the chef came along for the new spot.

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After finding Bangkok Garden in downtown Bethesda, I stopped going to Benjarong. Bangkok Garden was followed by the places in Wheaton and later Sabai Sabai. Benjarong was a little too formal and didn't seem authentic anymore.

I'm taking heart over this loss after reading Tim Carman's review of the new Thai Cuisine up the road and next door to Mama's Dumpling (AKA China Bistro). 

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