Ben’s General Food Store dishes up good food in a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. Founder and self-titled Chief Eating Officer (don’t we all want that job), who was shortlisted for Restauranteur of the Year in the Time Out KL Food Awards 2012, began his career in his mother’s kitchen, baking carrot cake for a family friend’s local café. He has taken KL by storm with a chain of quality restaurants and bars, ranging from homely eateries like Ben’s to classier joints and cigar lounges such as Hit & Mrs and Mr Brookes. “Kuala Lumpur cannot support 10 Ben’s. So we have eateries with different concepts to appeal to a wider audience,” he told The Straites Times in an exclusive interview.
Ben’s General Food Store is both a café and delicatessen, complete with in-house butcher and cheese section. On the restaurant side are uniform rows of white-washed wooden communal tables lined with rustic metal chairs, while the café area exudes a more relaxed feel with low-rise tables and cushioned benches dotted around the clean and spacious room. Framed illustrations, quirky slogans and cake recipes written in chalk spruce up the walls. The colourful salads and hot deli items are all on display, allowing customers to peruse before they choose – I’m definitely one for seeing what I’ll get before I order.
The menu boasts an array of Western delights that span the Mediterranean. The salads are a welcome change from an uninspired bowl of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, each one with a distinctive feel. The house slaw (RM11) with shredded red cabbage, carrot and coriander is an all-time favourite and great side to the deli dishes. Ribbons of colour are delicately united in a light home-made mayo.
The scorched sweetcorn and crabmeat with frisee lettuce, lime and mayonnaise is an addictive fusion of charred golden corn and tender, juicy crabmeat. Flavours of the orient join flaky fish and nuggets of tender pineapple in the roasted cod fish and pineapple (RM14) salad with pleasant hits of green chilli, refreshing cucumber, tomato and powerful coriander leaves, all tossed in a flavoursome coconut milk dressing.
The Caesar salad (RM13) is an interesting take on a classic. In this deconstructed version, crisp cos lettuce is topped with a super-crispy strip of turkey bacon, crouton cubes, boiled egg, gruyere crisp and a thick caesar dressing; simple and tasty.
The flat breads pair nicely with the salads. I ordered the roasted whole garlic bread (RM13) and was a little unimpressed upon its arrival – a thick oval of dough dotted with wrinkled garlic cloves. But how wrong I was to doubt it – “smoosh” the mellowed cloves into the golden crust and its transformed into explosive flavour.
Cure your carb cravings with one of the 20 savoury pizzas, all with a thick bread-y base and lots of topping. Ben’s selection caters for all. There are classics like the Margherita (RM20) and the Napoletana (RM21). For more gourmet creations, try the ruccola e limone with mozzarella, gorgonzola, rocket and lemon (RM24) or the polpette di agnello with spiced lamb meatballs, yoghurt and mint (RM25). Il Carnivore (RM32) is a real treat for meat-lovers, crammed with beef pepperoni, beef bacon, chicken cheese sausage and lamb chorizo, all from the in-house meat deli.
Onto the hot deli; unfortunately the mushroom lasagna (RM24), is a bit of a flop. Chewy mushrooms and far too much thick cheese, although the home-made pesto is brilliantly green and made with quality olive oil.
The beef pie (RM26) is everything you would expect from a well-made pie: a rich beef stew with soft carrot and potato, smothered in a meaty gravy, and encased in flaky, buttery puff pastry. And not a soggy bottom in sight.
Wash down you meal with a glass of lemongrass and ginger tea (RM8) or Ben’s iced tea (RM9): green tea spiked with zingy lemon and lime, both served with a little jug of runny honey for those with a sweet tooth. I guess the chefs can’t take credit for a tea bag, but their selection demonstrates good taste!
Going all out? The thick and creamy milkshakes (RM10-12) are an ideal treat on a hot day. You knows it’s a great milkshake when the straw stands to attention.
Be sure to save room for a sumptuous slice of “family-style pudding”. How can anyone possibly decide upon only one. Would it be the classic chocolate cake, the decadent macademia cheesecake or the peach cobbler a la mode served with smooth vanilla ice-cream?
Ben’s makes no promises that it cannot keep: “simple fuss-free meals for families and friends to share”, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Ben’s General Food Store
Bangsar Village I
1, Jalan Telawi 1
+603 2284 8790
Open 9:00-22:00 daily
Recreate at home: Roasted cod fish and pineapple salad
fresh cod fillet, roasted until just cooked through
medium tomatoes, deseeded and cubed
cucumber, deseeded and cubed
green chilli (discard seeds for less heat), finely chopped
pine nuts, toasted
fresh pineapple, cubed
For the dressing:
180ml canned coconut milk
3tbsp whole-fat Greek yoghurt
3tbsp white balsamic vinegar
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of black pepper
big pinch of salt
3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a blender and blitz well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
(Dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.)
Flake the cod fish into small chunks.
Toss all salad ingredients together in a bowl and pour over a little dressing to taste.
Serve immediately with fresh bread.
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