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the restaurant has been open since around october of 2007. it`s a bright, clean, yet cozy space, with a contemporary vibe. there`s nothing intimidating about the space except for the almost constant crowds. neighbourhoody. laid back but not slack. very little has changed since my first meal there, besides the modest expansion (which added only about 4 or 5 tables, but still 25% bigger than it once was). there is nothing intimidating about the menu, either. there`s not a whole heck of a lot of fusion going on here. it offers a little bit of everything: set menus, bento boxes, noodles, izakaya-style small plates, sushi. food has always been prepared by chef shibata-san`s kitchen; it is consistently fresh, done well, with generous portions at a more than reasonable price. it is a local favourite, and i`m pretty sure it`s because shibata-san and co. are like, the Fry King Masters of the Island Universe. i am so not kidding about this. i`m pretty sure that`s why it`s always packed with locals. and why i`m there at least once a month.behold, a sample of the hotty hot deep-fried love: tonkatsu, panko-breaded pork loin, juicy within and crispy all around, served with a wedge of lemon to cut through the milky sweetness of the pork and sweet salty tonkatsu sauce; panko-breaded prawns in a traditional (albeit spicy) japanese curry with pickled ginger and rice; chicken karaage , the best chicken nuggets you`ll ever have; lightly fried tofu steak on a bed of sizzling onions and topped with dancing bonito flakes and nori. not oily! not heavy! never dry nor goopy! needs nothing more than a bowl of rice and a utensil.
there are a vegetarian options, including a very nice fried eggplant curry, and an intriguing sounding avocado-tempura curry, and salads. the green salad and tofu salad are popular due in part to benii`s soy sauce-based salad dressing (you can buy small bottles for home at the register), but honestly, some of the other "salads" are salads in name only, and probably not the healthiest choices on the menu.
the spicy chicken salad is karaage chicken doused in a korean kimchi-spice based sauce, then generously zig-zagged with kewpie japanese mayonnaise. there`s some green salad leaves underneath, crushed under the weight of the generous portion of meat. the teriyaki chicken salad is similarly doused, but the korean-style bbq beef salad is spared the kewpie (but is still all about the beef, not the greens). they are all quite tasty, despite the heavy hand with the sauce (you may want to ask them to go easy on it).if you can`t decide what you want, there is a bento box special which includes salad, rice, miso soup, an appetizer and a bit of fruit along with the rotating special dishes.
i`m told there`s also dessert available, which is amusingly, also fried. a tempura-battered ice cream sundae. eek! maybe one day. for now i`m content with everything else.
okay there is always a bad, which for benii is that the wait at weekend dinner service can be loooonnnnnnnnnnnng. they don`t take reservations. the kitchen closes at 9.30pm and it`s closed on sundays. the service is generally good, except when it`s packed (which is often). the space is not that big, so when there are crowds, it`s a bit hard to maneuver, and the din can be quite loud. be prepared to wait. it`s usually worth it.