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Benjia

If you're sick of the oily Korean signature cabbage broth (kimchee jjigae), over-salty vermicelli noodles (japchae) and poorly marinated Korean BBQ (kalbi) you get from most Chinesified Korean joint...
Last updated: 2015-11-09


If you're sick of the oily Korean signature cabbage broth (kimchee jjigae), over-salty vermicelli noodles (japchae) and poorly marinated Korean BBQ (kalbi) you get from most Chinesified Korean joints in Shanghai, take the Seouulll train down to the funky town of Minhang for a hearty, authentic Korean meal at Benjia. Though admittedly a bit out of the way, Benjia is nevertheless well worth the trip.

So here's the rundown: you enter the restaurant and are seated at a table surrounding a barbeque furnace. The real key to enjoying Korean food is knowing HOW to eat it. As you share the dishes family style, the right combination is key -- more on that later.



Standard for all Korean restaurants are complimentary small dishes (banchan) like various forms of kimchee and soy-sauce beans. Benjia also has a delicious salad and cold kimchee soup with a tang to refresh your palette and act as a balance to the hot cuisine that will follow.

To start, we ordered seafood scallion pancakes (haemul pachun, 50rmb) and Korean vermicelli (japchae, 50rmb). Both tasted decent and came out in generous portions.

Then came the barbeque dishes -- the thinly sliced beef dish (60rmb) and the marinated grilled beef rib (90rmb). The beef is barbequed over a charcoal grill as opposed to an electric one, which allows the beef to retain its full smoky flavor. Benjia is known in Shanghai and in Korea for their signature thinly sliced beef dish and their impressively versatile raw vegetable slide which includes lettuce leaves, bakchoy, sliced sweet potato, coriander and so on. Here is where combination really serves to enhance the dish. If you order the barbeque, along with the complimentary small dishes and salad, you will also get various sauces served in small soy sauce dishes, sliced garlic cloves, a radish dish, and a seasoned spring onion dish to wrap your beef together with. Choose a vegetable, then dip your barbeque in the specially prepared soysauce-like sauce provided, add the sliced garlic cloves and the spring onions, wrap it up all together then pop it in your mouth. Flavor explosion to ensue. There are other little sauces available that you can mix and match with to see which one is most suited to your palette. You can also eat the beef alone -- it's not as fun but still delicious.

To finish, we had the traditional Korean miso soup (deunjjang jjigae, 40rmb) served with rice and the spicy cold buckwheat noodles (naeng myun, 35rmb). The miso soup is cooked in front of you and then mixed with rice. Adding a little vinegar and mustard to the buckwheat noodles will make the dish more flavorful. Both dishes did not disappoint and were very tasty, authentic, and helped settle the stomach after chomping on all that veg.

The whole meal happily stuffed our party of four, with plenty to spare at the end of the meal. It came out to a grand total of 405rmb including drinks (plum wine, 80rmb) and Korean HITE beer (15rmb). For the amount and quality of the food we ate, this was an excellent bargain.

Final prognosis -- I dig it, dig it. But, I understand that everyone is not like me when it comes to satisfying the yearn for my native cuisine. It really comes down to where your priorities lie.

Pros: authentic and delicious taste, fresh food, generous proportions, excellent quality and pace of service, and very reasonably priced.

Cons: the distance.

Benjia admittedly IS out the way and a bit tricky to find (it's 50m east of the Scholar's Hotel). It cost us 35rmb and took us 30 minutes in a cab one way from the Shanxi Nan Lu metro station. This may be classified as the boonies for the Puxi-centrist, but have a look at those pros again, then rock your xenophobic selves down to the wild wild west that is Wuzhong lu for some excellent rue-blue Seeouuulll food.


Benjia is located at 1339 Wuzhong Lu, near Jinhui Nan Lu.

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