April 10, 2005

New Haven: Bentara

Last night en route to a Richard Shindell concert, we got the opportunity to revisit the Bentara Restaurant on Orange Street. I admit that it's pretty much been my only exposure to Malaysian food at this point so I have no strong basis for comparison to the cuisine as a whole. However, I have very much enjoyed the dishes I've tried. This was our third meal at this restaurant (though I haven't reviewed it previously), and I highly recommend it. The service can be a bit uneven depending on the staff assigned to the table. No complaints about last night's. My water glass was never empty and the dishes were prepared exactly as requested and delivered promptly as we finished each course. The decor has very clean lines and the high ceilings and angled tables give the floor an open and spacious feeling.

The meal began with roti chanai, unleavened bread which is griddle-fried and served with a thin (and very tasty) curry sauce.

For the main course, I chose kerutuk. It's a stew-like dish with beef (the restaurant also offers chicken and vegetarian options) simmered in a mixture of spices (coriander, fennel seed, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and chilies) with potatoes and a cocunut milk reduction sauce. I really enjoyed the mix of spices though the anise was perhaps the most pronounced. Overall, nicely blended. The "heat" of the dish can be ordered as mild, medium, regular, or hot. I went with regular and found it quite spicy. Michael had nasi lemak (which had been the first dish I tried there and we both agreed it's a favorite). It's a spicy stir-fried beef dish served with crispy dried anchovies, cucumbers and sliced boiled eggs on the side. Despite not liking anchovies in any other way, I find the fried little fish quite addictive.

For dessert we had a coconut sorbet served in a coconut half-shell. One of these days, I'll try the pear version. But the coconut is such a sweet and cool counterpart after the spicy dishes that it's just perfect for cleansing the palate.

Posted by Jennifer at April 10, 2005 3:14 PM
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