New eats: Cebu now has its own Benjarong restaurant

Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Jan 04 2020 11:04 AM

Inside Benjarong Mactan Cebu. Handout

CEBU -- Consistently listed as one of the best Thai restaurants in Manila, Dusit Thani Manila's Benjarong restaurant is iconic, to say the least. Now, after many years, when the new Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu resort opened, the hotel brand also brought the Thai dining concept in Cebu.

Benjarong is the signature restaurant of Dusit hotels. Operated by Dusit International, a hospitality group based in Thailand, Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu is the second Dusit Thani in the country. It is a luxury resort located at Punta Engaño peninsula on Mactan Island.

The resort opened last July and Benjarong, just opened a couple of months ago and is currently on soft opening. The kitchen is headed Thai chef Thanaphon “Than” Jeenphuad.

Food is an important part of Thai and Filipino hospitality. The resort, which merges the two cultures in its service, takes its pride in its food and beverage department. Aside from Benjarong, the resort has four other dining outlets: Tradewinds Cafe (all-day dining), The View (lobby lounge), Sunset Bar (sports bar), and The Deli (cafe).

“I always joke in the Philippines, people will ask you if you have eaten before they ask you your name. They feel that way in Thailand as well, they might not be as bold about it but they will invite strangers into their home for a meal before asking any other question,” explained general manager David Anthony Baldwin.

Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu Resort. Photo by author

Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu is the first luxury resort of Robinsons Hotels and Resorts, the hospitality arm of Robinsons Land Corporation. The resort recently held a grand opening, officially opening its doors to Cebuanos and travelers.

The hotel features 272 rooms, a 100-meter infinity pool, and one of the biggest ballrooms on the island. The resort also has the newly opened Namm Spa. And one unique aspect of the property is it is the only luxury resort in Mactan located along the island's western coast.

Being located on the western side of the island, the resort gets the beautiful view of Magellan Bay, the mountains of mainland Cebu, the airport, and the sunset.

Located on the second floor of the Mactan Wing of the resort, Benjarong has this unique view. The restaurant is, however, much smaller compared to the branch in Manila. And because of the resort setting, the restaurant also looks and feels more casual. But according to Baldwin, the resort is still going to add finishing touches to the restaurant.

The view from the restaurant. Handout

“The resort setting lends to that. Once we are able to get more involved in the interior décor and design we will take it from the project team and we will start to accessorize it better. I like the setting but there are things that we haven't done yet. We have to work with our lighting outside so that the zen garden becomes a part of it. The view is wonderful until sunset but after, it's dark. I want to put seats and offer al fresco dining,” Baldwin said.

The restaurant is only open for dinner, every night.

It serves authentic Thai cuisine, like other Benjarong branches. But since it's still on soft opening stages the menu is not complete. The menu is a mix of classic Thai food like pad thai and tom yum and also offers regional Thai cuisine.

“There are similar items [with other Benjarong restaurants] but not all. Right now, there is one dish that is only available here [like] the yellow curry chicken,” chef Than explained.

Tom yum goong. Handout

To keep things authentic, chef Than sources most of the herbs and spices from Thailand. He uses dried galangal in his tom yum goong, the creamy version of the classic tom yum soup. This seafood soup can be a lot to handle especially for people who have low spice tolerance.

“We get [ingredients] from Thailand but some we get it here like the lemongrass, spicy chili, they have in the Philippines,” he said.

But according to chef Than, he already adjusted the spice when testing the menu with his team. He also talks to customers on their preferred spice level.

Pineapple fried rice. Handout

“Just a little spicy. I talked to the guests, if they don't like spicy, we take out the chili. But basically we do authentic Thai. Some guests have been to Thailand so they know about pad Thai so we would do the same,” chef Than explained.

The pad thai's spice is milder as well. The Thai noodle dish is served with shrimps and plated with a thin egg omelet draped over it. It is served with a side of bean sprouts, chili flakes, calamansi, and crushed roasted peanuts.

Pad Thai. Handout

Some of the other dishes include the por pia sod or fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce; kai pod mud ma muang or like a Thai-style sweet and sour chicken; and panaeng moo or creamy pork curry.

And a Thai meal is not complete without mango sticky rice. The classic Thai snack/dessert is served with of course, Cebu mangoes.

Mango sticky rice. Photo by author

Prior to Benjarong, chef Tan worked at a Thai restaurant in a hotel in Chengdu, China. He is still completing the menu and he plans to add more unique dishes.

“We are on soft opening so menu not complete getting feedback from the guests. I'd like to add more seafood like king prawns and Thai-style calamares,” he said.