697 Somerset Street West Ottawa, ON – (613) 238-5022 – Webpage
The restaurant is quite unprepossessing from the outside. Inside it is very small and plainly decorated with a lot of formica, cheap plastic and chrome. I arrived at 11am just after the place opened and was shown to a table by a very pleasant and friendly young Asian girl who spoke perfect English.
I was the first patron in the place until another man arrived about 15 minutes after I did. Ben Ben advertises itself as serving Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine and I had decided to go there in order to sample their version of Kung Pao chicken ( favourite of mine as will become apparent in future posts). Unfortunately, after I had ordered a beer, I discovered to my surprise that this (almost ubiquitous) dish is not on the menu. I probably would not even have gone in had I known this beforehand but having already received my beer I decided to have something light before moving on elsewhere.
The menu at Ben Ben is not very impressive, and the appetizer selection is particularly dismal and uninteresting. There were some specials in Chinese and English script on a blackboard and one of was these was listed ‘spicy beef’ in English. However, the Chinese characters for the same dish translated as ‘water boiled beef’ which, I seem to recall, is a traditional and VERY fiery Sichuan dish. I queried the waitress about the Chinese name but she, rather shamefacedly, confessed she can’t read Chinese script and didn’t know the name in Chinese. She did confirm that the dish in question was supposed to be very spicy but she wasn’t able to tell me much more.
Crab Meat and Fish Maw Soup – The Crab was actually crab-stick rather than real crab and there were only a few bits of fish-maw. The stock tasted like canned broth and there was a lot of egg white throughout the whole thing to add bulk. It was fairly tasty, I suppose, but nothing to write home about by any means. In all fairness, though, the large bowl was very filling and thus a pretty nutritional good deal for the $6 I was charged.
The service was perfectly adequate but the menu was disappointing and the soup unexciting. There really wasn’t anything bout the place that would entice me to go back again except, just maybe, to see if the specials on the wall are any more interesting than the regular menu was when I visited the first time.