eating at benii.


benii, a smallish japanese restaurant in upper tumon in the star building. tucked in the corner. near the paint store. you know it? apparently i have over 60 photos of food from there, a sign that i might like it? a lot? maybe it's safe for me to a review. maybe. i've just sort of forgotten how.

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.

benii fried stuff

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.

benii sushi rolls

the sushi rolls are the least traditional things on the menu: dynamite egg rolls of tamago omelette and flying fish roe with wasabi mayo; surf and turf rolls with korean style beef and broiled unagi eel; dragon rolls of broiled unagi eel and tempura shrimp. there's even a SPAM roll, which is probably a lot like one of their best sellers (yes, also fried): the bacon roll made from a thick slice of smoked bacon tempura battered and fried then rolled in sushi rice and nori. omgwtfbbq if you are a bacon lover this is bacon love.

of course, not everything is fried. you can get the traditional nigiri sushi, along with sashimi and hawaiian-style poki. my regular favourites are the tuna sashimi with natto or the negitoro bowl with chopped fatty tuna belly, a little flying fish roe and tamago omelette on a bed of hot white rice. the tuna poki comes with crispy prawn crackers, and you can get two different sized platters of fresh sashimi.

benii poki + sashimi

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.

benii spicy chicken salad

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).

benii bento 2

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.

benii bento 1

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.

update 7 april 09: benii has expanded into the space next door so it has almost doubled in size; there's more seating for larger groups and also much more counter space seating. the lunch and dinner menus have merged and there are more salad and seafood options. oh! and way more fried food. gaaah!

in the star building, next to the paint store.
888 n. marine corps drive, upper tumon.
tel: 647.1090.


Wow! Those tonkatsu looks delicious!

The colours in the photos are fantastic! Makes everything more tasty, I reckon.

Can a person be lonely for food? This post is not making me feel homesick or hungry, but it definitly is evoking that ends in longing...

Thank you for the important work you are doing for the planet with this blog;}

The photos are so crisp! Love the colors and contrasts. Do you photoshop them, by any chance?

Thomas, the tonkatsu at benii is particularly good. always moist.

Su-Lin, the food is v. visually appealing, which really does help sometimes!

Greears, you must come back to the islands!

hello the typesetter, yes! but not always. it usually depends on the camera. most of the restaurant shots are done with a point and shoot which needs a little help.

I love Benii! The prices are good and the food is amazing. Sadly I haven't been in since the expansion.

Your photos are amazing. My friend is supposed to be working on Benii's site. I'll let her know about your sweet review.

hey drea! thanks for stopping by. i was wondering what happened to the benii website--looking forward to the new design!

Can you provide more CHAMORU kine directions? I want to check this place out!!!


trench! across from st. john's school, in the mall next to the pochon chicken/marianas handicrap bldg.