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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Benny's: So Much for So Little

January 16, 1987|RUTH REICHL

"It can't last," said the man at the next table, gleefully shaking his head over the size of the portions and the quality of the food. "They give you too much for too little. But in the meantime," he continued, "I'm sure going to enjoy it." All around Benny's, a 2-week-old restaurant at 240 S. Beverly Drive, in Beverly Hills, (213) 278-0209, people seemed to be agreeing with him.

Benny's is modest, bright and attractive. There's a big window in the front and a glassed-in counter in the back; this holds enormous bowls filled with salads and dishes with a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean accent. These run the gamut from chicken with ginger to tabbouleh, string beans with walnuts and feta, or chopped eggplant with tomatoes, garlic and coriander. There is a fine bowl of Spanish rice and another of chard sauteed with lemon and herbs. The list goes on and on, but each item I tasted had a delightfully homemade quality.

You choose three of the dishes; they are spooned onto a plate and served with pita bread and a glass of wine for $4.95. Coffee costs 50 cents, and the rich desserts (especially the meringue-topped chocolate mousse cake) are $3 and worth a taste.

Benny's obviously isn't the place for a big deal dinner--but for a pleasant lunch or a light supper it seems like a fine new option in Beverly Hills. Incidentally, I'd guess that the man at the next table was probably right; the prices are bound to go up.

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