Benares Midtown is located at 240 W. 56th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway, 212-397-0707, http://www.benaresnyc.com and is open for lunch Mon-Sunday from 11:30am-2:45pm. Dinner is served daily from 5pm-10:30pm.
Benares Tribeca is well known for its remarkably diverse Indian cuisine and excellent service. But what many people don’t realize is that the first Benares, created as a collaboration between owner Inder Singh and Chef Peter Beck (formerly of Tamarind Tribeca and Chola) is actually located in Midtown—serving some of the best Indian food in the Manhattan, and definitely the most diverse and creative. Service, under the direction of the energetic manager Nitin Jairath, is outstanding: Perhaps the best of any Indian restaurant in New York.
Every 100 miles in India the food changes, from the Eastern areas influenced by China to the abundance of chilies for cooling purposes in the South. Like the Tribeca location, Benares Midtown features specialties from all 28 states of India, but in a setting that suits its midtown location. The midtown kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Surjeet Rajput who worked at five-star properties in India and the well-respected House of India in Bermuda before coming to the U.S. to cook at Devi as chef de cuisine. He brings his considerable talent and over 20 years of experience to Benares Midtown, collaborating with and executing the original menu Chef Beck created for both Benares locations.
One thing that distinguishes Benares Midtown is the very popular lunch buffet (not available in Tribeca). The buffet is perfect for workday lunches (saves time in ordering!), but is also available seven days a week, which makes it a great place for theatergoers and tourists to experience the distinctive cuisine that Benares Midtown offers on the weekends. The secret to the quality of the buffet is that each of the options (three appetizers, three main meat courses, four vegetarian mains, four chilled salads, two desserts, breads, as well as condiments) that are offered each day are prepared only in small batches which are continuously replenished and served at optimal temperature throughout the entire lunch service. The menu changes daily, but a typical spread might be composed of meat dishes such as tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, goat, lamb or shrimp curries; and vegetarian dishes such as saag paneer, baingan mirch ka salan, delectable baby eggplant simmered in coconut with curry leaf-flavored curry and lush dal makhani, slow-cooked black lentils in butter and tomato sauce; and rice dishes such as basmati rice with cumin or peas pulao, saffron rice with peas. Desserts may include terrific gulab jamun, honey-soaked dumplings, and narangi kheer, orange-flavored rice pudding. The full a la carte menu is also available during lunch and dinner.
There are also several dishes that are exclusive to Benares Midtown, dishes with a particular focus on shellfish: appetizers such as angoori jhinga, grilled tandoori shrimp with ginger, garlic, green chilies and grape relish is the best shrimp creation we ever met in a NY Indian restaurant and crab milagu, a generous mound of lump crab meat seasoned with spiced pepper and roasted tomato is so delicious that you might want a second portion. There are also special seafood entrees such as iggaru royya, shrimp simmered in a rich coconut gravy flavored with star anise and kekada kari, a traditional nadan kerala style crab curry. Other intriguing entrees that are available only at Benares Midtown include kozhi varutha curry, a South Indian specialty, chicken cooked with roasted chili, ginger and garlic in coconut sauce and jodhpuri takari, a vegetarian tomato and onion based stew of soft tofu, soy beans and baby corn.
The well-edited global wine list was specially selected to pair with Indian spices and flavors. Most of the wines are available by the glass or by the bottle. The light sweetness of the Washington State Chateau St. Michelle Riesling offsets the spiciness of the food, and the fruitiness of the Handcraft California pinot noir is a good match for lamb and chicken dishes. There’s also a choice of 11 beers including Kingfisher and Taj Mahal. There’s also a creative cocktail list that incorporates the flavors of India, as well as alcohol-free yogurt beverages—the traditional lassi in plain, sweet and salted, mango, and rose flavors.
Benares Midtown is without doubt an Indian restaurant that should on the list any diner that enjoys the real thing, with a creative bent and service that matches the food,
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