If you’re looking for delicious and authentic Indian cuisine in NYC, it really isn’t hard to find. There are even a few neighborhoods — like East 6th Street or Curry Hill — with a concentration of reliable eateries that can satisfy any craving you might have for Indian Cuisine from a variety of regions. Great Indian restaurants are everywhere, but I have a couple of favorite places that stand out for me as being worth going out of my way for, and one of those is Benares. My foodie friend Anne and I attended an event at Benares back in 2012 to celebrate the opening of its now-former midtown location, and I still recall the delicious small bites and refreshing craft cocktails, along with gracious service and a comfortable but classy vibe that we experienced. So I jumped at the chance to revisit Benares now that the restaurant has relocated to Murray Street in Tribeca. We felt welcome the minute we walked in the door.
Benares takes its name from the city located in the Western state of UP (Utter Pradesh), and the extensive menu includes a medley of Indian dishes, with an emphasis on the cuisine of that region. The city of Benares is known for vegetarian dishes, and the restaurant features over 20 delicious and unique vegetarian specialties, making it an ideal destination for groups with diverse dining tastes or dietary restrictions.
Benares‘ menu also has many unusual seafood and meat dishes. Chef Peter Beck (formerly of Tamarind) prepares his signature dishes such as the Sevai Tomato Kurma (mussels, scallops, rock shrimp and crab claws tossed in a garlic tomato sauce over Indian style rice noodles) and the Tandoori Hen ( whole Cornish hen marinated in lime, ginger, cumin, garlic and garam masala and cooked in the tandoor oven). These are dishes that you will not find in other NYC Indian restaurants. I brought Anne along with me, and we are served a tasting menu that included an enormous amount of Indian specialties. Here’s what we ate!
Among a half-dozen or so appetizer bites that started off the dinner, we especially loved this Khasta Gobi: lightly battered and crispy fried cauliflower with garland crushed pepper in a tangy sauce.
Chicken Tikka: Tandoor grilled tender pieces of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices.
Makkai Ka Soweta: Lamb Shoulder marinated in yogurt, turmeric, chili , ginger and glare (very spicy) with fresh corn. Delicious!
Spicy Grilled Shrimp!
Our feast of several entrees — both meat and vegetarian — arrived quickly and included many of our favorites!
One vegetarian dish that I had never tried before is the Malai Kofta: a Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings served in Cashew and Onion Gravy. It is perhaps comparable to an Indian Matzoh Ball! Very tasty!
Saag Paneer is a popular dish that everyone loves: Cubes of Indian cottage cheese served in creamed fresh spinach with mild Indian spices.
Butter Chicken is another mildly spicy meat dish that is a universal favorite, and a great introductory entrée choice for anyone who has not had Indian food before. In this dish, tandoori grilled tikka of chicken is cooked in a smooth tomato gravy, rich in cashews and, as the name implies, finished with butter. Sublime!
Lamb Rogan Josh is dish that always makes me think of the American journalist and political analyst, Josh Rogin, but the two are not related! Rogan Josh is signature dish from Kashmir, consisting of succulent pieces lamb in a sauce flavored with cardamom, aniseed and paprika. The meat is excellent quality and has the texture of very tender beef. If you think you aren’t going to like lamb, I would recommend that you try this dish, and be won over!
We were understandably stuffed after indulging in so many amazing dishes, but our host insisted that we have dessert, and how could we say no to this gorgeous creation which they call an Atom Bomb: Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Rose Petal Ice Cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. It tasted as wonderful as it looks. Rose Petal ice cream is a delicate treat that I highly recommend. The subtle but distinguishable essence of rose gives this ice cream a very light and unique flavor. It is fun to try new things!
Benares‘s beautiful interiors and intimate dining spaces make it a perfect restaurant choice for any occasion from a business lunch to a first date or just a get-together with friends. Theres something for everyone on the menu and they will make you feel so welcome you will return again again.
Benares is located at 45 Murray Street (take the 2, 3, A or C trains) in Tribeca, NYC. See more photos, full menus, and make a reservation to dine at Benares by visiting Benares NYC!