How appropriate it was to see a statue of Ganesha, the Hindu god of beginnings, remover of obstacles and patron of arts and sciences, welcoming us when we entered the newly opened Benares. The restaurant which also has a location in Tribeca, offers contemporary authentic Indian cuisine.
Lowell and I were here for a press dinner and were teasingly told by general manager Ranbir Bhatia that he was going to serve us tastings from the menu until we put our hands up and said, “no more.” For a few hours we savored a multitude of delicious dishes until we reluctantly surrendered and said “uncle.”
The ambiance is lovely. On one side of the restaurant colorful replicas of red and turquoise lanterns are displayed on the top of saffron colored banquets while artwork is on the opposite red wall. Attractive turquoise glass lamps hang from the ceiling. The cork-covered menus are eye-catching.
The amuse consisted of various pastel colored rice cakes that looked like wagon wheels accompanied with two dipping sauces; chutney and a mint/orange. Eggplant chaat was different and delicious as the thin slices of fried eggplant were sprinkled with cilantro and drizzled with sweet and sour chutneys. Mouth watering crab chettinadu contained lump crabmeat seasoned with garlic, ginger, roasted coconut and spices; a clever version of a crab cake. Luscious pan-seared scallops with cilantro, green chili, ginger, mango and tomato relish was also a delightful innovative dish. Tender lamb chops standing on their sides were held together with a ring of lemon rind; an arresting visual display. An assembly of crispy flour puffs (banarsi kachori) topped with what looked like finely shredded roasted noodles and a slice of date looked like sushi. Filled with tomato salsa and potatoes and drizzled with chutneys this was an impressive dish.
The items cooked in a tandoori are also recommended. Aamiya tulsi jhinga, jumbo prawns marinated in basil chili, rice vinegar, ginger and molasses were pristine and full flavored. Yogurt and spices were used to enhance tandoori chicken which was juicy and another not to missed dish. Achchari chicken tikka, a boneless chicken which had been marinated with pickle flavors and spices was served with a mint sauce and had a wonderful novel taste. Lime, ginger, garlic, cumin, and garam masala were used to flavor a moist whole Cornish hen, a dish we had never had in an Indian restaurant before and would not hesitate to order again.
Careful attention was also given to the desserts. We applaud the rich atom bomb (chocolate lava cake served with rose petal ice cream); pistachio kulfi (pistachio flavored Indian ice cream with biscotti and berries); the gajar halwa (carrot pudding) and the refreshing orange kulfi (orange ice cream served in an orange rind).
The menu is diverse with salads, soups, vegetarian, grilled chicken, lamb, goat and fish entrees. Eleven breads are on the menu as well as a breadbasket with three of their most popular breads—naan, onion kulcha and tandoori roti. Service was gracious.
If you live in the area there is a special prix fixe takeout menu that includes a choice of one appetizer and one entrée, basmati rice, naan bread, raita and mango chutney for $20.95.
Benares, 327 Franklin Avenue, Wyckoff 201-904-2222; BYO. Open for lunch and dinner, daily.Click here to leave a comment