Drawing upon an all star roster of acclaimed Indian restaurants in Manhattan, Benares is the culmination of decades of experience. Restaurateur Inder Singh, a former partner of Devi and Baluchi, partners with acclaimed chef Peter Beck, celebrated for his creative interpretation of his native cuisine at the helm of the Tamarind empire. “I’m pleased to collaborate with Chef Beck. I respect his culinary expertise and am confident that with our combined knowledge of kitchen and restaurant operations, Benares will be a celebration of the foods we cherish” notes Singh.
Named for a city in northern India, the restaurant centers on the lush spices and abundant diversity of Indian cuisine. The dining room evokes a warm yet streamlined ambiance with mustard banquettes and dark brown wooden tables. Seating for up to 89 diners ensures a spacious environment while small groups of 10-12 can reserve a private dining room for a more intimate experience. Banarsi saris are highly sought after in the Indian community for their opulent embroidery. The walls are lined with framed banarsi saries.
Indian cuisine is vastly different from region to region. As Chef Beck notes “In India, every 100 miles the food changes. From the Eastern areas influenced by China to the abundance of chilies for cooling purposes in Southern India, each state is very different. The menu is a medley of Indian dishes with an emphasis on the cuisine of the Western state of UP (Utter Pradesh) where the city of Benares is located. Benares, the city, is known for vegetarian dishes so the restaurant has over 20 including a Kashmiri Soup of roasted turnip and beetroot, pigeon peas, fennel, ginger, garlic and cumin and Achari Bindi (fresh okra cooked ‘in dum’ with pickled spices, onions and tomato).
However, the menu is not limited to vegetables and has some unusual seafood and meat dishes as well. Some of Chef Beck’s signature dishes are 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 tandoori oven).
The beverage program is overseen by consultant Jeff Bartels. While a selection of beers are available to complement the meal, Bartels has introduced an exciting 25 bottle wine list focusing on handcrafted small production wines from regions such as the Loire Valley, Germany, Austria and Spain which pair well with the spices and flavors of the diverse cuisine. Cocktail aficionados will delight in classics with a twist like a Herradura Tequila Cocktail with Roasted Pineapple, House Made Orange Liquor, and Chili-Laced Grenadine.