Benares NYC Indian Restaurant
240 W. 56th St
New York, NY 10019
Other NYC Indian/Pakistani Restaurants
Benares NYC Review: Below AverageSome NYC Indian restaurants like Benares on W.56th St, it seems, inherit the bad karma of previous occupants of the space.
As Indian food aficionados in NYC have quickly realized, Benares opened in the place of Baluchi's that closed recently.
It's not merely the space that Benares took over. Some of the waiters too in Benares look like they came over with the space. We recognized at least one waiter from Baluchi's.
Like our unpleasant meal at Baluchi's W.56th St from a few years ago, much of the food we recently tasted at Benares fell in the category of Below Average.
By the way, Indian restaurateur Inder Singh (of Minar fame) has partnered with chef Peter Beck in Benares.
Benares W.56th St - AmbienceAs you enter Benares, you have tables in the front, center and side, cash counter on the far left corner and lunch buffet station on the far right corner of the dining room.
When we stepped in, a few Caucasian diners were nibbling into their curries and the waiters briskly moving hither and thither.
We were greeted by a medium height bald Indian man (owner??) with a smile.
The smile made us happy since encountering a smile at an Indian restaurant is unusual for Indian diners. In our experience, smiles at a lot of Indian restaurants in the U.S. are usually reserved for Americans.
Not a bad start we told ourselves.
Dirty TableBut as we were settling down, we noticed our table was dirty with yellow colored food stains.
As if this were not bad enough, the steel fork and knife was kept directly on the table on either side of the white paper napkin.
In our opinion keeping the silver directly on the table is an unhygienic practice and especially so when the tables are not cleaned properly.
Benares has already earned a "F" Grade on hygiene from us.
Benares NYC - Lunch BuffetDuring our visit, we let our palate graze on the vast prairie of Indian cuisine.
We sampled Samosa for appetizers, Green Chutney, Salad, Pulao Rice, Malwani Fish Curry, Chicken Jalfrezi, Chicken Tikka Masala, Channa Masala, Saag Paneer, Yellow Dal, Baingan, Naan Bread for main course and Rasmalai and Gajar Halwa for desserts.
Much of the food we tasted at Benares NYC (with the exception of Malwani Fish Curry and Rasmalai) belong to the flavorless category.
Here's our take on various items we sampled at Benares NYC Indian restaurant on W.56th St.
- Samosa - Samosa was tiny, crisp and a bit oily. Potato filling was alright.
- Green Chutney at Benares was good and not cold. It's a shame that a lot of NYC Indian restaurants serve cold Chutneys and we're tired of paying for cold stuff. Other Indian restaurants ought to follow Benares' example.
- Chicken Jalfrezi is usually a spicy delight prepared with Green Pepper, Onion etc. But Benares's version of Chicken Jalfrezi was not in the least spicy. Worse, it was flavorless and it felt like eating tender Chicken pieces with boiled onion slices.
Tiny Samosa (top), Chicken Jalfrezi (left),
Chicken Tikka Masala (right)
Malwani Fish Curry (top),
Yellow Dal on Rice (bottom)
- Chicken Tikka Masala was another flavorless travesty from Benares' kitchen.
Benares' Chicken Tikka Masala suffered from two issues:
- First, the tikka masala flavor did not seep into the Chicken pieces
- Second, the Chicken in Chicken Tikka Masala was hard.
- Saag Paneer suffered from the usual problem - raw taste, hopelessly bland and hence did not endear itself to our taste buds. It's the rare Indian restaurant in NYC/NJ that can make a good Saag dish.
- Ditto with Channa Masala, which we found bland and devoid of any flavor.
Tiny Samosa (top left), Green Chutney (top right),
Saag Paneer (middle right), Channa Masala (bottom)
Baingan (top right), Yellow Dal on Rice (top left)
Naan Bread (bottom)
- Baingan turned out to be another vegetarian travesty unworthy of being placed before paying customers. Sure the Baingan curry included Tomatoes but overall it lacked any flavor and felt like eating boiled pieces of Baingan in water without any spices.
- With a hint of Garlic, Yellow Dal was alright. But nothing to write home about.
- Pulao Rice with grated Carrot and Green Peas seasoning was fresh with a nice texture.
- But we can not say the same about Naan Bread. For Benares's Naan Bread was thick like Pita bread and not in the least tasty. The only good thing about Naan bread at Benares' lunch buffet is that it comes to the table fresh. Many Indian restaurants in NYC and NJ dump the Naan bread in a heap at the buffet station.
- Malwani Fish Curry - The sole saving grace of our lunch buffet experience at Benares on W. 56th St was Malwani Fish Curry.
Set in a creamy, spicy, flavorful gravy, Malwani Fish Curry was delicious with Pulao Rice.
Was it really very good or did we feel that way because most of the other items at Benares were so mediocre?
If ever we return to Benares, it'll be solely on account of the Malwani Fish Curry.
Malwani Fish Curry
- Set in a creamy, medium thick flavorful milk syrup, Benares' Rasmalai was delicious.
- Gajar Halwa looked better (with all the cashew toppings) than it tasted.
There were two issues with Benares' Gajar Halwa - first, it had a slight burned smell and taste, and second it was a bit low on sugar.
DessertsOf the two desserts Rasmalai and Gajar Halwa, we enjoyed Rasmalai more.
Benares Service - PoorOur water glasses were filled and used plates removed promptly.
But it was upsetting that our table was not clean and had dried yellow color food stains from a previous meal.
Also, there were no napkins on the table for all the members in our group.
There was just one napkin on the table.
The waiter who filled our water glasses either did not notice the missing napkins or did not care.
The staff never bothered until we alerted them about the missing napkins.
We also did not like the fact that the steel fork and knife are left directly on the table that has no table cloth.
Hey, how much time does it take to keep the silver on the paper napkins - 10-seconds, 20-seconds?
But Benares failed to make the simple effort.
When NYC Indian restaurants fail at the basics how can they hope to stay in the good books of diners and win their loyalty.
Benares NYC Rating - Not Worth itWhen we walked into Benares Indian restaurant we did not expect the divine ecstasy of a visit to the North Indian holy city of Kashi a.k.a Benares but a decent meal.
Alas, only two main items (Malwani Fish Curry and Rasmalai) from a 15 plus-items lunch buffet endeared themselves to our Indian taste buds.
Most of the curries were flavorless travesties and not worthy enough to be placed in front of paying customers.
Indian cuisine derives its magic flavor and taste from an array of spices that go into making the curries.
By dumbing down on spices, Benares Indian restaurant deprives non-Indian diners of magical experience of eating Indian food and robs desi diners of the pleasure that accompanies their favorite Indian curries.
And to charge $12.95 + tax for a below average weekday lunch buffet, in our opinion, is Daylight Robbery.
It's unlikely we'll be returning to Benares Indian restaurant on W.56th St in midtown Manhattan any time soon. - © NYIndia.us
Related StoriesBaluchi's NYC (W.56th St) Review - Trashy Food; Disgusting Service; Crooked, Disgraceful Practices