A steakhouse with Lugerian cred hits plenty of home runs…along with a fair number of strikeouts.
Something to celebrate at Benjamin Steak House
PHOTO BY CATHY PINSKY
Given the prices ($84.95 for a steak for two with no sides) and the Luger connection (the owners are Peter Luger alumni), our expectations were high. The noisy dining room, the crowded bar, the bustle—it all felt appropriately steakhouse-esque.
So what if the dining room looks like a cavernous catering hall? Luger’s isn’t exactly ready for its House Beautiful close-up, and we’ll take dinner there as often as our wallets (and cardiologists) allow. We’re in this for the juicy red meat, although we know a steakhouse has to have one or two other choices for the less sharp-toothed among us. So, while we won’t judge too harshly if the fish and seafood don’t live up to the meat, they should at least satisfy, particularly for the price. And sides do count: after all, any steakhouse worth its salt serves up exemplary spuds and a decent salad.
The Wedge, that steakhouse classic hunk of iceberg lettuce topped with thick, chunky blue cheese dressing, was more than decent, making it one of our two picks from a list of seven salads on the menu. The Benjamin’s salad (listed as a salad for two, but available for one by request) was our other choice: mixed greens with thinly sliced apple and pristine globes of lump crabmeat dressed in a light vinaigrette. The Caesar salad, however, lacked creaminess and bite, and mesclun greens were served with a vinager-y vinaigrette. The mozzarella and tomato salad, on the other hand, was presented with seemingly no seasoning or dressing. Benjamin soup was lacking too: broth with bits of beef and a few pearl onions was too salty. Creamed spinach was too salty as well, and far from creamy.
Go on the right evening, and you’ll have porterhouse expertly cooked
PHOTO BY CATHY PINSKY
Yet, on a subsequent visit, this same kitchen got every detail right on the crispy, golden-crusted lump crab cake. Sweet crab was all we saw and tasted; whatever held together those tender morsels together did so magically. We hoped that magic would appear again on our steaks…
We had shockingly different experiences with steak on different visits. Was the kitchen off one night, or lucky the other? Our first steak was the porterhouse for two, which we asked for medium rare. The enormous portion of meat (enough for three or even four) is served, à la Luger, cut into strips on a large platter, and the waiter divvies it up to the two diners. It had been charred on the outside, and only two small pieces on the platter were showing anywhere near enough pink to be called medium rare. The rest of the meat was medium to well done. On that same visit, Norwegian salmon was slightly dry, but its inherent flavor came through.
But wait! On our return visit to Benjamin, the heavens parted and the culinary gods smiled down upon us. Our rib eye was buttery, beefy, juicy, and perfectly rosy in the center, as a steak ordered medium rare should be. A thin crust of light char lent smoky depth of flavor. On that same visit, an enormous double-thick veal chop was equally flavorful and juicy, and also served cooked exactly as ordered. And our steak fries that night were crisp on the outside and creamy inside; broccoli was bright green and crisp-tender.
Was this the same restaurant that had served us “cottage fries” that seemed like flaccid potato chips, German potatoes like re-heated home fries, and a plate of poorly trimmed asparagus? Perhaps that was all just a bad dream.
We will think, instead, of that lovely evening when everything seemed to align just right, and which ended with a slightly tangy, sweet, and yielding cheesecake.
Benjamin Steak House ★★ 1/2
610 W Hartsdale Ave, White Plains
Hours: lunch, Tue to Fri 12-4 pm; dinner, Sun to Thurs 4-10 pm, Fri to Sat 4-11 pm
Appetizers: $9.95-$18.95; entrées: $32.95-$41.95; desserts: $9-$11
★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good