Quasi-restaurant week? Maybe. Last week’s trip was a bacchanal with more travel and calories than your average Caesar’s Palace buffet line, so without further ado, dinner at the Benjamin with my father. It takes a special person to pick up their child at the train station and listen to them cry about eating too many oysters. The Westchester Benjamin is low-slung and dark, and has valet parking and a convivial style, but strange architecture. I’m not sure what compelled them to fit every diner in the same, widespread room, but combined with the dark lighting and volume, it felt like being at a wedding.
We started off our dinner with two glasses of wine and a basket of bread. Our first glass of wine was far too warm, so we sent it back and exchanged it for another, a glass of cab sauvignon. By the bottle, the list had too few wines for below $100 and not enough variation by the glass. For steakhouse standards, it was classic, but limiting.The quintessential ‘appetizer,’ or perhaps even side for the bold, is the thick-cut Canadian bacon, served in rasher-strips rather than the more familiar slices. Ours were pleasantly charred at the points, but softer and limper toward the middle, and very fatty. Alongside a fresh, if simplistic crab cocktail piled in a lettuce cup, it was almost Atkins-ian, in the most decadent fashion. The appetizer menu is sparse, protein-heavy, and minimalistic. I was almost inclined to ask for a few tartares from the bar menu. For entrees, we chose to go beyond the steaks of the steakhouse and see what the veal chop and lamb had to offer.Neither disappointed, but unfortunately, neither really impressed. Charmingly cut lamb chops were tender and cooked medium-rare, as specified, with juicy pink centers and an outstanding spinach side, easily the likes of which was going for $11 on the menu, generous and fresh amidst the carnal onslaught. The veal chop was less exciting, served with nary more than a sprig of cilantro to offset its meaty bulk. Both were accompanied by scuffed, but tasty homefries. Though enormous, as promised, the veal was difficult to cut with the dull knives and felt like an exercise in deconstruction than consumption. We hacked at it valiantly, but ultimately, the noble calf won.A tame dessert list yielded two tame results- a moist, but affectless carrot cake heavy on buttercream frosting with a modest clump of schlag to the side, and a cheese plate on loan from a local wedding buffet, with abundant, indistinguishable wedges of white cheddar, bleu, and vaguely smoked gouda alongside a scattering of roasted nuts, raisins, and a lone strawberry.On the plus side, the Benjamin is exactly what it says it is from the onset- it is a steakhouse. Conversely, I still felt like they could do better. The errors with the wine were fine for a $15 glass, but would imaginably cause great stress for the more spendthrift customers. The service, though attentive, was slow and occasionally inaccurate, most notably, when a lobster swept down from the skies, almost touching ground in front of me, and was then briskly whisked away to another customer when they realized their error. Their sister restaurant, Sea Fire, has a more varied menu, playing the flashy liberal to this conservative staple. The cost is the final stake in the steak- the irony of leaving The Benjamin minus two of your own is as palpable as your own lusty post-meat heartbeat. If this is a relative of Peter Luger, it’s more a softer, quieter uncle on the sidelines than the lionized patriarch it aspires to be.Disclaimer: This meal was comped, we covered the tip.