I have many fond memories from my days at Lehigh: playing trivia Wednesday nights at McGrady’s, handing out pink ribbons at the Pink Out football games, dancing to top 40 music in a dirty fraternity basement with my closest friends, chanting “seven, seven, seven,” and dressing up in ridiculous clothes for football games but being dressed head to toe in brown and white when I walked across the stage on graduation day. I cherish those Lehigh moments with my friends, but I also love the memories we created together that aren’t just unique to Lehigh – the times we went out for dinner together. One of my favorite restaurants near campus was an Indian restaurant named Nawab, and I would order the chicken chili every time I went there. I haven’t seen this dish at any other restaurant and I have been seriously craving it. I eventually found my beloved dish at Benares, an Indian restaurant located in Tribeca and Midtown.
The chicken chili is an “Indo-Chinese” inspired dish with chicken tossed with bell peppers, onions, chilies, garlic and ginger, according to Benares. I was worried it wouldn’t be as good as the one I had eaten so often at Nawab, but the dish at Benares met my standards. The chicken chili at Benares is fried which is different than how Nawab serves it, and although I would prefer it not to be fried so it’s slightly healthier, I still thought it was tasty. The sauce was just as flavorful and it was the perfect spice level so I couldn’t have been more pleased. I always have a difficult time trying to explain how exactly this dish tastes, but just trust me on this one and order it because it’s so good.
In an effort to try something new, my mom and I also ordered an appetizer. The gentlemen next to use were eating a kebab that looked really good so we ordered it. My mom and I thought we ordered the kandhari murghb (malai kebab): chicken breast marinated in spices and served with pomegranate, date and gooseberry dip. However, it tasted more like the kakori (seekh) kebab: ground lamb rubbed with ginger, garlic, chili, infused with poppy seeds and nutmeg. We’re a little unsure but whatever it was, it was great. The taste was reminiscent of an Italian sausage but it fell apart easier. If you have leftovers from this kebab like I did, feel free to repurpose it with some whole wheat pasta and kale in a garlic and olive oil sauce.
Most Indian restaurants bring out papadums, thin and crispy breads, but Benares brought out colorful puffs. They tasted like bland rice crackers and they were meant to be dipped in the mint chutney, sweet tamarind and cilantro sauces. I enjoyed this interesting and fun take on a traditional starter, and they still tasted as good as the usual papadums.
I attended the Benares located in Tribeca and I was overall very pleased with the experience. The chicken chili lived up to my standards and I got to enjoy some new food too.
Address: 45 Murray Street, New York, NY 10007 (I went to the Tribeca location but they also have one in Midtown)
Phone number: 212-766-4900
Price: $$ Expensive
Hours: Mon-Fri 11 AM-3 PM and 5 PM-10:30 PM; Sat-Sun 3 PM-10:30 PM
Service: Our server was very friendly, helpful and prompt.
Atmosphere: Modern, upscale and sleek.