Benjamin Prime overall score: 88
The massive success of Benjamin Steakhouse and The Sea Fire Grill has afforded the owners, two guys named Benjamin who cut their teeth at Peter Luger, to open another location – Benjamin Prime – in which to sling their incredible food.
Nestled on 40th Street just below Grand Central in a modern yet elegant setting, Benjamin Prime attracts more than the usual steakhouse crowd. In addition to banktown big shots, business tycoons and groups of middle-aged guys on bro-dates, there’s a notably more female and young demographic dining there as well. The Benjamins attribute that to their diversified menu, which plucks the best from both Benjamin Steakhouse’s and The Sea Fire Grill’s menus, curates them and gently tweaks them anew.
The crowd mix is no surprise to me, since they offer things like a prix fix lunch for $35 and a three-hour $1.50 oyster happy hour from 4pm-7pm during the week. But they’re also garnering the attention of people – even celebrities – who are looking to host events in their handsome upstairs space, which boasts the ability to be either an open floor plan or sectioned-off rooms. The entire upstairs is enveloped by an impressive glass wall that showcases thousands of bottles of top choice wines; a perfect place to gather.
I was invited in for a complimentary meal to help promote the joint on Instagram and social media by the restaurant’s PR folks. I was impressed, and you guys know I’m always honest with you on here, regardless of whether my meal is free. In short, this place is pretty fantastic. Take a look at what we tried:
The porterhouse packed a good dry-aged punch for 28-days. I’ve had stuff that was aged twice as long but didn’t have half the flavor, so they’re definitely doing something right here.
That characteristic dry-aged beef aroma fills the room when the plates are coming to the table, and you can hear your steak before you see it, as they’re served sizzling on hot plates in the traditional, old-school steakhouse style.
While that serving method is generally not my cup of tea (I like a well rested steak and I worry about grey-banding on the edges), it is certainly done in the correct way here. The waiters don’t just plop the steak onto the table, walk away and allow it to continue cooking to well done on that screaming-hot plate. No. They will immediately serve you the delicious, pre-sliced, medium-rare steak, unless you’re an asshole who actually WANTS it to cook more on the plate.
In any case, I loved this porterhouse, and now I need to come back to try the rib eye, which is my favorite cut of beef.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
The masters at Benjamin Prime hand-pick their meat directly from the Pat LaFrieda processing facility. The restaurant is one of the few (if not the only) permitted to do that. This means you’re getting the best of the best at Benjamin Prime. The steaks are then aged in the restaurant’s own aging box.
Cut selections include porterhouse (for two, three or four), NY sirloin, filet mignon, rib eye and a wagyu NY strip. That covers all the bases and then some.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
It may be a bit tough for me to comment about portion sizes since we received a few items that were extra big to share with eight diners, while other items were individualized and smaller, just so we could have a taste. Based on what I could see around me, though, I can safely say that the portion sizes are all generous. The plating is standard, traditional American steakhouse style: nothing fancy, but just elegant enough to make your mouth water.
Since this was a comped meal for me, I clearly have to give it full points! But the menu isn’t unreasonable, which is kind of shocking since the location is primo Grand Centralville real estate. In fact, I mentioned above in the intro paragraphs about the crazy price fix deal and oyster happy hour that they offer. Both of these are excellent bargains.
The bar was pretty crowded on a Monday at 6:30pm, which is great. It was hopping. It’s somewhat of a narrow space that stretches backward from the main entrance, but there is some window access and high-top seating to get comfy. The bar itself is gorgeous, with gas fireplaces lining the wall in back.
I tested their drink slinging skills with a dry gin martini, and they passed with flying colors. They also have a really nice menu of special house cocktails that looked delicious.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
They offer a Niman Ranch aged rack of lamb that I’m dying to try. But if you’re looking for chicken you can go fuck yourself, because it isn’t offered on the menu. Man up and eat red meat for fuck’s sake. You’re at a steakhouse!
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10
We sampled a bunch of stuff on the savory side, but we didn’t get into dessert. As such, I reserve my review score here to be amended if necessary (I suppose I always do that anyway for subsequent visits). But based on the savory success, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be satisfied with the sweet.
Benjamin Prime does something wild that I’ve never seen before: a dedicated tartare menu section. They offer four: (1) a duo with salmon and yellowfin; (2) filet mignon with truffle cream and shaved truffle; (3) strip loin with caramelized onion and foie gras; and (4) wagyu beef with caviar and egg cream. Come on! That’s fucking cool.
We tried the filet and the strip versions. I went in thinking I’d like the filet (left) better because of the truffle, but I came away liking the strip (right) better because of the onion and foie. The strip delivered a really robust, powerful punch of funky flavors. Awesome.
The sea scallops are perfectly seared and extremely tasty. I could eat a dozen at a clip, no sweat. The celery root puree really makes them pop in terms of flavor.
Bacon. Fucking ridiculous. Just get it.
I mean come on… Look at this… It’s just as thick as it is wide!
They serve a “creamless” style creamed spinach, which I always love when I see it on menus. It’s just better than the traditional, heavy style. They really nailed it with this one.
We also did some three-cheese mac & cheese, as well as creamy corn with pancetta. Both were really great.
We also snacked on some blistered shishito peppers. These were awesome. They’re lightly salted, have a great char, and boast a hint of fresh, herbal heat that kicks in with the occasional fiery one.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s a ton of great looking seafood on the menu here, and I think that’s part of the reason why they’re attracting a slightly different customer base than Benjamin Steakhouse. Here, they’ve made an effort to combine the best of both their steakhouse brand and their seafood restaurant brand. Next time, I will order a fish entree as an app to share, so I can properly score this category based on more than just the scallops (which were incredible, as I mentioned above).
Nothing short of perfection here. The staff is absolutely great, from the front of the house, to the wait staff, to the bus boys, to the management. They’ll make you feel like royalty in this place.
They’ve really done a tremendous job with the space here. The main dining floor has high ceilings and good light from the windows along the street, but it’s cozy enough to feel private and intimate. Upstairs is great for even more privacy or a special event. They’ve managed to strike a nice balance: Benjamin Prime achieves the modern vibe while simultaneously maintaining the right amount of traditional.
23 E 40th St
New York, NY 10016