Tag Archives: westchester

Benjamin Steakhouse White Plains

Benjamin Steakhouse (White Plains)
Overall Score: 85

Guest Review by “Hungry Dad” Hugh Gallon

As in my prior guest review for BLT Steak in White Plains, it’s important to start by saying that I am not qualified to properly review a steakhouse – at least not when compared to the Carnivore Connoisseur himself. But with steak, as with art, I know what I like. For context, my favorite steak place is Peter Luger, which has a reputation for being overhyped with respect to the steak (but is appropriately hyped with respect to its atmosphere). Also, it’s important to note that my reviews are often through the lens of a parent dining with children, as is the case here. So certain priorities differ from Johnny Prime’s. Nonetheless, I can use Johnny’s well-conceived ranking system as a structure for my ill-conceived opinions.

I wanted steak for my birthday, but a babysitter doubles the price of a steak dinner right off the bat. And a trip into Manhattan with the kids is a suicide mission unless the destination is kid-centric. So my favorite NYC steak joints are just not as convenient as they used to be. I was almost resigned to visiting the local diner for an order of steak and eggs. But then I found brunch at Benjamin Steakhouse in White Plains – owned by the same folks as Manhattan’s Benjamin Steakhouse and Benjamin Prime.

Flavor: 9

Benjamin’s rib eye was great. A nice salty crust and medium rare to my liking. I picked this place because it was close, but also because Benjamin has some genetic history with my beloved Peter Luger, as its owners came from Lugers.

I ordered the rib eye hoping to get plenty of fat and juice, knowing that the NY sirloin or filet minion would be too lean for my tastes (I learned such basics from Johnny’s outstanding Meat 101 and 102). The ribeye was juicy with a nice edge of fat. I would have actually welcomed a thicker strip of fat. I love the fat. When I was a kid, my dad said eating the fat put hair on your chest. Based on the veritable forest I have there, he must have been right.

Side note: I have to remember to ask Johnny if it’d be appropriate to ask a steakhouse waiter for a “fattier cut,” or if that’s weird or stupid in some way. Is a big strip of fat technically bad? It is less meat after all. When I go to a BBQ joint, I always ask for burnt ends of the brisket – which are viewed as inferior by some. But the burnt ends are my favorite. I think asking for burnt ends makes you look like you are “in the know,” with BBQ, but without being too big a douche. I wonder if there are any such questions appropriate for the steakhouse with respect to fat.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

We ended up at Benjamin for brunch, rather than dinner. Fortunately, Benjamin still offered their full menu in addition to a brunch menu. For guys like me, stuck in Westchester with kids, who still want the full steak experience on their birthday, this was a godsend.

The menu offered porterhouse (for two, three or four), NY sirloin, filet mignon, and a rib eye. No wagyu. The steaks are “Chef Selected, Dry Aged in Our Own Aging Box” as per the menu. Johnny discussed these cuts in his review of Benjamin Prime better than I ever could.

I would have loved a porterhouse. Unfortunately, I am almost always eating steak alone. My wife and kids would rather eat salad and breadsticks. So they can have their birthdays at Olive Garden if they want. I should have manned-up and just ordered the porterhouse steak for two and eaten it alone ala “John-Candy-in-The-Great-Outdoors.” But my wallet talked me out of it.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

My ribeye was handed over on a heated dinner plate and I was pleased to see a very generous portion. I had thought perhaps they would send their dinkier cuts up north. Plus, I was there at brunch-time. But this was a nice big steak to satisfy my birthday hunger. I was so relieved when I saw that hunk ‘o meat. My birthday steak quest had ended. And it ended nicely.

I do prefer a “sizzling steak presentation,” which I think may be reserved for the porterhouse. Lugers, for instance, delivers your steak already cut, sizzling, dripping with juices and butter; and the plate tipped up slightly so the juices run into a puddle. I know, I know. As Johnny has taught us, that this can result in overcooking and doesn’t allow your steak to rest. I guess I don’t mind sacrificing some taste for a little razzle dazzle, plus I do like steak a little more on the done side anyway. (See, I told you I lack the credentials to review steak).

Price: 9

The prices were fair for a high-end steak place, albeit on par with Manhattan prices (which is to say expensive). I thought perhaps the non-Manhattan real estate would bring some savings to me. But, I am sure I am paying an upcharge on steaks imported all the way from Manhattan. Also, steak is probably a “prestige pricing” type of item. A place like Benjamin isn’t looking to compete on price. If anything, it probably wants to match Manhattan prices as to convey a match in quality.

Bar: 8 (officially un-reviewed. But to complete the cumulative score, I’ll give it an 8 based on Johnny’s review of Benjamin Prime’s bar, which I assume is of similar quality.)

I’m not a huge drinker. It was brunch. I was with two kids. Suffice to say I didn’t even see the bar. If I was offered a drink menu, I didn’t notice. I was busy keeping my kids from coloring the cloth napkins and sneezing onto the next table.

Since I can’t talk about the bar, I’m going to use this space to describe how great Benjamin brunch was for kids. Make no mistake, Benjamin is not “family friendly,” in the marketing meaning of the term. Benjamin is not “for kids,” in any sense. There was no kids menu. They did not have cups with lids or coloring pages and crayons (we came with our own crayons and paper as per the standard parent eating-out survival kit).

Before we left the house, I called Benjamin with a sincere inquiry as to whether bringing kids was okay. Albert (who answered the phone) said it was fine. I clarified that my kids can strain the limits of polite society. Albert again said it was fine. And God bless him, he was clearly sincere in his reassurance, which meant a lot.

The waiters at Benjamin were pretty formal and proper; as one would expect from an upscale steakhouse. But even the most uptight waiter smiled sweetly when our kids offered obligatory, parentally-mandated “pleases,” and “thank yous.” I observed another table, with a baby in a high chair, who was keeping busy by dropping his toy on the floor every thirty seconds or so. The table was in the path to the kitchen. Waiters, time after time, without issue, happily picked it up and handed it back to the kid without so much as a mild eye roll or subtle grimace.

The food came fast, which is perfect when dining with kids. The check came fast. With the ticking time bomb of children in a restaurant, this is ideal. We did not feel like we were being rushed. Rather, I think Benjamin boasts an astute service staff who recognizes that a quicker meal pace is needed for a family with young children – as opposed to a romantic date, which should take more time.

Towards the end of our dinner Albert came by as my son was writing out his alphabet. Albert kindly chatted us up and made a deal with the kids (after getting our permission). Albert said that if my son got to “Z,” in the alphabet, he’d bring out ice cream sundaes. My son immediately skipped from “G” to “Z.” (True story. He’s his father’s son). We made him finish the whole alphabet, and as promised, two wonderful sundaes appeared, on the house. And truth be told, we got a third, on account of my daughter’s nut allergy (so I got hers when she got her nut free version!).

All of this, and we never even told them it was my birthday.

Again, this is not a kid’s restaurant. It’s a nice place. So I’m not sure you would want to bring any toddler during primetime dinner hours. But for brunch, Benjamin staff was beyond a class-act for us parents – on edge about bringing their kids to a nice restaurant. Benjamin brunch wasn’t too busy and turned out to be a genius birthday plan. I was able to spend that babysitting money on a good steak, without letting my kids ruin a nice Saturday night out for folks just looking to dine in peace.

Specials and Other Meats: 8

The brunch menu was pretty brunchy with pancakes, eggs benedict, chicken ceasar salad, a frittata, and not a lot of meat offerings. A burger and thick cut bacon were the most substantial choices. The full menu does not include the burger, but adds rack of lamb and a veal chop, (double thick, extra heavy cut).

My wife’s burger, ordered medium, was just okay. Perhaps I expected too much. Burgers aren’t on the regular menu. So if a place is only cooking a few burgers a week for a brunch crowd, it’s not likely to be an outstanding item.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

While I am a self-proclaimed novice at steaks, I can confidently speak about sides and desserts. Here’s what we had:

Fries – Benjamin’s fries were good. Thick cut, but not steak fries.

Chocolate chip pancakes – We got these for the kids. They liked them but did note that the dark chocolate chips weren’t their favorite. Naturally, as good parents, we followed up that healthy lunch with some ice cream.

Schalg – To my surprise and delight, the kids did not care for the schlag that came alongside the pancakes. Schlag, for the uninitiated, is a whipped topping, pretty much like whipped cream, but not very sweet and perfectly thick – much thicker than your average Cool Whip. I first got this stuff at Peter Luger and it is my absolute favorite. I ate it alongside my steak as to enjoy fresh. No regrets. To me, a great combination.

Ice Cream – Nothing fancy, but pretty much perfect as far as ice cream sundaes go. Fudge, nuts, and a cherry on top.

Seafood Selection: 8

We didn’t try any seafood. Brunch offered a good number of seafood items including tuna tartar, lobster bisque, crabcakes, and oysters on the half shell. The full menu had Chilean sea bass, grilled Norwegian salmon, grilled yellowfin tuna, 3 or 4 lb. jumbo lobster (broiled or steamed), and lobster tails.

Service: 10

In addition to the outstanding “kid-centric” service discussed above, Benjamin service was top-notch all around. The waiters were proper and distinguished, keeping the service mostly as an official, arms-length affair. Not unfriendly at all. Just appropriately formal. They entertained my wife’s questions, substitutions, and indecisiveness without flinching. Meanwhile, Albert roamed the floor gregariously, making sure everyone was happy. The food was delivered in a flurry by at least three or four well trained servers.

Ambiance: 8

When we got to Benjamin, I had my doubts about Albert’s assurance that it was cool to bring little kids. By all appearance, it’s a place for grown-ups who are looking for a nice quiet, classy meal. White tablecloths. Black bow tied waiters. Big leather-bound menus. Darkly lit. It’s a nice place with all the ambiance of a classically nice steakhouse. Meanwhile, my children can turn Tasmanian Devil in an instant. Strategically, we decided to sit outside. There was no waterfront table or rooftop view. But my kids could be a little squirmier without worrying about upsetting the normal folk.

610 Hartsdale Road
White Plains NY 10607

Mt Kisco Diner

A college friend of mine, Harry Georgiou, owns and runs the Mt. Kisco Diner, which has been in his family for years. He’s taken a bold initiative while at the helm, renovating the space to look more like a beautiful restaurant than a typical diner.

It has a fully stocked wrap-around bar, a spacious and beautiful dining room, and comfortable seating. There’s even an outdoor garden area if you want to eat outside.

But that’s not where his initiative stops. Harry and his staff have gotten really creative with their extensive menu. They’ve taken the quality and craftsmanship of the food up several notches from what you might expect at even a really great diner.

Let’s look a few examples right off the bat.

The Gastro Burger is a 9oz proprietary blend of always fresh, never frozen beef (ground daily in-house), and topped with smoked gouda, bacon onion jam, grilled apple, and roasted garlic aioli, all on a nice pretzel bun.

And that’s not the only great burger that they offer. There are 15 different burgers on their menu, including non-beef options and classic beef styles like this Big Top Burger (melted American and Swiss, and caramelized onions and mushrooms on a brioche bun).

These things are gourmet quality at diner prices ($12-$15). They all come with a pickle, and either mixed greens or fries.

Speaking of French fries, the menu has an entire “frites bar” that features six different styles of French fry. I went with the Herbed Truffle Fries. These things were absolutely perfect! Amazing crisp on the outside, nice and soft inside. Not too overpowering with the truffle, and just the right amount of salt and seasoning from the parmesan cheese. Also really fucking beautiful!

I also got a taste of my forte: Steak! I was skeptical at first, as I would typically never order a steak at a diner. But this is not a typical diner, and Harry insisted that I try their skirt steak. I’m glad I listened.

Not only was this plating beautiful and unique, but it had some awesome looking grill marks on it to boot.

As you can see it came with crispy fried union strings and sautéed garlic spinach.

The interior was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It’s been a while since I had a great skirt steak. This baby really hit the spot!

It doesn’t end there. Nope. I had to try one more of Harry’s menu upgrades: the Grown-Up Grilled Cheese. There are a few of these, but I went with the “Alpine” grilled cheese.

As you can see it comes with a cup of creamy roasted tomato soup, but in-between the thick, toasty, country white bread is where the sandwich starts kicking some serious ass.

That’s crispy pancetta, gruyere, caramelized onions, baby arugula, and tomato with white balsamic vinaigrette. Amazing!

I also sampled some or the more normal menu items as well, like bruschetta and chicken quesadillas.

The execution is still on point. No one in the bustling kitchen is cutting any corners. Everything is made very nicely.

I mean they even have a baker on site, making all the desserts in-house, fresh. And they’re all really beautiful.

I tried a delicious slice of lemon meringue pie that I brought home with me (not pictured), but while I was at the diner, I was anxious to drink one of Harry’s mega-shakes.

These are very popular with the kids these days. This Chocolate Chip Cookie Shake is made with vanilla ice cream, a chocolate swirl, and chocolate chips. Then it’s topped with a nice thick whipped cream and a mini ice cream cookie sandwich. I swapped my chocolate chips out for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.

I’m glad I was somehow able to save room for that tasty and refreshing shake. It was just the right amount of crazy. I know some places are going way over the top with their shakes these days, and I can’t stand it. This was just right.

I really can’t wait to get back up here to try the breakfast selections. You guys should check out their Instagram account to get your juices flowing.

252 E Main St
Mt Kisco, NY 10549

BLT Steak (White Plains)

BLT Steak (White Plains) Overall Score: 71

Guest Review by “Hungry Dad” Hugh Gallon

Before I give this guest review, I need to take the piss out of myself and level-set the reader. I am not qualified to properly review a steak – at least not when compared to Johnny Prime himself. I’m still learning. But, I happen to have a keyboard and opinions (like every asshole on the internet), and I happen to live near some steakhouses Johnny has yet to review. As a steak-novice, my goal is to either: (a) provide enough information so people can decide whether they want to try BLT Steak for themselves, or (b) express such ignorance that both vegetarians and carnivores can finally agree on something – that I am a complete idiot.

Flavor: 5
I ordered BLT Steak’s 28-Day Dry Aged 20oz Prime Bone-In NY Strip. The top and edges of the steak were soft with little char. I like char. A pat of herb butter sat on top mostly un-melted.

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Tasting little/no seasoning, I salted my meat and enjoyed one smallish fatty, crusty edge far more than the medium-rare center. Perhaps my palate does not fully appreciate aged beef?

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For context, my favorite steak place was, and still is, Peter Luger (77), which I enjoy more than Old Homestead (81) and Ruth’s Chris (87). So right off the bat, I acknowledge my questionable credibility. Johnny and other reliable critics have often exclaimed that Peter Luger is good, not great. But as Woody Allen said, in a much creepier context, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
Maybe I should have gotten the porterhouse, since Peter Luger’s porterhouse is my personal yardstick for steaks (“yardsteak?”). But BLT’s $98 porterhouse was not labeled as “for two” like it is at Luger’s. And as Johnny’s “Meat 102” taught me, the NY Strip is basically half of a porterhouse, so the comparison should be at least reasonable.

Here are BLT Steak’s offerings:

Prime Hanger Steak 10oz / 32
Filet Mignon 8oz / 42 12oz / 51
28-Day Dry Aged NY Strip 16oz / 52
28-Day Dry Aged Prime Bone-In NY Strip 20oz / 57
28-Day Dry Aged Prime Porterhouse 98
Bone In Rib Eye 20oz / 54
American Wagyu Ribeye 12 oz / 94
American Wagyu Top Cap 10 oz / 84

In retrospect, I should’ve gotten the rib eye, which I assume would have been fattier, juicier, and more to my liking. Next time I’ll refresh my education before I go out by re-reading Johnny’s “Meat 102.”

Portion Size & Plating: 7
My beloved Peter Luger steak is delivered sizzling, dripping with juices and butter. BLT’s was not. The BLT steak was served in a mini iron skillet which was kind of cool. They did give me a heated dinner plate, empty to receive my steak and sides in portions and positions as I saw fit. I liked that. Portions were certainly reasonable. I ate up all of my sides and brought some steak home (I enjoy cold leftover steak the next day – or as a midnight snack).

Price: 7
The prices were fair for a high-end steak place. I was a little disappointed that the prices were on par with Manhattan prices. If there is any benefit to dining outside of NYC, its a little price break. I thought perhaps the proprietors would pay less in rent than a Manhattan joint and therefore pass the savings on to me.

Bar: 7
I got adventurous with a house cocktail called, “Smoking Gun” (Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, Orange Bitters). It was strong and tasty with a particularly nice aromatic of orange peel. Nice to sip slowly. One glass lasted most of my meal.

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I didn’t hang out at the bar. But walking by it gave a clear “hotel bar” vibe on account of the annexed Ritz Carlton. To be fair, we were dining on a 6PM reservation, hardly the hottest time for any scene.

Specials and Other Meats: 8
BLT’s non-steak offerings included Braised Short Ribs, Rack of Lamb (2 double cut), Herb-Parmesan Crusted Veal Chop, and a Lemon-Rosemary Chicken. If I go back, I’ll probably try one of these before I return to the steak. Somebody at a neighboring table ordered the veal chop. At the risk of being caught, I checked out this strange man’s meat and it looked impressive.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
While I am a self-proclaimed novice at steaks, I can confidently speak about sides and desserts. Here’s what we had:

Popovers – BLT is known for its gruyere popovers for good reason. They are huge, airy, tasty and served as the dinner bread before every meal.

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Fries – Crispy batter-style fries in a nice large portion. I can be easily disappointed in French fries, but these were top-notch.

Creamed spinach – Creamed spinach is a mandatory side anytime I am eating steak. BLT’s spinach was a great compliment to my meal and appropriately garlicky.

Espresso brownie bites – Like the popovers, the espresso brownie bites were complimentary. They were sweet, chewy, and a great ending to the meal – especially since I almost never order dessert. I personally find a large cup of frozen yogurt from down the street to be more enjoyable than restaurant desserts – at least for the price and portion.

Seafood Selection: 8
BLT offered sautéed Dover Sole, Sautéed Branzino, Grilled Spicy Miso Tuna , and Grilled Lobster. My wife had a “Lobster Cobb Salad,” and enjoyed it alongside some of my French fries and stolen sips of my soda. She said the salad was good. I tried to get her to tell me more, but she had no other words. I might buy her a thesaurus for Christmas.

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Service: 6
I found the service to be just fine – appropriately polite and professional. My wife left annoyed for two service-related reasons. First, when we made the reservation, they asked if we were celebrating anything. We noted that we were, in fact, celebrating my birthday. Usually when we are asked this by a restaurant a little piece of cake, a drink, or an appetizer is provided compliments of the house. BLT didn’t do anything special. Then, as they wrapped up my leftover steak to go, they offered one of their popovers to go with it. I thanked them and enthusiastically accepted the kind offer, noting how much my wife loved them. When our to-go bag returned, there was no popover. I’m a capitalist and I’m not going make a complaint about failing to get free stuff. But they probably shouldn’t ask questions and set expectations if there is no follow-through.

Ambiance: 7
As I noted, we were dining on a 6PM reservation (we tend to fall asleep if we are out past 8PM on account of our early-rising, energy-draining little kids). So I’m not in much of a position to judge the ambiance. The restaurant had very large windows, and it was still very light out, so the restaurant was bright. It was a casual early-bird crowd and the place was not buzzing with patrons. I am willing to guess after dusk BLT Steak takes on a much busier but more intimate vibe.

221 Main St.
White Plains, NY 10601