Archive for May, 2009

Benjamin Steak House

May 28, 2009



Benjamin Steak House

52 East 41st Street, (212) 297-9177

Benjamin Steak House is open seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant features full bars on two levels, and offers private room and party menus. For complete menus, photo gallery and more, visit



By Nancy Walman

After more than 20 years at that venerable institution, Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn, chef Arturo McLeod joined forces with fellow Luger alumna, Benjamin Prelvukaj to launch Benjamin Steak House. Benjamin has become a landmark in its own right. Located one block from historic Grand Central terminal, Benjamin Steak House mirrors the opulence and grandeur of that magnificent station. Housed on the main floor of the century-old Chemist Club building, which is now home to the Dylan Hotel.


General Manager Victor Dedushaj

A great dining experience begins with the front of the house and Benjamin Steak House is fortunate to have enlisted the services of Victor Dedushaj, who is as warm, knowledgeable and professional as it gets.

In addition to the elegant and spacious main dining room and superb service, the big draw is the steaks: Six cuts of dry-aged beef are available: from 16-ounce porterhouses to top sirloins to juicy and tender rib eyes to succulent filet mignon. Every steak is grilled to perfection, using the best USDA prime beef. Any cut can be served family style for two to four people. The restaurant also offers steak for 10, which includes every cut on the menu as well as chateaubriand, costs $1,111. Lobsters are also spectacular as is lump crab and succulent sliced tomatoes & onion salad.

Don’t miss the German-style potatoes, cream-less creamed spinach and an over-the-top hot fudge sundae with loads of whip cream. Benjamin has an extensive wine list, with selections from Italy, France, California, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Chile and Argentina as well as a fine selection by the glass and 1/2 bottle. The two bars (one on the main floor and one on the mezzanine) serve high-end cocktails featuring top-shelf liquors. The wooden bar on the second floor is the centerpiece to the section and a great place to watch the action below. Set back from the balustrade, the bar, with its low lighting, is also the perfect spot for a private drink with your date. High ceilings, large white columns, brass chandeliers, a 10-foot fireplace and dark wood paneling dominate the 5,000-square-foot, bi-level dining space. The main dining room, with its rich leather banquettes and large bar, seats 120; the upstairs lounge, which is available for private parties, seats 46. Whether it’s a business lunch, a romantic rendezvous or a boisterous family dinner, Benjamin Steak House is sure to please even the most jaded food connoisseur. Benjamin Steak House gets “The Walman Award” as the city’s most dependably excellent steak house and rates A Major on the Walman Report. benjamin-steak

The Fabulous Signature Porterhouse

Copyright 2009 By Punch In International. All Rights Reserved.




May 20, 2009

Sahara’s Turkish Cuisine


In Murray Hill at 513 2nd Avenue at 28th Street.

Open on weekdays from 12:00 PM – 10:30 PM, and on weekends from 12:00 PM to 11:00 PM.

For reservations and private parties, call 212-532-7589 or visit Sahara Turkish Cuisine on the web at


Turkish Delights at Murray Hill’s Sahara

By Nancy Walman


With a recently remodeled space featuring French doors, restored brick, and select Turkish pin-dot tables, the atmosphere at Sahara is eclectically European and chic. But considering the popularity of their catering program throughout hospitals and doctors’ offices in the tri-state area (ranging from Cornell to Hackensack to the Bronx), it is evident that the flavors and health benefits of Sahara’s food shine with or without the pleasant surroundings.

Countless books and studies have proved that eating a “Mediterranean Diet” is a healthy approach to cutting calories, maintaining heart health, and increasing vitality. That’s why Chef Sinan Ön of Sahara’s Turkish Cuisine places emphasis on the vibrant flavors, modern presentations, and affordable prices that make the Mediterranean Diet more accessible and enjoyable than ever.

This healthful approach begins with owner Michael Kocak, whose extensive experience with Turkish cooking has helped him create a refined and wholesome vision for Sahara. From a small doner kebab take-out spot to Midtown lunch hotspot, Kocak has owned and run various kinds of Turkish restaurants over the years-and frequented many more. With this experience under his belt, he acknowledges that most Turkish restaurants boil down to the same menu. What changes, he says, is the style of the chef and the signature touches he can put on those traditional items.

At Sahara, this translates to high nutritional value, largely thanks to Chef Ön and his innovative, modern style. With his formative training in the prestigious culinary city of Bolu, Turkey, and early exposure to the industry from his father (a successful chef himself), Chef Ön worked at many of Turkey’s most acclaimed restaurants before making his move to New York 11 years ago. Upon his arrival he took up post at the famed Turkish Kitchen, where he fine-tuned his flair for modern Turkish cuisine and learned to cater to New York’s refined palette.


The menu at Sahara is straightforward and easy to navigate, and its dishes deliver one pleasant surprise after another. Traditional cold appetizers like Yaprak Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves) take refreshing spins-the leaves are purchased fresh and cured in-house, replacing the usual acidic slimy quality of the wrapping with a subtly sweet flavor that’s far more enjoyable. Lebni, or thick homemade yogurt, is freckled with garlic, dill, and the slight crunch of crushed walnuts, creating a mélange of flavors that’s as nutritionally beneficial as it is satisfying. Salads at Sahara (salatasi, in Turkish) are large and delightful, replacing calorie-loaded dressings with lemon juice, olive oil, and the optional (but irresistible) hint of shredded feta.

Hot appetizers provide a bit of indulgence. Icli Kofte, a standard Turkish dish, is taken to the next level: the ground lamb mixture is accented with currants and crushed walnuts before being stuffed into a perfectly crispy crust of lightly fried bulgur wheat. Mucver, or Zucchini Pancakes, are airy and served piping hot with cool yogurt sauce, a beautiful blend of earthy vegetable flavors and vibrant punches of paprika.

Chef Ön’s talents are best revealed with the signature marinades he uses for his Kebabs. In particular, his Shish Kebab and Tavuk Sis (Chicken Kebab) are popular for the unique blend of secret spices that Chef Ön uses to achieve a perfect flavor and texture. Ezmeli Kebab, a dish of chopped lamb atop a bed of spicy, smoked eggplant, presents familiar but elegantly layered flavors. Kebabs are supplemented with a variety of seafood dishes such as Karides Guvec, an oven-baked shrimp casserole with mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, all topped with Tukish Kashar cheese. All meat and fish dishes are char grilled without a single drop of butter, and even the “rice”-actually a creamy blend of bulgur wheat, minced vegetables and dill-sheds its unhealthy reputation.

A highly affordable wine list makes it possible to enjoy the meal with a heart-healthy glass of red wine without breaking the bank. Bottles begin at just $24 and a rotating selection of about ten wines (both red and white) are always available at $7-8 per glass.

To accommodate his loyal regulars and Turkish food aficionados, Chef Ön is happy to take requests off the menu. Regular requests include “finger meatballs,” a playfully named dish of oblong meatballs in a Turkish variation of marinara sauce, and spicy shrimp and peppers with olive oil and garlic. Rotating specials like boneless Cornish hen stuffed with cinnamon-scented rice, currants and pine nuts keep the menu constantly changing and brimming with surprises. Always keen to continue evolving his food to meet higher and higher standards, he welcomes the opportunity to step outside of his comfort zone, experimenting with new desserts and sending them to patrons complimentary for their honest evaluations.

Among the most successful desserts are Chef Ön’s baklava, deeply sweet but flaky and airy rather than dense and brick-like. Similarly, Kazandibi, akin to a Turkish crème brulee, is a truly unique milk custard that is caramelized to achieve a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Enjoyed with Turkish tea or a raki cordial, these make a wonderful ending to the meal.

Copyright 2009 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.


Rouge Tomate

May 10, 2009

Rouge Tomate
Opening Date: October 28, 2008
Owner: Emmanuel Verstraeten
Director of Operations:Erin Bellard
Executive Chef:Jeremy Bearman
General Manager:Oscar Henquet
Culinary Nutritionist:Natalia Rusin, R.D.
Executive Pastry Chef:James Distefano
Sommelier:Pascaline Lepeltier
Cuisine:Contemporary American, With a Bow to Health
Address:10 East 60th Street
(between Madison Avenue
and Fifth Avenue)
New York, NY 10022

Hours of Operation:
Lunch: 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Dinner: 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.,
Special Events:: Chris Crocco 646-237-8963
American Express, Discover,
MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club
N, R & W trains to Fifth Avenue;
4, 5 & 6 to 59th Street


Review By Nancy Walman


Something Different. Something Healthy. Something Delicious.

Rouge Tomate (in the former premises of New York’s fabled Copa Cabana) offers a casually elegant dining experience, with a 15-seat curved walnut and oak bar serving fresh juices and hand-crafted cocktails using house-made ginger ale, lemon-lime, and other sodas, tonics and mixers. A wide selection of wines and spirits, including bottles from top organic and biodynamic producers, rounds out the beverage program.

Under the direction of sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier, one of France’s most acclaimed sommeliers, Rouge Tomate offers a carefully selected global wine list of over 200 domestic and international bins, including a handful of wines from New York estates. Divided by country and then region, Rouge Tomate’s wine list offers several biodynamic and sustainable wines. Approximately 15 wines are poured by the glass, ranging from $9 to $18, and another 15 half bottles start at $20. A generous selection of dessert wines, organic tea and coffee, after-dinner liquors and cocktails are also available. Let’s not neglect some of New York’s most inventive (and potent) cocktails, as well as the best martini imaginable, with olives, so fresh, they tasted just plucked.

Guests can relax and dine while seated on custom-made leather
chairs and sofas in neutral shades of cream and tan, in two
cantilevered booths suspended over the dining room below or
four semi-private booths, or café chairs and tables while
overlooking a floor-to-ceiling “wood tower,” wall-mounted oak
trellis and photographic art installations by Norwegian artist Per

The essence of the Rouge Tomate lifestyle is further enhanced in the serene spirit and atmosphere of the space. Bentel & Bentel created a soothing urban retreat, integrating elements from the outside environment including water, light wood, natural materials colorful foliage to strengthen the connection to nature. The restaurant’s dramatic design includes a natural color palette, back-lit oak wood walls, walnut hard-wood floors and an open kitchen designed according to the Golden Ratio, which symbolizes perfect harmony in architecture.
Rouge Tomate is dedicated to proactively addressing social and environmental issues, from the design of the restaurant to the development of the menu. A member of the Green Restaurant Association, Rouge Tomate reduces its carbon imprint by choosing ecological materials made from recycled or recyclable elements; using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood for floor and furniture whenever possible; using energy-efficient equipment such as ovens, refrigerators and lighting systems; giving preference to local and seasonal products; buying meats and poultry from farmers who feed animals with local plants; and selecting some wines by viticulturists who follow organic and biodynamic principles.

Signature dishes from executive chef Jeremy Bearman’s appetizer menu includes luscious Warm Asparagus and Farm Egg with White Asparagus Purée, Black Trumpets, and Shallot-Banyuls Vinaigrette; a superlative Duck and Pistachio Pâté with Rhubarb, Pickles, and Sourdough Toast and Heirloom Beet and Carrot Salad.

Entrees proffer Whole Brook Trout a la Plancha with Ramps, Broccolini, Market Shelling Beans and the best Vegetarian Fettuccine with spring vegetables we’ve ever tasted. The homemade chickpea pasta is sauced with a devastating melange of Morels, Fava Beans, Parsley Mint Pesto, Toasted Almonds and Golden Pineapple.

To end the meal, executive pastry chef James Distefano executes seasonally inspired desserts with skillful combinations of textures, flavors and savory-sweet balances: Soy Milk Panna Cotta with caramelized banana and maple gelee; Poached Autumn Fruits with stone ground oat crumble and rum raisin gelato; and Seasonal Fruit and Sorbet Plate. Assorted cookies are lovely but all desserts are wonderful, as is service and a $45 pre-theater dinner is a real bargain.

Downstairs, Rouge Tomate offers an eye catching space that wil feature a hot lounge, starting May 11.

And what other NY restaurant has a registered dietician on staff! Rouge Tomate is a delight from start to finish and rates A Major on The Walman Report.