benno screen shot

Visiting Benno – A New York City Restaurant Review

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If you enjoy fine dining, you may well have eaten Jonathan Benno’s food before. He’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at the French Laundry with Chef Thomas Keller in California, at Daniel with Daniel Boulud in New York City, at Auberge du Vieux Puits in the south of France, with Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern in New York, and at Per Se in New York (again with Thomas Keller). He opened Lincoln Ristorante in Lincoln Center as the Executive Chef and was there for six years. He has now opened three restaurants in the Evelyn Hotel in New York: a bakery (Leonelli Focacceria) in the front of the hotel, a casual Italian place (Leonelli Taberna) through the lobby, and Benno, a fine-dining restaurant in back.

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I recently had dinner at Benno as part of a party of four. First, cocktails: I have to recommend the Aviation Excelsior, which was delicious–perfectly balanced, a gin cocktail that even a non-gin drinker would like. It tasted like a garden party at the beginning of summer. Their Mai Tai (they called it “Trojan Horse”) was equally good. I hadn’t had one since attending a rather touristy event at a hotel in Maui years back; this was quite an improvement.

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The service throughout was attentive and pleasant; the restaurant staff was very professional and extremely knowledgeable about the food and the wine, making appropriate recommendations with warmth and a very genuine hospitality.

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The menu is prix fixe; everyone gets a main course and a dessert, and the table has the option of ordering one, two, or three more courses. We went for the four-course dinner, which was considerably more food than we really needed to eat, but we wanted to try everything. (I would recommend showing up with a very hearty appetite.) The highlights included the coddled egg (this is not a humble egg dish—it includes mushrooms, leeks, and black truffles), the casoncelli (a stuffed pasta) with artichokes, pecorino romano, and more black truffles, and the Rohan duck. The veal for two was also delicious.

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We were no longer hungry by the time dessert came around, but we managed to try the cheesecake (very good, light, with a hint of lemon, and a basil gelato), and the selection of cheeses, served with a prune compote and spiced pecans, which made for a phenomenal ending to a phenomenal meal.

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Heading back outside on a very cold winter night was the only unfortunate part of the evening. I drove us all home, my three dining companions all asleep in the car. (I think next time, a hotel stay might be in order.)

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 5 Whistles

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

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Lead-In Image (Screenshot): Official Restaurant Site