Just a short stroll north of Times Square, the subdued dining room at Benares offers a respite from midtown madness, as well as a taste of the ’hood’s most ambitious Indian cooking. Virtuoso chef Peter Beck (Tamarind) oversees the region-hopping bill of fare, which includes a robust selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes (the restaurant takes its name from a city in the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh, an area known for its veggie-based specialties). Of the latter, we loved the lauki ka kofta—hearty green-squash dumplings smothered in cumin-laced paneer and a buttery, tomato-based makhani sauce. While carnivores can find classics like lamb rogan josh and chicken vindaloo, you might opt for less familiar specialties, like kozhi varutha, a South Indian–inspired chicken curry thickened with coconut milk and spiced with roasted chilies, garlic and ginger.
240 W 56th St
|Cross street:||between Broadway and Eighth Ave|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Fri noon–2:30pm, 5–10:30pm; Sat, Sun 11:30am–10:30pm|
|Transport:||Subway: A, C, B, D, 1 to 59th St–Columbus Circle; N, Q, R to 57th St|
|Price:||Average main course: $14. AmEx, MC, V|