Remember that resolution you made at the beginning of the year? You told yourself that you were going to carefully watch what you ate and would cut back on red meat and fatty foods? Instead, you would seek gluten-free, lactose-free, wheat-free, low or zero calorie and fat free options that-while difficult-would lead you towards the promised land of better health?
I understand. I made the same promise. But I broke it last week over one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in my 17 years of New York living. And I have zero regret.
As a culinary and cultural critic, it is my job to inspect every detail and offer views on what makes a particular meal or piece of art worthy or unworthy. Sometimes, the pendulum swings between the two.
After visiting Ben and Jack’s Steakhouse in Nomad, I must confess that my inner voice of criticism was squelched to make way for my inner stomach-which loudly proclaimed glory.
Owned by long-time restaurateurs and brothers, Ben and Jack Sinanaj, the warm and inviting space has the look and feel of a traditional steakhouse. A full bar welcomes you upon entry, located directly beneath original molding and design which formerly was a bank. Move further into this cavernous space, towards the dining room. It offers soft, ambient lighting which provides the perfect setting for either a business meeting or a romantic meal which might end with some “other business” (get my drift? wink,wink.) White tablecloths and formally dressed waiters might suggest an air of stuffiness, but don’t be misled. With their welcoming vibe, you’ll be treated like family.
But enough about the decor. This place could be located in a cardboard box in Trenton, New Jersey and it would still be worth the trek.
Chef Admir Alibisic, a young chef from the Balkan islands, oversees everything in his kitchen. Alibisic has worked his way up the chain from a line cook and holds a degree in food science. This, combined with a fervent passion for food makes his food truly unforgettable.
On a recent visit, Alibisic offered an abundance of options. My guest and I devoured them all. The meat parade kicked off with a thick slab of Canadian bacon. Ordinarily, bacon can be overly salty and fatty. Not here. The right balance of fat and meat were in alignment and the salt level was moderate.
Next came black and white sesame encrusted tuna, perched aside tuna sashimi in a spicy, but manageable wasabi sauce. It’s presented beautifully and is a lighter choice for the less hungry or anti-carnivorous. Caesar Salad is another terrific plan. With its flavorful, homemade dressing and crisp romaine lettuce, it’s one of the better restaurant salads around town.
Steak anyone? You’ve made a smart decision. Albisic knows his steaks and is particular amount every single one he prepares. Sharing the same vendor as the famed Peter Luger steakhouse (Pat La Frieda and Masters Purveyors), Alibisc will not hesitate to return cuts that do not live up to his standard.
Filet Mignon and Ribeye Steak were the choices of the night for my guest and me. Both were seared to sizzling precision, accompanied by Alibisics’s homemade sauce (which will soon be avail in retail stores.) Medium rare is the way to go, providing diners with a melt–in- your mouth experience. Side dishes accompanied our path down gluttony lane: Creamed spinach (which we learned has absolutely no cream ), is dense, green, and flavorful. Chef’s Mac & Cheese is a work of wonder, served in a crock of bubbling cheese and al dente elbow pasta that enfolds a subtle hint of nutmeg. German potatoes also arrived, cooked in a cast iron skillet with butter and olive oil. Who knew potatoes could taste so divine?
Aside from Creme Brulee, Ben & Jack’s does not make their desserts on-site, but for all I know, Saint Peter in Heaven is their vendor. We ended the dinner with a generous slice of key lime pie, served beside fresh whipped cream. It tasted just as key lime pie should : chilled, slightly sweet, and refreshingly tangy. We also ordered the tartufo, a traditional Italian dessert made from a chocolate coated ice cream ball of chocolate ice cream, quartered and drizzled with cherry sauce. Oh yeah–and there was fresh whipped cream on that, too because…why not!
A full wine and cocktails menu is available and there is ample room for private parties or events. Price wise, it is on par with fine dining throughout Manhattan and does offer prix fixe meals for those who are watching the wallet.
As I waddled my incredibly satisfied self up Fifth Avenue, towards my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, my guest sent me a text which read: “I literally can’t bend over”, followed by two pig emojis. I concurred. It was a humorous testament to a serious and sumptuous meal. Ben & Jack’s is not the type of establishment you’re likely to frequent every day, but for special occasions, business gatherings, and a treat for yourself or others, there is simply no better spot in town.
Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse is located at 255 5th Avenue between 28th and 29th street, NYC. For reservations, call 212-532-7600.