America is the land of opportunity. Do your job (or provide a service) well, and you may get the chance to do it for more money. Benjamin Prelvukaj has made one such opportunity for himself; branching out his signature steakhouse from Manhattan to White Plains.
Acclaimed in both Zagat and Michelin, Benjamin II officially opened its doors on Friday October 22nd, but I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peak at what the founder has in store for his second locale.
Prelvukaj was dressed to the nines and welcoming his guests (just a few hundred, mind you) himself. A resident of nearby Ardsley, Benjamin was positively beaming– and rightly so. He’s been an alumnus of quality restaurants like Peter Luger for years. “If I can do as well in White Plains as I do in the city, I’ll be happy!” When asked how he liked his beef, it’s as if he’d read my mind. “Oh, medium rare. No question. If you go more than medium, you ruin your steak.”
The house was packed with hundreds of well-dressed movers and shakers. Some were White Plains locals, others were long-time diners at the Manhattan restaurant, but everyone looked good. Diners with arm candy par excellence mingled to sample some of the restaurant’s best-known dishes, and there was plenty go around.
The sliders were juicy perfection, while the piping hot crab cakes were buttery fried gold. Shrimp and oysters on the half-shell were surprisingly fresh, and the lamb chop’s flavor was roasted in. It all left me craving more…
Prelvukaj knows his business: his restaurants get all their meat from Strassburger Meats, a fifth-generation supplier. A specialty of the house is their porterhouse for two, carefully dry-aged for up to 28 days. Both Benjamin and his executive chef, Arturo McLeod, swear by it.
The chef is glad to be working at Benjamin II, where he’ll be training the staff for the next two months. “I worked with Peter Luger for twenty years,” says McLeod. “If I didn’t like Benjamin, I wouldn’t be cooking for him. It’s an honor.”
One thing everyone raved about was the thick-cut, sizzling Canadian bacon. “Everyone goes crazy over the bacon,” said one ardent fan. “They’re like slabs.” I tried to pry the secret to his bacon out of McLeod, but was quickly rebuffed by his wife Leticia and his daughter Selena. “It’s a secret! Sssssshhhhhhh!”