the bar at the benevolent king photo by izaiah johnson

2018 Best New Restaurants // No. 8 The Benevolent King

James Beard-nominated chef Ben Poremba is known for restaurants featuring inspired beverage programs and delicious international fare, all in chic, cozy spaces. When he opened The Benevolent King, boasting dramatic black walls, luxurious gold accents and intricate white tilework all reflected back in a wall of full-length mirrors, he exceeded even our exalted expectations.

Make your way past the candlelit tables and snag the best seat in the house: the last spot at the six-person bar. From this perch, you have a prime view of each Moroccan-inspired dish as it flies from the petite kitchen. 

(marinated roasted cherry tomatoes) parades into the dining room, followed by tender lamb meatballs, crunchy falafel and clouds of fresh pita bread. Consider this your multisensory menu, and order what most makes your mouth water.

whole branzino at the benevolent king // photo by izaiah johnson

Your seat also offers the perfect place to watch general manager and barman extraordinaire Tony Saputo as he composes complex cocktails with scientific precision. He deftly selects from an arsenal of obscure liquors, tinctures, bitters, and house-made blends and infusions to create balanced, nuanced drinks like the Mauresque. An intricate combination of pastis, orgeat, apricot liqueur, golden falernum, grapefruit juice, black lemon bitters and orange flower water forms the bright, citrus-forward sipper with an insidious licorice undertone.

There’s no getting around the price point. Cocktails cost as much as $18 each, and sharing a few salatim and small plates among friends can easily run the tab over $100. But budget-conscious dining is not the point at The Benevolent King. 

You go to Poremba’s Moroccan oasis for a decadent, if temporary, escape from the real world. You go to feel like royalty from the moment you ascend your barstool throne to the moment you swipe the last piece of pita through Balkan caviar dip.

Long live the king. 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.