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Monday, April 18, 2011

Beauty's Best Match Since the Beast

I finally made my way to Beauty and Essex on Thursday night to see what’s been pulling the Beautiful people out of Meatpacking and into the LES.  We went from seedy to glam in time it took to walk through the pawn shop façade that fronts the restaurant (and yes, those guitars and sparkly brooches really are for purchase).  The décor was art deco in black and bronze with enough chandeliers and wall sculptures to keep my eyes bouncing from mirror to prevalent mirror.

The amuse bouche started the night off right – a beet marmalade on top of a lentil chip.  The table was split on this one but as a beet fan, I sided with the “pro” group.  The menu is small plate style and the waitress recommended two items per person.  For tapas, it seemed a little pricy, but once the plates came out, we realized they were larger than your typical tapas and we definitely over-ordered.  The food was so good we made ourselves try everything that came out of the kitchen, even as we crossed the line from foodies to gluttons.  Here’s the rundown:
  • Kobe Beef Carpaccio: buttery paper thin beef topped with wasabi egg yolk, crunchy wontons, sesame nori.  This definitely ranked up there for me.  The crunchy wonton/nori topping was a new pairing for me when it comes to carpaccio, which I normally match with Italian flavors.  This was a great change.
  • Yellowtail Crudo: with caramelized citrus yuzu, avocado, cilantro.  Very refreshing.
  • Roasted Bone Marrow: served with toast and rioja braised shallot marmalade.  My dog, Chloe, would have gone APE for these giant marrow bones.  You don’t need to be a canine to appreciate this dish.  The sweet marmalade moderated the fatty marrow and deep meat flavor.  This one was one of my two choices and I gave myself a nice pat on the back for my pick.
  • Kale and Apple Salad: apple cider vinaigrette, pancetta, candied pecans, shaved goat cheese.  I thought this would be the boring choice of the evening but there were so many layers of flavor it turned into a memorable dish.  The apples brightened up the intense flavor of the kale and the pancetta…well there are few pairings more appropriate than greens and bacon, right?
  • Chicken Fried Oysters: apple & bacon braised spinach.  This was my second pick.  The batter was a little salty, but the spinach tamed that.  Fried oysters are a Southern fave, so I was right at home with this one.
  • Salt and Pepper Shrimp with miso-sambal mayo: not the most exciting dish of the evening but prepared well.
  • Salt and Vinegar Fries: see description of salt and pepper shrimp above
  • Lobster Tacos: beer battered maine lobster, red cabbage slaw, jalapeno crema.  I’m a fish taco fiend and this was a new version.  I think this may be the first time I’ve ever had fried lobster.  I know this is a “what could be bad?!” situation, but in case you were wondering, me likey.
  • Seared Nori Spiced Tuna: with wasabi parsnip puree, miso glazed asparagus & roasted shiitake salad.  The preparation was not what I expected after reading the description – it was better.  I would, however, have liked the tuna a little rarer.
  • Charred Shishito Peppers with lime salt: Another first for me.  These Japanese peppers may replace edamame for me as an app next time I get sushi.
  • Oven Braised Chicken Meatballs with sheep’s milk ricotta, wild mushroom, truffle:  These super moist meatballs made me re-evaluate my disdain for non-meat meatballs.
  • Garganelli: spicy, creamy veal bolognese, whipped little italy ricotta.  This was a solid pasta dish that I would like to re-create at home.
  • Heritage Baby Back Ribs: with tangerine barbeque glaze and tempura onion rings.  Fall off the bone meat always floats my boat.  A little weird to eat with my hands, but considering we’d already had 14,000,000 courses by this point, I didn’t even care.
  •  We also got two desserts (molten chocolate bread pudding and the box of doughnuts), but they were nothing to write home about.  They were a little too rich for my taste.  I like chocolate, but it was too much in the bread pudding – the whole thing was like the inside of a molten lava cake.

Not to sound like a grandma, but the restaurant was a little loud  However, this problem was easy to overlook after tasting the food and receiving great service (the waitress even made sure my basil gimlet was less sweet, per my preference).  This is not a date place (especially with the noise level), but if you’re looking for a fun girls night, they’ve got you covered.  When you get bored of staring at the friends you came with, don’t worry; there is some above par people watching to be done.  There was a nice mix of 20-somethings in sky-high heels, finance guys who managed to pull themselves away from their usual Thursday night Midtown and Meatpacking watering holes, and cougars in some bejeweled, skin-tight, backless wonders.  And the pick up line of the evening goes to the 40-year-old who said he just got an iPhone and needs someone to teach him how to use it.  Sorry, Gramps, I’m not your girl.  
Leading upstairs - the walls are furry, like in "Get Him to the Greek"
Carpaccio - the best pic of the food I was able to get

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