Beauty & Essex is a pseudo-speakeasy; its storefront is a pawn shop, but once inside, the very large bouncer dressed in black waiting by the door in the back corner is a bit of a dead giveaway for what is to come.
Once we were inside, we marveled at the size of the interior - it was huge (10,000 sf!)! And absolutely gorgeous.
|Ascending the circular stairwell next to fur-lined walls|
The dramatic long chandelier that drops into the circular stairwell is a sight!
We were seated in the upstairs tables. The walls were decorated with framed necklaces. Interesting decor that Diana would have loved being a jewelry fiend.
We all ordered drinks off of their specialty cocktail menu.
I think my choice was enjoyed by everyone at the table: the Golden Peacock featuring cucumber hangar one and junmai sake, granny smith apple, pineapple and mint. It was so delightful and refreshing!
A toast to Thanan's birthday and Ismail's MBA future at Yale!
Drinks aside, we had to get down to business and pick some eats! The waitress described the Beauty & Essex menu as tapas with an international focus, so sharing is highly encouraged. We would soon find out that everything essentially comes three to an order, so B&E is more than happy to add additional bites to the plate for additional charge (o'course!)
Thanan selected the beef carpaccio - extremely thin slices of raw beef topped with wasabi egg yolk, fried wonton strips and sesame nori.
It was good! I think it was the first time any of us had ever had beef carpaccio, and B&E's rendition was a nice play with textures and flavors.
Their crostini appetizers were named just as trendily as the space was decorated: Jewels on Toast. We ordered two of them suckers. I love eating some gems on bread
I selected the whipped ricotta jewels on toast, since I had long fallen in love with the wonders of ricotta since Locanda Verde.
The whipped ricotta toast came with grilled pears, honey, strands of basil and chile. Sounds great right? It wasn't. I was a bit disappointed with the flavors; the pear flavors were unpronounced and the honey/chile/basil did nothing to amp up the flavor complexity - I couldn't distinguish any of those ingredients whatsoever.
Thanan elected for the chicken liver mousse jewels on toast with sweet and sour cippolini onions and fried thyme.
Man, this thing was on the other end of the flavor spectrum. The toasts were slathered thickly with the chicken liver, and it was too much for me since I found it borderline pungent in flavor. I liked the contrast of the onions with the mousse, but I don't think chicken liver mousse is my cuppa tea on the whole. Thanan liked it though.
Anne and I were both eyeing the chicken fried oysters, so we had to check these guys out. The presentation was beautiful!
The fried oysters were placed atop a bed of apple & bacon braised spinach inside oyster shells in a tray filled with sea salt.
Loved the dish - the oysters were quite plump, well battered and crunchy, and the spinach underneath was great with thick bits of salty bacon. Yum!
Ismail kept our health in check with an order of the kale and apple salad.
The salad was really good. I don't think I've ever said that about any salad in my life, because I don't really like salad (I know! I want my meat and potatoes!), but this is a salad I can get behind with its pancetta, crisp kale, sweet apple slivers and candied pecans (which I naturally liked the most!). And this whole thing was topped with some shaved goat cheese (and I didn't even notice!). It was tossed with an apple cider vinaigrette which Anne thought was a bit heavy, but overall, it was surprisingly rather delicious.
I also opted for the branzino a la plancha: lovely pieces of fish nestled on creamy mashed potatoes (or 'silky potato puree' as they described it), encircled by bone marrow gremolata sauce and topped with a petite salad.
The fish was solid and good, but the sauce was the real star - thick with a bit of tang.
We also ordered a side of Vidalia onion rings which were huge and beautiful, but did not have the crunchy sweetness expected from Vidalias.
For dessert, we shared the molten chocolate bread pudding with hazelnut ice cream.
This dish was a little confusing because it is extremely hard to sink your spoon into due to the heavy burnt-caramel crust. Thanan initially thought the dessert was overcooked because of it. Once you are triumphantly able to penetrate the crust, you would find that the interior was absolutely fluffy and soft. Overall, it was okay. It tasted like a warm, soft chocolate cake in a cute cast iron pot with a tough, burnt top.
Anne and I shared the same excitement for the box of doughnuts on the menu. I was envisioning a huge wooden box filled with giant doughnuts (you know I dream big!), but what we received was cute too.
The half dozen "doughnuts" were really cinnamon sugar crusted beignets poked with chocolate hazelnut cream and raspberry jam.
The beignets were fresh and hot and light, but with the moniker of doughnuts, I think we all expected something a little bit more dense. I preferred the chocolate over the raspberry, but in the dim lighting, I think it's luck of the draw!
The restaurant also surprised Thanan with a birthday macaron, and we surprised him with a full set of them from Bisous Macarons, a spot Anne has proclaimed her favorite, and a spot Diana and I need to properly check out in her next NYC visit! You can check out the slideshow of their antics below.
Next to the upstairs restaurant area is a lounge called the Pearl Room for the amazing pearl-string ceiling. I'm not sure I would make Beauty & Essex a dining destination spot, but it is definitely a place I would come for a tres chic drink with visiting friends - it's so hip and unexpected for this Lower East Side neck of the woods.
146 Essex St