Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 23 December 2010
A Restaurant Review: Beauty and Essex

Beauty and Essex
146 Essex Street, near Rivington Street, Lower East Side, (212) 614-0146
Getting There: F to Delancy Street; J, M, Z to Essex Street

There’s something about the glitzy 60’s style yellow signage that rests atop the entrance to the newly opened Beauty & Essex that, at least from its exterior, would make you believe that the chic restaurant has been open for years. On the contrary however- the notable hotspot just recently opened up its doors a little over a week into December, and it is already creating a prominent buzz. And the restaurateurs, the same team behind the successful Stanton Social, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Peering into the entrance way, the small interior space opens into an actual pawn shop. Although the items on display are not for purchase just yet, there is a very real historical authenticity to the feel of the space. Once inside, a straight walk to the back of the shop delivers you directly to a doorman who quickly transforms the surrounding atmosphere from seedy pawn shop to posh, modern lounge/restaurant, with the opening of a single door. This is where the journey through this elegant hotspot truly begins.

Just steps inside reveal an elongated spiral staircase leading to a leisurely lounge upstairs- the walls around which are covered in soft, white fur, surrounding a dazzling circular chandelier. On the ground floor, directly passed the bar area lies a beautiful contemporary dining room, equipped with eye catching circular half-booths, and tables to accommodate any sized party. But make sure to bring your appetites, because there are plenty of menu options on which to whet your palette.

Now we should note what is obvious at any tapas style restaurant- the plates are small, to encourage tasting and sharing- so don’t expect to be gorged upon leaving, unless you really overdo it when ordering. That said, there are a plethora of different courses from which to select. The “Raw Bar” features (you guessed it!) a selection of cold appetizers like the “Kobe beef carpacchio” ($16)- served with a wasabi infused egg yolk, and crunchy wontons and the “sashimi of tuna, tonnato style” ($14)- served with a crunchy chorizo and topped with sea salt and olive oil. We like the “yellowtail crudo” ($14), thin, chilled slices of fish, meshed with fresh cilantro and avocado, with a citrusy flavor.

The “Jewels on Toast” portion is highlighted by the “roasted bone marrow” ($14) and a “classic pan con tomate with fresh burrata mozzarella” ($13). But again, we opted to be different and tasted the “whipped ricotta” ($10), a smooth, creamy cheese on crispy bread, and smothered in sliced grilled pears, honey, basil, and a hint of chile pepper, for an added kick.

We were more lukewarm on the “braised short rib tamales” ($12), which smelled fantastic, but were relatively bland, and did not stick out as a must try. The opposite was true however for the savory “lobster tacos” ($18), crispy, beer battered Maine lobster, stuffed inside a soft shell and topped with slaw and a zesty, jalapeno mayonnaise. The chilled, creamy spread combined with the warm fish for a fantastic collaboration of temperature and taste. Finally, while perusing the main portion of menu options, we came across several interesting pairings- the “roasted wild striped bass” ($24) with manila clams, artichokes, and a roasted garlic aioli, the “heritage baby back ribs” ($19) served with tempura onion rings, and topped with a tangerine barbecue glaze, and even the “Beauty & Essex Burger” ($16), a juicy hamburger smothered with a hearty beefsteak tomato, chunky goat feta cheese, and a spicy roasted garlic aioli, served with a side of duck fat fries. But alas, we were starting to fill up, but wound up choosing what would become the highlight of the meal for us- the “oven braised chicken meatballs” ($18)- a mouthwatering combination of perfectly cooked meatballs, served in a sauce of creamy sheep’s milk ricotta cheese, truffle oil, and tasty wild mushrooms. The tangy cheese only served to compliment the tender chicken, and was a delectable closure for our dinner.

Beauty & Essex is going to become a sure-fire New York City hotspot. It’s location and it’s ambiance are ideal. It’s menu and it’s method of entrance are both attractive and inventive. And their service is impeccable, from a management team with a proven, winning track record. Beauty & Essex does everything right and manages to make a night out feel incredibly special, and in New York City, that’s everything we were hoping for.

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