Beauty & Essex, NYC
Chef: Chris Santos
Cuisine: American Nouveau, Tapas/Small Plates
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Price: $30-50 per person
Address: 146 Essex St., NYC 10002
From the team behind The Stanton Social comes another posh Lower East Side restaurant complete with all the glitz and gorgeous details that could only be designed by my favorite award-winning concept team AvroKo (The Hurricane Club, Public, Double Crown, Park Avenue). Introducing Beauty and Essex: a ginormous 10,000 square foot restaurant, bar, & lounge that uses a pawn shop as a front… although have you ever seen a pawn shop as upscale as this one?
Of course, if the swanky “non-pawn shop” feel didn’t give it away, the smartly-dressed/Secret Service-reminiscent bouncers positioned outside and in front of the door to the restaurant most certainly will.
Beauty & Essex is the love child of Chris Santos of The Stanton Social, the design firm AvroKo, Peter Kane of Happy Endings, and one of the co-founders of Tao and Lavo clubs. The ambiance is everything one would expect from such a ingenious combination: trendy, sophisticated, sleek and A-list worthy (so I would assume haha). Among the many trendy restaurants in NYC, it is very rare to find one of equal quality in decor and cuisine. However, Beauty & Essex, despite all the kinks that come with a debut, surpassed all my expectations. The eclectic small plates menu had the same high quality elegance and taste that define Beauty & Essex.
The restaurant consists of four different dining areas sprawled across two lofty stories. It almost feels as if you are entering a luxury boutique hotel; in fact, the multitude of lamps protruding from the floor-to-ceiling mirror wall reminded me of the lobby of Miami’s swanky Delano Hotel.
Upon entering, you are greeted by the host stand on the right and coat check on the left. Following the staircase past the coat check are the restrooms, and yes, the rumors are true: there is free champagne in the ladies’ lounge. In fact, there is even a bartender serving up free glasses of bubbly from behind a mini champagne bar across from vanity mirrors stocked with vintage perfume bottles. There are even chaises to sit and sip on your champagne. As if women didn’t already take a long time during their group trips to the bathroom…
One word of caution: the bathroom tiles are very slippery so proceed with caution (I did a bit of ice skating down there), especially after your second trip or so for free champagne…
I came with a party of four people on their opening night, December 11, 2010, and the restaurant/bar/lounge was already filling up fast around 8pm. Reservations had been booked solid already and I had arrived as a walk-in for dinner, hoping to snag a seat in their beautiful second floor Pearl Lounge, aptly named for the giant chandelier made entirely of pearls that covers the entire ceiling. I believe the full menu is served in all dining/bar/lounge areas of the restaurant.
We found some plush mini-armchairs in the Pearl Lounge and were promptly seated. The service was a bit slow to get started, but it definitely improved as the night went on. The restaurant had unfortunately run out of a lot of key cocktails and several menu items (even though it had only opened 3 hours ago), but I am sure all those kinks shall be worked out very soon! We started with a few rounds of cocktails and ordered about 2-3 dishes per person.
As I mentioned before, I was blown away by the quality of the food. The menu takes inspiration from many global cuisines, and the results were simply superb without being too over-the-top as some dishes at The Stanton Social are. The menu is a bit more refined and elegant, and it works quite well here. I can’t wait to come again and try more dishes! (And hang out in the ladies’ lounge again…)
Other favorites (not pictured):
Earl the Pearl: Earl Grey infused Stolichnaya vodka, tangerine juice, rosemary-lemon syrup
B&E Pink Lady: Oxley gin, house made pomegranate grenadine, lemon, apple jack
Emerald Gimlet: Ketel I, basil, lemon nectar, fresh lime juice
Scrumptious! I believe consisted of pumpkin (obviously), caramelized onions, spinach… trying to recall…
Tomato Tartare: sunny side up quail egg, parmesan crostini
I loved this take on tartare — the flavors were balanced perfectly between the fresh tomatoes, savory quail eggs, sharp Parmesan cheese
Sashimi of Tuna, Tonnato Style: lemon zested olive oil, crunchy chorizo, sea salt
Very fresh and decadent, the chorizo and citrus add a nice kick to it!
JEWELS ON TOAST
Whipped Ricotta: grilled pears, honey, basil, chile
I’ve made my own Housemade Ricotta before, and now I am totally inspired to whip it up and add grilled fruit! This was heavenly tasting, with just the right amount of delicate sweetness
Roasted Bone Marrow: rioja braised shallot marmalade
So rich and so unbelievably good! Perfectly paired with the crispy bread and the shallot marmalade — also, it was just the right portion — sometimes bone marrow dishes can be overwhelming!
Parmigiano-Reggiano Fritters: fig balsamic crushed tomatoes
Sounds really fancy, but basically tastes like you would expect — fried cheese balls! Which still was friggin’ amazing
Crispy ‘Banh-Mi’ Style Spring Rolls: char-sui roasted pork, cilantro, sriracha aioli for dipping
Ironically, this is the one thing our server recommended and the one thing we weren’t crazy about… but in general, I am very judgmental on Asian cuisine… so maybe this really is a popular item, but for me — the flavors were just to messy for my palate
Chicken Fried Oysters: apple & bacon braised spinach
This was Santos’ take on Rockefeller oysters; I feel this had a bit too much batter coating the oysters… but in general, I just prefer raw oysters
Chestnut & Ricotta Ravioli: butternut squash glace, pecorino, crispy serrano
I love autumn/winter season because every restaurant has to have some form of butternut squash pasta — and it’s always amazing. This was just as good as Babbo’s pumpkin sage lune pasta!
18oz New York Strip Steak served with B&E signature sauces: au poivre, truffle hollandaise, chimichurri, signature roasted garlic & bacon
The steak was perfectly tender and juicy, especially when you dipped it in a smoky BACON sauce! After a while, we couldn’t help but be preoccupied with the sauces… we just spooned the truffle hollandaise straight to our mouths!