Over the past 3 years I’ve probably had 10 dinners at Beauty & Essex. Of all the TAO Group properties, I’d argue that B&E offers the best bang-for-your-buck. Almost everything is sub-$25, and they’re so good that they could be charging more for them.
The first impression is the pawn shop entrance. I’m a sucker for a good speakeasy, and I’ve yet to find a better one in New York. Once you find your way into the actual restaurant, the vibe is equally modern, trendy, sophisticated, and beautiful. “Casually elegant” is how I’d describe the place as a whole. Chandeliers hover over the entire dining room. The damn reception desk is a glass jewelry case. If you’ve been, you get it. If you haven’t, you’ll have to see it to really understand.
Alright, enough of that. Normally I wouldn’t care much, but Beauty & Essex is different than everybody else. Let’s talk about what matters. The menu is filled with fun, shareable dishes. They’ve got a little bit of everything for everybody. Similar to Vandal, the selection is eclectic and interactive.
First Course: Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos and Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon, & Tomato Soup Dumplings
If there’s anything tuna poke, tuna tartare, or anything of the sorts on the menu, consider my attention grabbed. The wonton taco shell was, of course, crispy but with a little bit of give. If you’re a sushi lover, this is the perfect starter dish. The tuna poke is salty and fresh, the radish and cilantro add some refreshing texture, and the wasabi kewpie (???????) add a nice kick. They’re teeny tiny, two bites tops, but packed with flavor.
No dish catches the eye more than the Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon, & Tomato Soup Dumplings. I’ve never eaten here and omitted this from the order. If there’s one must have, this is it without a doubt. A mini grilled cheese sandwich, in dumpling form, topped with crispy, smoky bacon bits, sitting in a sweet tomato soup bath? Come on! There’s nothing else to say because you’re already sold.
Second Course: Roasted Bone Marrow
This dish is one of my favorite dishes I’ve eaten in New York. Honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten anywhere. Only the cultured folk who’ve experienced Bone Marrow would understand. It’s an intimidating dish on multiple levels. The name isn’t exactly appealing. The presentation, for most, doesn’t appeal to the eyes. The consistency, kinda gross. You take a little spoon and scrape the marrow directly out of the bone, spread it on some toast, add some of the shallot marmalade (not too much), sprinkle some salt on top, and feast. If I had to describe what bone marrow feels and tastes like, envision a combination of fat, butter, and garlic. If you can get past your initial skepticism, it’s well worth it. It’s so fucking delicious, and I’ve yet to find any as good as Beauty & Essex’s. The Roasted Bone Marrow is a must have for any adventurous eaters.
Third Course: Bulgogi Ribeye Tacos
Of the 5 dinner dishes we ate, this was the most unassuming in terms of appearance. And yet… it was the dish of the night. One thing I love about B&E is there fluid menu. They’re always making tweaks and changes, swapping in new items, throwing curveballs. This was the first time I remember seeing Bulgogi Ribeye Tacos on the menu, and I sure hope it’s here to stay. Much like the Tuna Poke Tacos, the wonton shell held form and didn’t crumble into a million pieces. The single worst part of eating hard tacos is the inevitable mess. But no mess here. Delicious Korean-style beef, vibrant kimchi-jalapeño slaw, crunchy radish, sweet Asian pear, black toasted sesame seeds. Right about now is when you can clean up your drool. Outstanding tacos.
Fourth Course: Seared Scallops
Few foods move the needle for me like perfectly seared scallops. Nothing beats that feeling of a butter knife effortlessly cutting through. And as if the yummy, melt-in-my-mouth texture wasn’t good enough (they were), the cauliflower puree and wild mushroom gastrique lifted this dish from good scallops to very scallops. I wouldn’t qualify this as a must order, but these won’t disappoint if you need your scallops fix.
Dessert: Devil’s Food Layer Cake
A fine dessert, but there are surely better options. I will say that there’s something comforting about chocolate cake with frosting (in this case vanilla mascarpone) and ice cream (in this cake milk flavored). And whoever doesn’t enjoy those little chocolate crunchies can take a hike.
All in all, another outstanding meal courtesy of Beauty & Essex (thank you Chris Santos). It’s a really great date spot if you’re looking for somewhere with a fun menu and shareable dishes. It’s an upscale place with high quality food and reasonable prices. *chef’s kiss*