NYC Dining Series Part III: Beauty and Essex

On our last evening of our trip, we were not interested in any of the evening session tennis matches of the US Open, so I made us a reservation to one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. I was introduced to this restaurant a few years ago by my god-mother.  She has some pretty fabulous friends and one of them introduced her to the Beauty and Essex experience. What I love about this restaurant is the mystique of it all and the clever concept. Located at 146 Essex St, New York, NY 10002.

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When you step into this restaurant, you enter an upscale pawn shop with musical instruments on the wall, jewelry, and designer shoes and purses all for sale.  To the left of the cashier counter is a large door that is a bit camouflaged with the wall but you are clearly able to see that it is there.  A few years ago, there used to be a guard present and you would have to give them the code word of the day to enter the restaurant. Once you get through the door, you enter this fabulous dining establishment!!! It is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced!

Our original reservation was for 9pm because I thought we would be a bit busy with the trying to get back into the city from Queens. However, we got back early and I was hungry. I called the restaurant and they had an earlier time for 8:15pm.  When we arrived, they told us that it would just be a few minutes and we took pager in the meantime. While we waited, I wanted to show my mom the amazing bathroom situation in the basement level of the restaurant. There may be an elevator down there but I do not remember seeing one. But if you have to go really bad and cannot walk down the stairs and have to wait on an elevator, which can go bad really quickly.

The restroom itself is fabulous! Each stall has a floor to ceiling wall for ultimate privacy and a full-sized door. There are bathroom attendants to freshen up the stall after each usage. And when you wash your hands, there is another person to hand you a towel.  Decorations in the bathroom are also really neat and add to the fabulousness! But the best part is that there is a bar in the back corner of the restroom that serves complimentary (as in free) House Sparking Rosé wine made by Beauty and Essex. There is a tip jar and I usually tip. The restroom also has a few couches in there to give it a lounge vibe.

After we finished down there and I took a glass of sparkling wine upstairs, my mom took an empty seat at the bar and I stood behind her. After about 20 minutes, I wondered if the buzzer worked downstairs and if they tried to reach us and it did not buzz. No such luck. After a nearly 30 minute wait, we were seated a table in the next bar area on the first floor around 8:45pm. Typically, I sit on the top level of the restaurant so being in this dining room was a first. One of the amazing aspects about the décor of the restaurant is that every room is different and has its own theme.  The entire restaurant is very chic and posh but how they use different art pieces and lighting are all very unique to each room. And to be clear, this restaurant is pretty large with a full bar and area, then 2 additional dining rooms on the first floor, then another large dining room on the second floor, and usage of the basement for the kitchen and restrooms. Servers have the task of walking up and down the stairs with trays of food. I imagine it is definitely a workout!

imag1795While we were at the bar, my mother and I noticed the attention to detail the bartenders put into the cocktails. They have an array of different liquors and juices to create some amazing and delicious cocktails. I told her to order one of my favorites called the Emerald Gimlet ($16) which includes Belvedere vodka, basil, lemon nectar, and fresh lime. It is not because my favorite color is green that I love this cocktail.  Apparently, I have a love for basil that I did not know I had until recently and it amazing in a cocktail.  The drink is refreshing and not too sweet. It is the perfect blend of amazingness.  I even mentioned this cocktail to my dad, who enjoys a good cocktail as well as making them, and challenged him to recreate it when I came home for a visit. But this drink made Basil Martinis definitely my new thing! Apparently, there was a new guy at the bar who messed up the flavor of one of the drinks and the waiter was quick to take it back and have it corrected after it took so long to arrive.
When we were seated, our waiter was very welcoming to us and explain the concept of the restaurant to my mom. He was knowledgeable about the menu but it took him quite a while to bring out certain things like our drinks. And at one point, he was serving our drinks and spilled water on the floor and did not even think to pick it up. Which can be dangerous as many women come to the restaurant and high heels and could easily slip. The one annoying thing about him, however, was that he was frequently absent and hard to find when you needed something or had a question. Still a very nice guy though.

essexribsNow on to the food! This restaurant is a tapas restaurant and everything is intended to be shared. This can be problematic when your dining partner aka my mom is allergic to fish and does not eat carbs. Much of the menu includes fish options and my godmother does not eat beef which was a challenge when we visited together. I am always at a disadvantage because I do not want to overeat but I would end up having to eat an entire order of something by myself. For example, during my first visit, I really wanted to try their Heritage Baby Back Ribs ($24) which includes a North Carolina style dry rub, hushpuppies (though mine came with onion rings), and smoked black pepper honey butter. I ended up having to enjoy the entire order myself which was quite a task. Not sure how that ended or if I ultimately took some home but they were definitely intended to be shared. Portion sizes are quite reasonable here.

download-2The menu at the restaurant frequently changes so it becomes a mystery if one of your favorites are still on the menu when you visit.  And even then, if it is still there, there may be a change to it but generally it still has the same flavor profile. However, one devastating change to menu occurred when they took the Chocolate Bread Pudding off the menu.  I think it was during my first visit there, a table of ladies who had traveled from Australia had ordered the dessert and when it arrived, neither me or my god-mom could stop looking. I think we asked them what they ordered and enjoyed it after our meal. We were so impressed by it and looked forward to having it again and it was taken off the menu. It was a heartbreaking foodie moment.

One thing that I have to have when I visit is the Lobster Tacos ($23) which are small tacos with breaded deep-fried lobster pieces with pickled red cabbage and a very light cream sauce on top! I would have included the description from the menu but it is mysteriously missing and I am hoping that it was inadvertently forgotten and not purposely removed because this could be tragic! Anyway, my mother decided to order the Maine Lobster Salad ($19) which included grilled watermelon, heirloom cherry tomato, burrata cheese (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream), and avocado vinaigrette. As always, the lobster tacos were on point and delicious! The lobster is fried lightly and has a wonderful crunch and the flavors from the pickled red cabbage and sauce just come together to make an amazing dish. My mother only ate the lobster and toppings and really enjoyed it as well. While she really enjoyed her lobster salad, I found the flavors to be a bit off. It tasted like something was rancid in the salad and at one point, I started to feel nauseous. Almost to the point where I needed to run down to the restroom. This was strange to me but the salad itself had a nice blend of flavors. I’m not sure if the wine I drank did not go well with that salad but, it did not work for me but my mother seriously enjoyed it and mentioned she would order it again which only made me more nauseous.

For our next course, I ordered the Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon, and Tomato Soup Dumplings ($17). I remembered this dish a bit different but nonetheless, it is a very creative dish. It is a sophisticated twist on a childhood meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup. The cheese is wrapped in a wonton that is topped with bacon and sits on a Chinese spoon filled with delicious tomato sauce. The entire spoon should be eaten all at once to blend all of those delicious flavors together. It is definitely a treat!

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Next, my mother ordered the 24 ounce Bone-in Ribeye ($65) served with 4 signature sauces. As a side, I ordered the broccolini ($12) with garlic, soy, and chili. Because the broccolini was cooked in a Thai flavors that include fish sauce, we requested the sauce be put on the side due to allergies. The Ribeye was cooked medium-rare which made it a bit difficult for me to enjoy but my mom was happy.  The meat was seasoned perfectly and the meat itself was juicy and tender. The meat was covered with fresh thyme that added a little presentation to the meal as well.  The sauces were good but for me, they were not required for my enjoyment. The broccolini was also very good both with and without the sauce. They were tender and presented very well with the meat.

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I was still a bit hungry after the steak because I allowed my mother to enjoy much of it since it was what she ordered and cooked at the temperature most desirable for her. I wanted to enjoy the Tuna Sashimi ($17) which includes serrano pepper and avocado mousse in white soy chili vinaigrette. I have enjoyed this once before and it was amazing. Because of my dislike of cucumbers, I did not want to waste food and my mother of course would not be able to help me because of her allergy. So I decided to go with the Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos ($17) which included micro cilantro, radish, and wasabi kewpie. The tacos where good, had a nice crunch, great flavors, but I definitely wish that had got what I really wanted. But any other time, I’m sure they would have been amazing. I want to muster up the courage to try roasted bone marrow ($18) which includes a rioja braised shallot marmalade. Several people ordered the dish and the presentation was amazing as it passed by!

For dessert, my mother surprised me and ordered the selection of sorbets ($10).  They had 4 chooses and we could choose three. She choose the coconut, a berry combination, and mango.  I decided to order the Box of Doughnuts ($14) which included vanilla beignets with chocolate hazelnut crème and raspberry jam. When the desserts came, my mother’s sorbets were not the colors we felt would be consistent with the flavors ordered other than the white for the coconut. The waiter said that the flavors change quite frequently but, something about the dish seemed off. The kitchen inadvertently gave us a selection of ice creams to include hazelnut, a coffee flavor, and milk ice cream. This to me is a huge issue. While the ice cream itself was good, we ordered sorbet to avoid over-indulging in dairy products. And midway through the dessert both my mother and I started to feel a little uncomfortable due to the dairy. This is really dangerous and really disappointed me. The waiter was not the person who served the dish and was absent for quite a while so we couldn’t ask him if the order was right or it would have melted. Luckily I had a picture. After we confirmed that we were served ice cream and not sorbet, the dessert was taken off the bill.  However, the principle of the matter is still the point of concern.

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On a lighter note, my beignets were awesome. They were literally served in a box in an order of 6 with 3 stuffed with the chocolate hazelnut crème and the other stuffed with the raspberry jam. I’m not sure which one I enjoyed more but the beignets were covered in a course sugar that just made them so very delicious! I was quite happy with my dessert.

Overall, I have a nice Labor Day dinner with my mom. We had some delicious food and she got to experience one of my favorite NYC restaurants. I have had better dining experiences in the past but this experience was still nice. Our total came to $228.64 before gratuity. Not sure what the final amount was but let’s estimate at least $250. This is definitely a fine dining expensive treat but at least you are able to share and split the cost. The following is my Seven Mac Score for the restaurant:

Beauty and Essex
Criteria Scale Score
Accessibility 1-10 8
Customer Service 1-20 10
Cleanliness 1-10 9
Food Presentation 1-10 10
Price Value 1-10 9
Taste of Food 1-30 30
Overall Experience 1-10 10
TOTAL: 86/100

Please look out for my Part IV of the NYC Dining Series as I make my way around the City and explore some of my favorite places!  Also, you can find me on Instagram @finediningdiva and twitter @moderndaybeauty. Also, if you would like to follow my blog to receive notification when a new blog is posted, please send your email to finediningdiva@gmail.com.

And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!

 

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