Monday, April 11, 2011

Good Grub: Beauty & Essex

Good grub. Gorgeous grub. Glamorous grub. Good God how expensive grub!

Beauty & Essex is beauteous. It's glitzy. It's all the sparkly, pretty things that the upper crust goes gaga over. It is hidden behind a pawn shop front. It's not a very good front. There's an insanely pretty lady behind the counter. Beautiful women dressed to impress do NOT work in pawn shops in the LES. Secondly, a 400 lb bouncer is guarding the door to the backroom. Although it wants to come off like a speakeasy, all I had to do with sashay inside with my swagger and a confident air. I smiled at the pretty lady and the large man, and the door was opened for me without much fuss.

Inside is beautiful. In fact, beautiful is a homely word to describe the decor going on within the hidden walls of Beauty & Essex. It's posh. It's decadent. It's over-the-top glam. The people who frequent this establishment are equally over-the-top, ornately decorated, and unnervingly too-perfectly-pretty. We're talking fur-lined stoles, vests, and dresses. Louboutin shoes, Prada clutches, and more fru-fru how-the-fuck-do-you-pronounce-that designer everything. It's breathtaking when you first take it in, but the shine quickly wears off. I'll get more into that in a minute.

Even knowing I was walking into one of the city's newest hot spots, I opted to go with my Hipster wear. Fuck it. I was in the Lower East Side. If my Precious (my most favorite pair of purple Converse high-tops) were not welcome there, then it would not be a place I wanted to be at. Period. Skinny jeans, purple Cons, some vague Geeky tee shirt, gray hoodie, and new-haircut arrogance carried my outfit. And despite my lack of over-priced designer labels, the fact that I was NOT dressed like anyone else had me standing out in my own little spotlight. And that was fine.

A new friend of mine made nice with the chef of this spot and secured a very coveted 8:15 dinner reservation. Because her other friend decided to show up late, we lost that reservation, had two overpriced drinks at the bar, and eventually got a table in the corner on the second level. As we waited, I took a trip down to the ladies lounge to check out this very famous bathroom. It was gorgeous. It smelled like perfume. You didn't even know there were toilets down there, they were hidden so well. Get this shit- FREE rose champagne at the small bar located down there....INSIDE the bathroom. Yeah, the bathroom was so damn CLEAN and pleasant, they had a mother fucking bar in there complete with free champagne.

Let me also point out that the attendants were all super nice. I can't get over how polite and friendly the staff was , from the overly pretty "pawn" shop attendant, the conspicuous front bouncer, the hostess, and the bathroom attendants. The lady bartender was very nice, but the male bartender was a bitch.

I already knew the menu before I got there. I knew the prices were inflated. I knew the portions were small. I knew I would probably leave poor and hungry. We opted to order several dishes and share among the three of us. First, there was an amuse bouche the chef sent out. Nothing fancy. A small frisee salad en croute with an aioli. (That was free.) Next came the lobster tacos and the General Tso's Monkfish. Both dishes were good. Tasty. The General Tso's Monkfish was innovative. I love monkfish. I love General Tso's anything. Nice combo! The lobster tacos were wrapped in soft tortillas, but small. The lobster was battered and fried. Though the monkfish came in nugget form in a small side dish, the three of us were able to have several pieces each. There was only one small taco for each of us. I'll throw in the breakdown later. Next up was the chestnut & ricotta ravioli and the crispy spring rolls. The ravioli (a personal favorite of mine, and my one pick of the night) was fantastic. The spring rolls were tasty, but again- just one a piece. Not cool. The ravioli only came with 5 pieces. Next up was the brick pressed chicken and a side of asparagus; yes, that's a separate order for the asparagus. The chicken was moist and tasty, but it was a small boned out thigh and leg. Small. It was cut up in sliced portions. The asparagus were steamed and seasoned. We finished off with their famous box of donuts for desserts. I expected donuts; you know-with holes. What we got were six small munchkins. Three filled with raspberry and three filled with Nutella. Each were fresh out of the fryer, covered in granulated sugar, and were piping hot. Munchkins- not donuts. Here is the breakdown of the prices:

Crispy Spring Rolls- $12.00
General Tso’s Monkfish- $16.00
Lobster Tacos- $18.00
Chestnut & Ricotta Ravioli- $18.00
Brick Pressed Chicken- $19.00
Asparagus- $8.00

Add another $15 each for 3 cocktails

The grand total with tax and tip came to: $63 per person   

I did not leave hungry. I was just full. Not overly full, but done. However, within an hour I was starving. That may just be me and the way my appetite works, but after a hefty, satisfying meal, I'm usually done for the entire night.

This is where the dazzle wore off. The place was jam-packed with all the "beautiful" people. There was a lot of wasted food on these tables. There were super loud conversations which made it hard to hear what was going on at your own table. By 9:30, the bar on the first level and the second level were both jam packed with the fanciest douche bags NY can offer, right along with the most glamorous bitches you can find to flirt with them. Everything is crazy expensive and overpriced. Although the space is large, it gets quite crowded. It makes it annoying to be there. The patrons are rude, although the staff is friendly.

Was the space beautiful, the staff stellar, and the drinks and food tasty? The space is gorgeous, the staff is impeccable, and the drinks were delicious. However, I've been to many beautiful places, I've had wonderful service before in diners, and I've had MUCH better food and cocktails that were not jammed full of ice. Although Beauty and Essex was good, I would not go back. It's too expensive and the vibe is not exactly the kind of scene I enjoy. Sure, it may look great on TV when you watch the glam of NYC converge in these ultra sexy spots. It's just not fun for me.

Beauty and Essex is great eye-candy, but not the kind of candy I'd be snacking on more than once. My opinion: Meh.


  1. Wow, you know the food is expensive when they have FREE champagne in the bathroom. lol.

  2. I love the LES, but there's no reason the food or cocktails should cost that much. When prices get that high, it's clear you're paying for the ambiance and reputation of the spot rather than for great food and service. The food was good. The service was great. Still, I was hungry within an hour, and for $63, I should have been satisfied the entire night. That bathroom was badass. If I go back, I'd just hang out in the bathroom. LOL

  3. Was this the speakeasy you were talking about? Where's the secret knock and dark alley?

  4. No, we went there after this space. I wanted to write about it, but I feel like it defeats the purpose of it being a speakeasy if it was easy to find and just anyone could get in. It really didn't look like a bar or anything from the outside, but they were super strict about who they let in there. The cocktails were served out of teacups. It was a very chill place and it wasn't crowded. The only issue I have is paying $13 for a cocktail with ICE in a teacup. You're not getting much for you money. Well, honestly, it wasn't MY money but still. This crowd may roll a little too rich for my taste. Nice people, though.

  5. Just a cotton-pickin' minute here! Are you trying to tell me you won't tell me where it is bcuz you don't think I should be allowed in?

  6. You nut. Of course not! I don't want to write about it because I think it would be cool to keep it underground. If you want to go or want to know, I'd be more than happy to tell you off this blog. Be prepared to spend. (For the drinks, not the info.)