After much hype about Tao Group’s new restaurant, I had to go try it. Though in an area I rarely frequent, the Lower East Side, I felt Beauty and Essex merited a visit. Beauty and Essex has the same concept as the near by restaurant The Stanton Social, which is also owned by Tao Group. The menu is set up similarly to The Stanton Social’s meaning that it features small tapas style dishes and a few entrees. However, the entrees are also small portioned so its best to stick to the small plates and order about two to four of them for a complete meal. Beauty and Essex essentially looks like an upscale lounge more so than a restaurant. Aside from the neutral color dining room with a beautiful skylight, the decor mainly caters to women. To make women forget about the trip down two flights of stairs to go to the bathroom, there’s free champagne given out by the bathroom attendant. Unfortunately, men do not get to share that luxury at Beauty and Essex. The pink hued upstairs bar is located next to the small lounge with an ornate chandelier. However, you can not forget the entrance of Beauty and Essex which is through a faux pawn shop. I would say the restaurant is a hidden restaurant similar to that of La Esquina, but the huge lit up “Beauty and Essex” sign kind of gives it away.
Though the decor at Beauty and Essex is nice, the menu and execution of the food is where my visit took a turn for the worse. The menu itself is kind of all over the place and had both an Italian and heavy Asian influence with a bit of American mixed in there as well. The menu ranges from General Tso’s Monkfish to Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos to Parsnip Ravioli. The wine list is also poorly constructed and rather pricy. The cheapest wine is $46 and comes with a screw-top (as do most of the reasonably priced wines on the menu). If the menu had some recognizable and notably good wines, such as the $60 Channing Daughter’s Rose I had at The Lion, I would have gladly purchased that instead. Also, if I am going to a restaurant such as Beauty and Essex I would hope that any wine I ordered would at least have a cork (I don’t think I’m asking for too much). Usually the menu is explained before you order, like at The Stanton Social, but since there is a specific place for entrees, unlike when I visited The Stanton Social, I had assumed that the entrees would be a regular entree portion. Though I am used to small portions, after dining out in New York you begin to become accustomed to half a plate of pasta being passed of as a full portion, but at Beauty and Essex this was taken a bit too far. The Chicken Meatballs, apparently their most popular dish according to my waitress, consisted of three mushy chicken meatballs in a truffle based sauce with a scoop of heavy ricotta cream on top. The Garganelli (similar to Penne) in a bolognese sauce was overcooked and inedible. The setting of the table was also bizarre. Along with the Garganelli we got a giant salad serving fork (used for what you might ask, I still have no idea) and the salad fork was the same size as the dinner fork which is something I have never experienced at a restaurant.
Though the service and decor are good, the food is where Beauty and Essex fails. The menu is too scattered to really be good at one particular type of cuisine and the execution is awful as well. Given how “out of the way” Beauty and Essex is for me to begin with, I highly doubt I will be returning anytime soon.
Note: While the math adds up to about a 5, the food at Beauty and Essex was atrocious. It was so bad that not even the beauty of the restaurant itself can make up for it. I’d rather eat the stuff they sell in the pawn shop.