Beets are one of those controversial foods that people either love or love to hate. I am of the former opinion (throw some goat cheese in there with some diced beets and I'm a happy lady), and hence was very excited when I was invited to try the recently opened Beet Restaurant on the Upper East Side last night. The large corner space is beautiful and open, with large banquettes and plenty of windows to observe passersby. The restaurant is named as such because the owners hail from Australia, where beetroot is essentially ingrained in the cuisine (try ordering a burger down under without beetroot and you'll get funny looks).
|Photo Courtesy of Beet|
My guest and I decided to go on a Wednesday night because they have live jazz from 7-10 (also Sundays from 6-9), and you all know about my new-found affinity with jazz. Beet also serves oysters on Wednesdays and Sundays so we opted to start off our meal with an assorted platter of Blue Point, Wellfleet and Montauk Pearl bivalves ($21 for 12), which were served on ice with migionette, tartare, and cocktail sauces. The oysters were super fresh, and though I don't recall which varietal I liked better, some were ABSOLUTELY GINORMOUS (and frankly intimidated me), so I stuck to the more manageable sized ones. These suckers paired perfectly with our Champagne ($18 a glass).
Although the menu encompasses a wide variety of flavors, influenced most specifically on French, Italian, and Morroccan flavors, according to Chef Hassan Belamine, who sat with us and introduced the menu before we ate, you will see a lot of more familiar items on the menu as well. As another starter, we opted for one of those more familiar items because, well, how can you resist lobster mac 'n' cheese? As for Beet's version ($14), first of all, it's pretty gigantic (do you sense a theme yet?), like entree-size portion-wise. One thing I really liked was that they use large, recognizable pieces of lobster--my guest pulled out a whole intact claw. However, we both noticed a few bits of shell in our dish, which I hope was just a one-off mistake, but do with that information as you will. The elbow pasta was tossed with ooey-gooey white cheddar and topped with breadcrumbs for a bit of a crunch.
|Lobster Mac 'n' Chese ($14)|
Before we transitioned to entrees, I perused the wine list, which Olivier the general manager told me will soon be expanded, and ordered a glass of the Malbec from Argentina ($12). It paired very nicely with my Duo of Lamb dish ($28). I need to preface the discussion of entrees by explaining once again that the portions are exceedingly large at Beet, so keep that in mind when you see the prices. So, my decision to order the lamb was based solely on the fact that I never cook lamb so it was about darn time I had some (I was also contemplating the Branzino special for the night). My plate came with 4 lamb chops and a good size lamb shank, as well as hazelnut cous cous, vegetables, eggplant grape mustarda, and some sort of foam. The meat was cooked perfectly medium rare, and I really enjoyed the cous cous. Not being a huge eggplant fan, I wasn't so into the mustarda, though I did like the rest of the vegetables. Though the plate was a little scattered presentation-wise, everything tasted very delicious and it would definitely be at least 2 meals for me.
|Duo of Lamb ($28)|
My guest told me he has a certain test for restaurants; typically I'll order the chicken if I feel like really testing a new restaurant because no one ever orders the chicken and it's really easy to mess up chicken. But my guest is Italian and loves his gnocchi so he ordered the Gnocchi with Baby Vegetables ($18) served in a sage butter broth and topped with shaved Parmesan. While I think he enjoyed his food, we both likened the gnocchi to little mashed potato balls, as they could have been a bit firmer, but the flavor was excellent and the veggies were fresh. This dish was also fairly large and didn't get finished.
|Gnocchi with Baby Vegetables ($18)|
For dessert we decided on the chocolate mousse which was served with two ladyfingers and strawberry whipped cream in a large (you surprised?) martini glass. I really liked this dessert and found it even more enjoyable when I sipped the remainder of my Malbec in between bites.
Final comments, though we both had an overall pleasant experience, I left a little confused about what kind of restaurant Beet wants to be and I think they need to figure that out a little bit more for them to be super-successful (the restaurant was mainly empty throughout our meal, and none of our dishes actually had beets as an ingredient). I also think it doesn't quite fit in with the more casual and cheaper restaurant options that line 2nd Avenue in the 80s, but that doesn't mean that a nicer place can't find it's niche. If you have a hankering for oysters and jazz, I'd highly recommend a visit to been on a Wednesday or Sunday evening and you won't be disappointed. Tuesday nights are also half-price wine bottle nights.