There is nothing that the cutlery trio love more than Restaurant Week! Our waistlines may not, but our tummies and taste buds sure do!
Our dear friend Absinthe Spoon was celebrating a birthday and we decided to try Waldy Malouf’s Beacon Restaurant & Bar. For those of you who don’t know Waldy Malouf, he is the one responsible for earning the Rainbow Room it’s New York Times’ 3 star rating. He has brought that special touch to Beacon Restaurant where open fire and wood fire cuisine is the specialty.
Beacon is located in Midtown, just off the beaten path of some of New York’s finest shops and is surrounded by midtown hotels.
We don’t have an outside photo at this time as the front of the Beacon is wrapped in scaffolding. But when walking into the Beacon, one walks into a beautiful Art Deco dinging room. The hosts could smile more or try to be more engaging.
There are two separate seating areas in the restaurant. One on street level, and one towards the back and down a short flight of stairs. The pit,as we were told it is referred to, is right in front of the kitchen and from certain tables you can watch the chefs working away. We were sitting in a wonderful half circle banquet off to the side. But even from this vantage point you can here the clatter and chatter from this section of the kitchen. There is also a new burger and sandwich bar which puts you right in the middle of the action. You are sitting within 4 feet of the executive chef and the wood burning ovens.
Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu and quickly offered his opinions and was informative about the entire menu. My only small thing against this fellow was WINKING. He winked at everything.
While we were looking over the menu we ordered iced tea – bottomless and freshly made – and our server, Brent, brought over a complimentary amuse-bouche for the table. Three small triangles of delicious fire grilled pizza. A wonderful way to start our celebration.
The choice of starters wasn’t very varied. There was a salad or a salad or a soup. Sadly for our followers, we all chose the Arugula & Warm Potato Salad with Parmesan. What arrived was a small mountain of arugula, covered with shavings of parmesan, and – not mentioned in the description – potato chips. We sort of looked from one to the other trying to figure out if this scattering of potato chips were the warm potatoes described in the menu. But once you dug into the arugula, you realized that there were a few (and I do mean a few) half-dollar sized warm potatoes buried there. I must say, the dressing on the potatoes was wonderful, but the Fork is a sucker for potatoes with vinegar, but the three of us would have gladly traded some of out arugula for more potatoes – three half-dollar sized potatoes was not in any proportion to the mound of arugula.
Because the three of us love artichokes so, we couldn’t help but order the Wood Roasted Artichokewith Gremolata. It was a beautiful appetizer. The artichoke was huge! The artichoke could have been blanched a bit longer before it was roasted. It was seriously tough. The gremolata on top of the heart should be called anything but. Gremolata is classically finely chopped garlic, parsley and lemon zest. The ingredients were there, but the garlic cloves were whole, and when you aren’t expecting them it’s a bit off-putting. This certainly didn’t warrant a $14 price tag.
For our mains, Spoon and Absinthe Spoon both ordered (it must be a spoon thing) Spit Roasted Ten Herb Chicken with Panzanella Salad. What arrived was a half a roasted chicken. The portion was substantial. The chicken very moist and tender. The injection of herbs to the chicken was fantastic and very tasty. Great dish. Wait, did I forget to mention the panzanella salad? The parsely leaf, half of a grape tomato and 5 BOXED croutons hidden underneath this beautiful chicken? What was the point of that? That isn’t enough of anything to consider it part of anything!
The Fork on the other hand ordered Grilled Sirloin Steak with a Red Wine Reduction. There was a supplement for this dish, but in the end it was well worth it. Substantial piece of steak perfectly grilled, perfectly seasoned. It was tender and juicy. This beautifully prepared steak sat on top of (are you sensing a theme here) a little surprise of chopped chives, asparagus and other little bits of greenery that I couldn’t identify but were equally delicious. There was also some watercress on the plate for show. The wine reduction was such a perfect complement to the steak.
Brent had told us that the dishes didn’t really come with any sides (especially panzanella salad!) so we naturally had to try some of their very varied assortment of side dishes.
Brent recommended the Anson Mills Cheese Polenta. To the table arrived this tiny (perhaps a cup in volume) cast iron, covered, casserole pot. Inside was delicious, steaming hot, cheesey polenta. Perfectly cooked and delicious. Enough for a spoonful or so each. Certainly worth it.
Roasted Asparagus was our other side dish. NO. You can’t call something roasted unless you actually roast it! These were not roasted. These were not good. They were mushy and tasteless. Very disappointing. This, like the “panzanella salad” had, perhaps, one grape tomato sliced in half. Has there been a run on tomatoes that we don’t know about?
So, on to dessert! One of the nicest things about Restaurant Week is that dessert is included.
Spoon and I each ordered the Cheesecake with Mango Salsa. Something inside of me kept saying ‘Get the chocolate cake! Get the chocolate cake!’ Did I listen? NO! AM I sorry? Oh, yes! Cheesecake is cheesecake, but this promised to have a toasted coconut crust. Nope. Didn’t taste any coconut. Not a shred. And what was worse than the average cheesecake was the mango salsa. I should let the photo speak for itself…..but all I could think of was baby spitup. Enough said.
Absinthe Spoon ordered the Chocolate Souffle after much praise from our server. Sneaky Spoon let our him know that we were celebrating Absinthe Spoon’s birthday. So when when the souffle arrived there was a candle and Happy Birthday written across the plate in chocolate. Very sweet thing to do! The souffle was very sweet. Sadly it was not cooked long enough so it wasn’t set enough. We all agreed that a souffle needs a bit of a crust on top and lining the ramekin. A little more time in the oven would have accomplished that.
All in all, this meal wasn’t terrible, or even bad, it just wasn’t great or something to be repeated.
Waldy Malouf does have two cookbooks, one called High Heat which is a grilling and roating cookbook; and the other the Hudson River Valley Cookbook which celebrates the ingredients indigenous to the New York Hudson Valley.
Beacon Restaurant & Bar . 25 West 56th Street, NYC, NY . 212.332.0500