It was my birthday celebration and I wanted a very small party, just a few girlfriends for dinner and drinks. Not the unbelievable mess that I was last year, giving an "Irish Goodbye" by leaving the bar in the dead of winter with no coat and not telling anyone I was leaving. This year was great. Good food, cocktails, and my closest girlfriends in the city. I picked Beauty & Essex, a new small plates spot in the Lower East Side that just opened a week earlier by Chef Chris Santos.
The front of the restaurant was an old pawnshop so that's all you see when you arrive. You walk through the pawnshop front, go through a door, and then there's this beautiful three-story restaurant behind it. Let's be honest here... it's completely "sceney," so put on your fedora, skinny jeans, and high heels, and get ready to throw down for some yummy cocktails and pretty good food while being surrounded by a lot of damn good-looking people.
We shared a bunch of small plates and sipped on several cocktails since it was my birthday and all. We started out with whiskeys then switched to cocktails during dinner, and the occasional trip to the bathroom where they served Champagne. Yes, they serve Champagne in the bathroom. Could I have possibly picked a better place to celebrate my birthday then somewhere with free champers while you're touching up your lipstick?
My very dear friend Allison has a rule, "no Champagne and no gin" when she's out with Lou. Actually it's more of her fiancée's rule for her because he knows we like to party and usually end up causing a ruckus. So what does she order? The Sapphire seventy-five with blueberry-brown sugar, Bombay Sapphire, bison Prosecco, and Thomaso's sour mix. I had a little of everything including the golden peacock with cucumber hangar one, and junmai sake, granny smith apple, pineapple, and mint. Jamie, my old roommate and partner in crime for the last few years, had a cocktail called The Masterly Touch with Grey Goose, lemon-thyme nectar, and Campari pearls, then continued to call it the "Motherly Touch" even when the waiter corrected her every time.
Our food ranged from a variety of small bites and shareable plates like the classic pan con tomate, Kobe beef carpaccio with wasabi, egg yolk, crunchy wontons, and sesame nori, the Crispy Spring Rolls banh-mi style with char-sui roasted pork, cilantro, and sriracha aioli for dipping. Finally, we had the Lobster Bisque Dumplings with lemongrass, coconut milk, and Thai aromatics. My only complaint was that when we ordered the charred shishito peppers, which have always been my favorite since my travels in Spain, the waiter prefaced the order with the cheesiest comment of all.
He was trying to sell us on the shishito peppers (while I needed no selling whatsoever), he explained that a few years ago edamame was the trendy food to eat. Now that we're in the newest trendy restaurant we might as well get the hottest new food, the charred shishito peppers. I almost puked in my mouth after hearing his corny Sex and the City feeling pitch on the peeps, but I admit we ordered them anyway.
The restaurant was lots of fun, very crowded, and a little trendier than my regular spot, but if you're willing to throw down a little cash you'll be happy to get the experience of sharing with your friends and getting buzzed off of the free champers in the loo. Don't forget to tip your bathroom bartender.