Thursday, November 20, 2014


My Beautique will not be your Beautique.  But in true follow-the-chef fashion, a tasting menu (some courses which are featured on the menu currently, and some which soon may be) from Chef Carlos Letona brilliantly displayed the level to which this guy can cook.
 Which is like, Abdul-Jabaar high.  The restaurant has received press all about its sceney celeb magnetism, but the food can go much further than that, given the chance.  It may not always come through~ I feel that there could be the chance for a little elitist hierarchy here, but come in deference to the kitchen, and I guarantee she'll put out.

In fact, it makes me wonder how long Letona will last there.  Beautique seems to want to cater to the beautiful ones, more of a clubby scene than a culinary one.  It is fun, the soundtrack is deejay-worthy,  and the room is flashily decorated.  But what I ate from my little corner of the long, sleek bar was what excited me.  I'll focus on the dishes that are currently on the menu, although I have to say, for one, I hope the little truffled porcini cracker might eventually see the light of day.  It was ethereal.  Many dishes belie Letona's pedigree of Atera and Per Se: there is a delicate and whimsical quality in his
 food, from unexpected ingredient pairings to trompe l'oeil plating.  A roasted carrot salad, however, was pretty straightforward, although none the less delicious for it.  I don't eat a lot of carrots; they turn me yellow.  So indulging in these was even more of a treat, their rustic skins just scrubbed and not peeled, relieving them of that sterile, "baby carrot" convention and bringing them back to earth.  A flutter of edible yellow petals, tiny round fruits like miniature Cape gooseberries, golden toasted almonds made for a study in warm ochre tones against the rough textured earthenware plate.  A touch of spicy harissa amped up the flavor profile, balanced with the cool tang of a mild sheep's milk yogurt.
Quinoa and hazelnut pilaf, pre-warm cauliflower soup
  Vegetables get the spotlight a lot here, another dish featuring a warm puree of cauliflower nuzzled around a mound quinoa, its nuttiness compounded with toasted hazelnuts, all of it prettified with more colorful petals.  Tiny shards of green apple added brightness and crunch.    I also tried an off-the-menu beet dish, pooled in a savory broth and eyed enviously by a nearby diner... so much so that he ordered it as well.  If the kitchen is listening, is may soon make it onto the regular menu.  Bitter, peppery nasturtium leaves countered the sweetness of the beets, adding bite to the umami-rich broth.

 Another dish that may soon be added was my favorite of the night (as well as the striking, striped glass dish upon which it was served): an impossibly tender, sweet langoustine spritzed with toasted grains of quinoa which added a delicate, nutty crunch.  A vanilla scented broth was poured tableside (they do like the pomp of a tableside presentation), creating a subtly luxurious dish which lasted only a few bites, but made an enormous impression.   Speaking of enormous, a wild mushroom risotto should also be added to the menu... it would become the truffled mac 'n cheese of The Waverly
Inn, that super, over-hyped, gluttonously indulgent splurge that they would not dare to take off the menu, for fear of rioting.  This risotto is better, so rife with whole mushrooms and rich with truffle flavor and aroma so as to be just this side of nauseating... precisely the side on which you want to be.  And no, it wouldn't probably come with quite as many fat slices of truffle as this one, but Beautique does err on the side of opulence.  On the other hand, you would receive
 more than the one bronzed scallops shown here for an entree portion.  Anointed with a foamed-out vibrant yellow chorizo dashi, the fat scallop was perfectly seared and sweet, various brassicas tossed in for diversity's sake:  a charred broccoli floret, a few raw brussels sprouts leaves cupping the savory sauce.   Another winning entree is a steamed filet of halibut, scented with lemon balm and an intrinsically "green" tasting sorrel puree, daubed in lines and dots across the rough, black plate, again adorned with what was become a small florist's shop worth of edible petals.  Still, they are pretty.

And the list goes on, but I finished with a simple composition of dulce de leche cremeux, two dense custards of thick Mexican caramel plated with a smooth, pure tasting milk ice cream dusted playfully with a crumble of Oreo cookies.  Beautique doesn't take itself so seriously so as to turn up its nose at the use of America's favorite cookie in one if its still frou-frou desserts.  That's the boutique in Beautique, and the beauty of a place like this, that can balance the scene right along with the cuisine.

8 West 58th Street
tel. (212)753-1200

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