When I was asked to visit Bea I was extremely curious and excited all at once. First by the restaurant's unique and unusual name and second by a quick search of their website. I couldn't put my finger on the feel or cuisine by just glancing over the menu, so I was even more inquisitive to check out this new Hell's Kitchen hotspot.
As we began to approach the outside door of Bea I noticed how industrial and old-timey the feel of this place was. As we entered the restaurant, an extremely tall gentleman welcomed us in a top hat and brown plaid suit, who instantly reminded me of Chalky White from the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire. He took our coats and escorted us to our table. Banquet tables and booths were set up in the front of the restaurant for a more intimate feel while the back room captured a much more laid back take on the space. A main bar was set up in the center of the room, with smaller tables set up back and old black and white films played on the brick walls. To the left was a breathtaking sky-lit courtyard and a 37-year-old tree directly in the center. It was the perfect setup for a romantic garden feel during summer evenings. The space has all original paintings from the owner, Sotir's own collection. The first thought that came to mind was that Bea was similar to a modern day speakeasy, but not, all at the same time. It was the perfect setting to escape the daily Manhattan bustle.
Sotir explained that Bea, was actually the name of his Romanian grandmother who raised him. Which is why many of the menu items consist of Romanian influences with a bit of Asian flair as well. Chef Anunya Clarke serves all of her dishes out of an old school window that reminded me of the walk up restaurants you would see on the boardwalk in Coney Island. When I asked Sotir what he would describe the cuisine as he basically answered with, "you tell me." With such an eclectic and wide spread menu, there is such a variety of pairings and new spins on traditional dishes that I haven't ever seen before.
The drink menu alone was as fancy as they come, but without being pretentious or overpriced. I spied the delicious sounding Gypsy Lord (Brugal aged rum, house pomegranate syrup, fresh lime juice and Angostura bitters, $14). My drink came out over shaved ice, which is made from a vintage hand-cranked grinder. The cocktail menu has a range of innovative yet simple drinks as well as wine, bottled and caned beers.
We then decided on ordering a bunch of small plates to try. With such a varied menu we knew we wanted to experience a little taste of everything. First up was the fillet pie (filet mignon, caramelized onions, ricotta, $14). This was tasty. Crispy crust, perfectly cooked filet and a hint of creaminess from the ricotta. Next up were the pork dumplings (ginger, scallion, micro cilantro, plum sauce $10). These were lightly pan fried and filled perfectly with just enough meat and seasoning. The plum sauce gave just the right hint of sweet to complement the spicy pork. Next came out the grilled shrimp toast (avocado, red onion, green tobasco, $9). These were so light and refreshing, with just the right amount of heat. We cut these into halves and shared amongst all of us.
Before we could put our forks down, another round of goodness approached our table. The green pasta (creamy spinach tagliatelle, marinated shrimp, $16) was so tasty and surprisingly light. The pasta was cooked just right, a little al dente, which is how I prefer it. We also shared a plate of the gnocco fritto (a display of fennel jam, olives, salumis and cheeses, $24). A meat and cheese board is one of my favorite starters when out to dinner. It pairs perfectly with wine and kicks off your palette for what's left to come. What I really enjoyed about Bea, was that everything on the menu was shareable, almost tapas like. From main courses to smaller dishes and pizzas to salads, everyone was satisfied. Dessert was one of my favorites, too. House made crepes filled with dark chocolate sauce, muddled fruits and a chocolate mousse filled with delicious tart berries.
I would not hesitate to go back to Bea for a few bites with friends or to taste every delicious cocktail on their menu. And did I mention Bea's mixologists are very easy on the eyes? Bea is a perfect spot to take a group of friends or just to mingle. The bar is welcoming and the servers all knowledgeable and friendly.
Bea: 403 W est 43rd St, New York, NY. Tel: 212.603.1910.