Beauty & Essex Las Vegas has been a long time coming. The original New York City restaurant opened in December 2010, the same time the Cosmopolitan debuted on the Strip. Tao Group, which also operates Marquee nightclub at the Cosmo, has been in discussions with the hip hotel about bringing B&E to the property for practically as long as they’ve both been around.
And now it’s happening. Beauty & Essex opens mid-May on Cosmo’s third floor, in the space formerly occupied by Comme Ça. “I love this hotel. I love the vibe, I love gambling here, I love the layout,” says chef/owner Chris Santos, who has partnered with Tao Group on the project. “I always thought Beauty & Essex would be perfect for this hotel long before we were pursuing it, so this is pretty cool.”
You know what else is cool? Santos’ food. The B&E Vegas menu is designed for large, party-ready groups who like to pass plates around the table. Santos, known for his TV stint as a judge on Chopped but more significantly for leading a restaurant revolution on New York’s Lower East Side, cooks what he likes to eat. “The most important things when it comes to my food are that it’s whimsical, it’s something our guests haven’t experienced before, and also how we maintain high quality with the volume we do.”
After an exclusive early tasting of several dishes, it’s clear that fun is the flavor. While sipping the Emerald Gimlet with its fresh kiss of basil, I sampled the tomato tartare, a fabulously meatless bite topped with a quail egg and mounted on a parmesan crostini. (There’s a more classic, hand-cut steak tartare, too, on a mustard and chive sticky rice cake.)
Our Beauty & Essex has several dishes exclusive to Las Vegas, including the Caesar, the Greek and the “Lobster Roll” from the “Jewels on Toast” portion of the menu, along with a fantastic spin on Niçoise-style tuna, smoked, pepper-crusted and seared fish with a sweet pea aioli and waxbean, olive and tomato salad. Santos has also added a few favorites from his other restaurant, the Stanton Social, including chicken arepas and French onion soup dumplings, plus a handful of traditional-sized entrées like a burger, steaks and pastas such as the addictive spaghettini swimming in parsley pesto with lemon, parmigiano and sunny-side-up egg.
Save room for a few spoonfuls of the Black Bottom Butterscotch Pot de Créme. Trust me.
The Vegas-loving, fast-rising chef Santos and his food seem like ideal fits at the Cosmopolitan, which made a splash on the Strip with its original group of restaurants and will add Momofuku, Zuma and Eggslut after Beauty & Essex. “Now we are moving that needle again,” Santos said. “There’ll be buzz here because of us and buzz here because of David Chang and [others]. It’s great for the hotel and great for us.”