Step inside Beauty & Essex and your initial reaction might involve a dash of self-doubt. A postage stamp-sized, pawn shop-themed retail spot acts as a front for the restaurant, offering no hint of what lies beyond an unmarked door.
Fortunately the reveal is a knockout. There’s a sexy interior literally draped in bling (walls are made up of necklaces swinging from gilded frames), equally stunning servers and—most importantly—a creative and well-executed menu to match.
The restaurant is an import from New York City, and its chef, Chris Santos, offers guests the same approachable-yet-globally inspired comfort food served at the original location. To start, there are playful tomato soup dumplings ($18). They’re served on Chinese spoons and wrapped like shumai, but with a grilled cheese and bacon filling, the flavors are pure Americana. From a “Jewels on Toast” menu, we sampled Maine lobster rolls ($19)—three precious, finger-sized bites of chilled claw meat tossed with a confetti of crisp vegetables and tarragon.
Fans of red sauce cuisine might initially sneer at a deconstructed garganelli ($22.) The bowl of pasta arrives with an artful (or pretentious, depending on your perspective) arrangement of chili flakes and cheese on the side. But a hearty ladleful of lamb Bolognese and a rich whipped ricotta topping will remind you of nonna at first bite. Slightly less impressive is the pressed jerk-spiced chicken ($27.) The meat is juicy, and a bed of polenta is creamy as promised, but it could use a little more Caribbean kick. A luscious peanut butter pie sundae ($14) has just the right texture, and crunchy bits of crushed pretzels add a welcome hit of salt with each bite.
Beauty & Essex replaces the former French bistro Comme Ça, but both share a similar spirit. It’s a pretty place for pretty people to nibble and sip—a perfect fit for the Cosmopolitan.
Beauty & Essex The Cosmopolitan, 702-737-0707. Daily, 5 p.m.-1 a.m.