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The Beagle - loved it!

loratliff Jun 4, 2011 04:45 PM

Had a really super dinner at The Beagle last night. Review below. Full review and pics at: http://smithratliff.com/2011/06/04/a-...

few weeks ago, we read about The Beagle, a new restaurant in the East Village.

The menu and concept (is it a restaurant with great cocktails or a cocktail bar with good food?) were immediately appealing to us, but we were especially intrigued when we learned that The Beagle’s owner, Matt Piacentini, is the co-owner of Clyde Common, the restaurant in Portland, Oregon’s Ace Hotel.

dditionally, The Beagle’s chef, Garrett Eagleton, has worked at Portland favorites Le Pigeon and Lincoln. (And he’s also a Texan, so we automatically love him.

)

We love the Ace and Portland has been on our trip radar for awhile now, so we headed over to The Beagle to see what we have to look forward to when we make it out West again.

The space is really well-done, without feeling precious or overly kitschy like so many new restaurants in the city are. The walls are a deep, lush blue, paired with crisp white paneling and European-styled light fixtures and dining tables. The Beagle is small, but not at all cramped—in fact, it’s one of the few restaurants of its kind where you could easily take more than four people.

Since they really tout their cocktails, we spent entirely too much time poring over their very thorough and creative drink menu.

We eventually settled, but it wasn’t without great debate. Ryan got the Queimada Swizzle—a take on our favorite, the Queen’s Park Swizzle—made with Rhum Agricole, lime juice, orgeat and pineapple, and I had the Daisy de Santiago, a refreshing, tart blend of white rum, lime juice, yellow Chartreuse, and chilled seltzer (served from one of those great antique bottles).

final drink, the Prince of Wales, combined rye whiskey, maraschino liqueur, champagne, pineapple and angostura bitters.

While the drinks themselves hinted at the impending summer, the blue-and-white striped paper straws gave me an immediate rush of sandy beaches, salty hair, and scorching sun.

Our first “tidbit” plate continued my summer flashback: mini-corns, skewered, and slathered with mayonnaise, lime and cilantro. There isn’t too much to say about that plate, because, really, what could possibly be wrong with that combination?

The next dish was equally successful. Bitter radicchio came together with rich blue cheese, thick-cut bacon, briny Castelvetrano olives and the nutty crunch of farro.

We shared another small plate—the squid. The tender squid packed a punch, as they were served with green chilies and prosciutto, atop a bed of crisp frisee. Squid is one of those things that is so easily overcooked, so it’s always nice when it melts in your mouth.

My favorite course of the evening (Ryan’s, too!) was the confit pork cheek, a large plate that we also shared. The pork cheek was served with braised pork belly, applesauce and a pork reduction.

The cheek was beyond juicy and fork-tender—it’s easily one of the top five best things I’ve eaten this year. The pork reduction was tangy and the applesauce mellowed everything out with its mild sweetness.

I’ve also neglected to mention the broccolini it was served with. I’ve been enjoying the beautiful yellow-budded broccolini at the greenmarket recently and The Beagle did it full justice—the tops and stalks were crisp and the yellow flowers added some great floral notes.

For dessert, we shared the chocolate custard with grapefruit and crispy cornflakes. This was also fantastic—the grapefruit was fresh and tart, the cornflakes were indeed crispy, and the chocolate was rich without being too sweet. It was almost like eating a chilled ganache, which I’ve admittedly done in my own kitchen on more than one occasion.

The Beagle impressed us every level—our server was attentive and friendly, the space feels excellent and the food matches up.

-----
The Beagle
162 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

  1. Windy Jun 4, 2011 10:26 PM

    Great writeup, thanks. This was on my list, but I hadn't realized the connection to Clyde Common, which makes it a must.

    1. k
      kathryn Jun 5, 2011 09:23 AM

      Sounds great, thanks for the report!

      1. e
        ExFlexitarian Jun 5, 2011 09:38 AM

        Perhaps I should have ordered more carefully, but I found the food there to be very ambitious, but lacking in execution. I thought the crab salad w/endive was overpowered by the bottarga - maybe they should have just listed it as "Bottarga salad".

        The pairing board concept is cute, but it doesn't work. I had the pig head pairing - and while the pig head itself was lovely, if it was meant to be eaten with the shot of rum, it doesn't work, as the rum just kills the palate. I wish they had the option of removing the shot of booze and knock the price down a few dollars.

        The main course of mackerel was well cooked and seasoned, but I was a bit disappointed by the amount of fish that they served. Mackerel is such an insanely cheap fish, but they were stingy with the portions.

        It's a cute spot with a good pedigree in the kitchen - i'll definitely be back, and use your review to order better.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ExFlexitarian
          Windy Jun 5, 2011 10:36 AM

          Your description describes perfectly why wine and beer are more common and arguably better pairings for food than cocktails.

          Make sense to me that the most successful pairs would be hearty/fatty meats, which can hold up to the high alcohol.

          1. re: ExFlexitarian
            s
            Simon Jun 5, 2011 02:31 PM

            the word of mouth on this place is intriguing, but the menu looks excessively gimmicky to me...and while i like pork as much as the next person, it seems like almost every dish has some pork in it...

            1. re: ExFlexitarian
              loratliff Jun 5, 2011 09:03 PM

              We knew right away that the pairing boards weren't the way to go, hence why we didn't order one. Cute concept, but I guess my spirit knowledge/tasting experience tipped me off right away that it wouldn't execute well.

              As far as the mackerel, did you order that as a main or did you share it? I always read "large plates" to mean a plate bigger than a small plate, but still should be shared. I agree that even our pork cheeks would be a small entree for just one person, but we were very happy sharing two small plates and one large.

              1. re: loratliff
                e
                ExFlexitarian Jun 6, 2011 04:15 AM

                shared it - but still felt jipped. The pairing boards are a shame because a lot of tasty looking stuff (pig head, lamb neck, etc) are on that. We thought about asking them if we could order just the proteins w/out the spirits (we were drinking cocktails anyway), but thought it might come off as cheap and unreasonable.

                O well

            2. s
              sam1 Jun 16, 2011 07:37 PM

              just got back from the beagle after reading the fantastic serious eats review this week.

              the place is one big meh. there are so many issues with this place that i dont know where to begin. the wall that seperates both rooms makes one feel like a party is going on at the bar and you arent invited. the waitstaff were completely messy with 2 servers asking us for orders and several bumbling our dishes up. what bothered me most was that the food and drink menu are thorough yet you dont get the sense that the waitresses are well-versed in food nor alcohol.

              i dont drink mixed drinks so i couldnt order any of the pairings. it wouldve been nice to have a substitution for scotch or mezcal but they didnt budge. the quail appetizer was salty in a good way but ultimately not memorable. same for the beet salad and the mediocre clams and mussels. i was under the impression that there were slivers of lardo with the mussels but it tasted to me like 3 mussels and 3 clams on a plate with a decent broth.

              we split the chicken entree to finish our meal. it took awhile but we were warned. it was okay but i expected more. moist chicken leg and breast pressed together. very salty and peppery brine reminded me of lipton onion soup as a child.

              this place wants to be anchor and hope in london or joe beef in montreal...it comes up way short. the portion sizes are dainty and everything is off.

              1. l
                leda Jun 25, 2011 03:43 PM

                Weird and disappointing. We went for the food rather than the drinks. But the only reason I’d go back would be to sit at the bar—The El Guero is a great summer cocktail. Maybe. The split personality in The Beagle advertising points to a real problem. They can’t decide if they have “a superb classic cocktail bar with fantastic food, or a superb restaurant with a fantastic cocktail program” and both ambitions suffer.

                Some food was very good (baby corn in a yummy mayonnaise, crisp and tender quail, pressed pig head—a fine example of charcuterie, lamb neck). Some food was mediocre (greasy roast pork shoulder, chicken soaked in salt). Small portion size is a serious problem, made worse by menu categories that make it hard to know if one is assembling a meal. What’s the difference between a “large plate;” a “paring board;” a “small plate” and a tidbit” ? Answer: small, smaller, smaller still and smallest.

                We were put off by the diffident service. Not much eye contact or interest in our needs beyond refilling our water bottle frequently. Two of us got drinks right away, two had to wait and wait, watching tables seated later get drinks and then food. After our glasses were empty, the waiter never asked if we wanted refills, or anything else. Our plates came in random order.

                A better companion to the complex cocktails would be simple nibbles. While The Beagle says their cocktail “program” is “academic, historical, and pre-prohibition in style and technique” we found the experience too-fussy, not fussy-enough and pretentious overall.

                1. r
                  RCC Jun 25, 2011 04:26 PM

                  This was on the radar and your report helps move it up the priority list.

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