Bestia - review
Short version: underwhelmed, but not horribly so. I'm not dying to return, but I'm glad I gave it a try.
Long version: Arrived at 7:45 for my Wednesday night reservation. Was warmly greeted by the hostess and promptly seated.
Our waitress approached the table shortly after and started explaining the menu. House filtered still or sparkling was $1/pp with the proceeds going to a charity I couldn't hear. Why, you ask? The noise level of the packed house was DEAFENING.
What she then proceeded to explain, which I did hear, but wish I didn't, was that the order must be placed in full - with no exceptions. I thought this was an interesting rule.
Maybe I'm getting old :-) but the other thing I noted were the small-ish chairs. I didn't find them overly uncomfortable, but by the end of the evening, my dining companion couldn't WAIT to leave because his rear hurt from the hard chairs.
Wine List - I wanted a bold red by the glass. I was surprised to learn there were only 4 reds by the glass and was informed that only one had any body to it. (Sorry, can't remember what it was).
On to the food:
We ordered 5 starter plates to share and the waitress informed us it wouldn't be enough food, so we added a 6th. Truth is, we would have been more than fine with the 5 - and barely touched the last dish that came out.
OLIVES - not on the menu, pitted, and a nice variety. They were a lovely accompaniment to the meal and had a delicious spiced oil.
OCTOPUS - very good. Nicely sized pieces and plenty to share. Served on a bed of greens.
CHICKEN GIZZARDS - this was my favorite dish, if only because it was gizzards. It was my first time seeing gizzards on a menu and I enjoyed every bite. My dining companion did not share the gizzard love, which just meant more for me. It was accompanied by red beets and endive, which I thought were a perfect complement.
SCALLOP CRUDO - this had interesting texture but was over-seasoned for my taste and neither of us cared for the dish.
BONE MARROW - I was highly anticipating this dish, but it was my least favorite of the bunch. It came out very hot, which was nice, but other than the presentation (a bone split in two), it fell flat. The bone was very shallow and there wasn't much marrow (and I had the bigger of the two pieces). However, the accompanying spaetzle-like pasta was delicious.
MUSSELS - this was the last dish to arrive and the one we barely touched. The broth was tasty, and mussels were well-cooked, but the standout of the dish were the 3 pieces of toasted bread that came with it - amazing bread!
We wanted to try dessert - but, with very long lulls between the time we asked for menus, were given menus, to the time to place the order, we were over it and just wanted the check (which also took a long time).
Dinner was about 2.5 hours. Pacing of the courses seemed off. The first 4 came out in good timing - and then there was a long lull. So much so, we inquired if they had forgotten the other dishes. We weren't in a rush, so it wasn't a big deal, but it would have been nice to have received food in a more orderly manner - especially with their 'order all at once' rule.
All in all - it was an "ok"' meal. I think my high expectations messed with my experience, because I had high hopes I'd love it (as much as recent dinners at Sotto and Craft). But, it was just ok, in my book - even with their inventive and creative menu. Nothing horribly wrong, but nothing so amazing I'd be clamoring to return. Add our MIA waitress and high noise level... and that's the end of that story. I will note that the bussing staff was on the top of their game. Highly efficient at clearing plates and replacing utensils and plates. I also appreciated them asking if we were done with a dish before clearing the plate.
The bill: $145 pre-tip: 6 'small' plates, 2 beers ($8/each), 3 glasses of wine ($39/total).
My opinion after two visits. Very good bartending. Pretty good food. Similar in feel to Gjelina, but not as good. For downtown Italian, inferior to Drago Centro (but Bestia isn't really Italian). Populated with scenesters. Still, in the top ten best restaurants downtown.
I agree with Oracle and aventinus.
Definitely seems to be more "hipster" than anything. Food was mediocre overall; Drago Centro is far better.
It was also really loud when we went a couple months ago. Overall, we all felt the food was "~Ok" but nothing to make us want to go back (not something you *crave*).
Glad you enjoyed the food, but sorry you didn't dig the atmosphere.
Is Bestia noisy? Absolutely.
But, I've never been told I must order everything outright. Any time I've been, I've ordered 2-3 plates at a time, and have made numerous other orders when finished with the first round of plates.
The cavatelli with sausage and truffles is my 'go-to' here. Totally crave worthy.
If you do ever make it back, I hope you have a better experience.
Went tonight based on your recs. This place is literally harder to get a reservation than Gjelina. Called for a reservation in 2 weeks on a Sunday, nothing. Booked Gjelina instead.
So we opted for walk-in tonight. They had suggested we walk in 15 minutes prior to open to grab a counter seat or a seat at one of their small tables near the bar. Got there at 530 and ended up being the first ones there, but were told that the small tables by the counter were first come first serve (why do you think we're here first I thought) and that we would have to come back to get them when they opened. They were technically not yet open and didn't have a waitlist. So we walked back outside and waited 15 minutes then walked back inside to get the table. By then a line had formed behind us.
Service and food more than made up for the unaccomodating hostess though. We were also told to place our entire order up front since they were very particular about their pasta.
Beef tongue with lentils, chile, red vinegar, and salsa verde. 3 large slabs of very tender braised tongue then seared for a nice textural contrast. Excellent.
Pici alla Vaccinara. Great irregular texture to the pasta. Oxtail was rich and delicious and the tomato sauce bright. Outrageously good.
Spaghetti Rustichella with sea urchin, chile, squid ink bottarga. My personal favorite. I had read it as squid ink, bottarga but when the dish came I noticed it was "squid ink bottarga". There were black flecks in the pasta which I assume is the dried, grated squid ink. A wonderful dish. The mineral sweetness is everything you'd want to see in a seafood pasta.
Cavatelli alla Norcina with sausage and black truffles. The truffle smell was a bit overpowering for me. Probably enhanced by truffle oil. The sausage was very delicious though. A good dish but bested by the other 2 tonight.
Margherita pizza. My sister said it was not nearly as good as Sotto's version. I had to try anyways. She was right. Someone had asked if I had ever come across a Neapolitan pie that was too wet for my tastes. This would be one of them. The cornicione also seemed a bit undercooked and gummy. The only weak link tonight.
Veal and pork rib, pork sausage and braised cabbage and swiss chard. A wonderful rich and hearty dish. The sausage was again amazing. Great coarse ground meat with plenty of fat and flavor.
"Coffee and donuts" chestnut zeppole with whipped cream and coffee gelato. Very ballsy to mimic the name of Thomas Kellar's famous dessert but it lived up to it's name. The zeppole was very light and airy and the coffee gelato was perfect.
I would come back here and double down on the pastas...if I could ever get a reservation that is.
Thanks for the writeup. But unlike your experience, I haven't had a recent meal in LA that blew me away more than Bestia. I went in with high expectations because of all the stellar recommendations I was getting and they still managed to blow me away. The spot prawns took me back to southern italy and was seasoned perfectly. The pastas were out of the box and delicious. The wines were interesting and not something you see on every other wine list in the city. I even loved the openness and rawness of the space. I can't wait to return!
Thanks for the review. Your experience with the marrow mirrors my recent dinner at the Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney. Same small amount of marrow and the dish fell flat for me. I hate small chairs as they end up cutting off the blood flow to my legs. Killer uncomfortable for that amount of time. And DEAFENING noise. Oh, yeah...I can do without.