Billed as the restaurant where “Lower East Side grit meets Las Vegas Strip glam,” this restaurant appealed to me having lived in NYC for so many years. Beauty and Essex is a concept created by chef Chris Santos, whom most of us know from the Food Network show Chopped. And, unlike most of the heavy hitter chefs from NYC, Santos is not formally trained. There is something raw and fresh when you dine with a chef that has learned from the street and the world at large. I had big expectations and was hoping not to be let down.
We were staying at the Cosmopolitan Hotel so the walk to the third floor amongst the hustle and bustle of the casino was definitely full of spectacles since this hotel is particularly hip right now. You follow the brightly lit sign for Beauty and Essex and through the door you find……a pawn shop.
Like...a real pawn shop where you can actually buy old kitschy type stuff: Back Street boys bobble heads, used electric guitars, Elvis themed fake jewelry. The staff encourages you to browse and not rush through the experience for your reservation—even if you are arriving a bit fashionably late like we did. Everything is for sale. Some of it is hilarious.
Very cool concept. Very unique.
Once done, you go through another door to meet the hostess stand. There was no delay and we were taken immediately to a center table amongst the young glittery crowd. No views of the outside world from this place. It is super dark with lots of hidden corners. But, all you have to do is look around to know you are in Vegas Baby. Plenty of eye candy here to last you hours.
Now let me admit, I had read the reviews. I knew that it was going to be loud. But…as strange as this sounds…I didn’t realize it would be that loud. Because how loud could one restaurant really be, right? I don’t have trouble normally distinguishing foreground and background noise. Plus, I am an abnormally loud talker. I tend to like a restaurant that has a little noise going on so I can feel relaxed and have a good time without constantly checking myself to keep my volume down.
But this was…INSANE loud.
So when my server finally arrived I had to scream the allergy spiel. He surprisingly a) heard me & b) handed me a dedicated gluten free menu. I was thrilled (although no one could hear my cries of happiness!).
But...once I started looking at the gluten free menu, I realized there were several fried items.
I inquired about whether they had a dedicated fryer and I was told by the server (not the chef mind you) that if I was "Celiac or something" maybe I should stay away from the fried food on the gluten free menu.
Hmmm….stay away from items on the dedicated gluten free menu???? Isn't it a menu dedicated to food that is without gluten?
So now I’m thoroughly confused and scared for those of you who have to eat gluten free for medical reasons.
As I have stated before re: my Vegas trip, I did not have Kid Allergy with me. I can only relay what the servers told me about gluten safe dining. As I do not have an allergy, it remains a mystery whether or not the food was actually safely prepared sans gluten. And this particular dining establishment had me puzzled and made me somewhat skeptical.
But, in an effort to actually try something from that dedicated gluten free menu, I ordered the roasted rainbow carrots with green curry-coconut crema and toasted hemp seeds.
This is also one of those “encourage you to share” Vegas places. So, I also tasted some items not listed as gluten free that the other ladies in my dining party ordered: the empanadas, tuna poke wonton tacos and chicken meatballs.
Good news? My supposed gluten free item was hands down the best at the table. Everyone unanimously agreed. The helping was huge even though it is listed as an accessory, and the sauce was absolutely divine. It was so flavorful and unique that dish made my night. I spent years as a vegetarian and I don't think until now I have ever really felt like a plate of carrots constituted a meal--so way to go chef Santos!
Child friendly? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
I honestly think that every person in the restaurant had on sequins but the ladies sitting with me at my table. This is not the little black dress kinda place ladies—go big and go loud—and go in as little amount of cloth you feel is humanly possible for your age bracket.
Please PLEASE have your server double check every item you order with the chef off the gluten free menu. Either my server was just unknowledgeable about the gluten free processes of the kitchen or the gluten free menu really is designed for those who are undertaking the gluten free lifestyle out of choice.