For anyone who knows Beauty & Essex in New York, the name itself can conjure up a certain moment in time (specifically 2010). Seriously late nights, assorted bubbly drinks, and the Lower East Side transitioning from indie music hub into a veritable adult playground. On this night, though, 3000 miles away, we reminisce about it all as we arrive at another Beauty & Essex, which just opened in Hollywood (there is still another in Las Vegas).
Like the original, the Hollywood Beauty & Essex sits amongst several bars and restaurants in one of LA’s most teeming nightlife neighborhoods; one of those is actually its new sister restaurant TAO, also an NYC export (Both are adjacent to the Dream Hollywood hotel – got that?). And here, just like the others, you’ll find a glittering oasis of beauty, decadence, and the scene that naturally follows. To be sure, the likes of Angelina Jolie, Kelis, Selena Gomez and, um, Paris Hilton have already made that scene.
After entering the venue through a pricey pawn shop (just like in NYC), a hostess takes us to a corner booth with a perfect view of the dining room – all golden peacocks and crystal chandeliers. Servers busy themselves at tables as guests’ eyes dart around the room. Everyone seems to be looking for someone – stars, producers, the cast of some or other reality show. As if on cue, comedian Bob Saget arrives with a beautiful blonde and takes a table a few seats down. A trio in business attire (studio suck ups?) rush over to say hello.
Cocktail? Yes. We start with the Lome of Pa – a perfectly spicy, smoky pick-me-up featuring Herradura, grapefruit juice, and habanero.
To our delight, star chef Chris Santos had brought his worldly menu to the West Coast. A delectable blend of high and low, gourmand fare and street food, the menu appeals to pretty much any taste. There’s a full raw bar, various toasts and tartars, vegetarian sides, salads, tacos, Thai-style deep-fried shrimp…you get the idea.
We dig in to the tomato tartar topped with a sunny-side up quail egg – an absolute must – followed by the yellowtail sashimi and chipotle mahi tacos. For entrees, we opt for the Chilean sea bass (cooked perfectly) and Mexican street corn ravioli (dee-licious). Yep – they’ve got that international thing going on here.
After another round of drinks, and a short parade of small plates, we make it to dessert – an old New York classic (when in Rome…), the “LES, NYC Doughnuts.” They arrive cloud-like, covered in sugar, and accompanied by ramekins of chocolate, caramel, and berry dipping sauce. Just like (our former New York) home!
After dinner, we take a glowing spiral staircase up to a vestibule that evokes, perhaps, what it’s like to stand inside a glass of champagne. Yellow uplighting and effervescent selfie-takers illuminate the path to yet another bar, dining area, and outdoor terrace. The space in its entirety, which seems never-ending, occupies a palatial 10,000 square feet.
After roaming the second floor for awhile, we find our way back to the foyer where, lo-and-behold, who’s standing in front of a wall of tiny spinning plastic ballerinas but Pamela Anderson. As she’s escorted away in her skintight white dress, presumably to begin her night, we decide she’s the high note we can end ours on. We pour out onto the courtyard and head towards Sunset Blvd.
Sure we may not be able to hail a cab over the Williamsburg Bridge afterwards; but then, you’re probably not likely to spot Pamela roaming the LES. We’ll take it.