Everyone has been talking about Bestia since it opened at the end of last year. It's always interesting what gets people talking about a place. It could be in a hip location. It might have a hot chef. And it might serve standout food. Bestia is going for the trifecta with good location, chef and food.
Bestia is off a small alley filled with half abandoned warehouses, still waiting for their revitalization time, east of downtown. Pulling up to the dimly painted Bestia on the side of a large red metal building, I half expected to walk-in and hear the waiters singing songs from Rent. Actually though, just before opening, there was a group clap and communal "Bestia" group yell coming from inside - a whole fight cheer before beginning service.
It's got a Bohemian on the edge vibe with its exposed beams and metal hook chandeliers, but the customer cast looks more like Broadway theatre goers with a mix of suits and post business clientele mixed in with loft living locals.
The chef is Ori Menashe who has polished his Italian cleavers at LA hotspots Angelini Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza. Bill Chait is the other big name listed with Bestia. Chait is the restaurant wizard whose magic touch is behind Republique, Picca, Sotto and Rivera to name a few. Hip location - check. Big names - check. Now onto the food.
We sat at the bar because we couldn't get one of the still hard to come by reservations, but if you show up 15-30 minutes before the doors open at 6pm, you might get lucky like us and score a front row seat.
Let's get the bad news out of the way. I had heard much talk of the life changing chicken gizzards. I knew I had to try it and I will say that after my time in Paris, there's really no organ I fear. It's turned into more of a craving now, so bring on the gizzards. The deep red glow of the plate had me digging in with excitement to find crispy, chewy, somewhat flavorless morsels of over-cooked gizzard. I scraped for the sauce which was good, but not plentiful. Eating the gizzard with a piece of the hard, salty cheese was better but only because it gave the bite some taste. I regret not asking if this was the normal preparation, but I fear it was simply overdone. I have to think it was a fluke, because I hadn't heard this review from others.
In better news, the octopus salad contained large pieces of octopus and calamari, piled high and slightly charred. They were mixed in with spicy arugula and red onion. It got my taste buds back on track.
The roasted bone marrow was indeed life changing. The instructions were to scrape the decadent marrow off the bone and onto the spinach gnocchetti underneath it.
We first had to grab a pure bite straight up, which was rich and soul satisfying. Once on the pasta, the flavors collided into a delicious mélange that had me scraping the last bits right into my mouth with the serving spoon.
Not to be outdone was the Cavatelli alla Norcina. Ricotta dumplings were tossed with housemade pork sausage, the hard Italian cheese grana padano, and the piece de resistance was the black truffle. Each ingredient could have stood on its own, but together they were a beautiful Italian symphony.
There were many happy bar eaters beside us enjoying Ori's housemade charcuterie and hand tossed pizzas that supposedly are also show stoppers. The energy is palatable and the reservations are still tough to grab, but like most well regarded Broadway shows, I think Bestia will have a long run.