With nothing but inconspicuous looking wood doors, curtained windows, and a small “B” on the outside wall identifying The Beagle, it took me a few minutes to recognize the small eatery on Avenue A. But while its outside may not look particularly memorable, its inside certainly does. The clean blue and white painted walls, soft white tealights encased in glass mason jars, and cylindrical clouded glass lamps hanging over the wood-topped subway tile bar lend it the simple-chic of an Ikea catalogue.
While 6:30 PM on a Tuesday may not be the liveliest of hours for a New York City restaurant and bar, my dinner companion and I shared the restaurant with a few twenty or thirty-somethings sipping artistically garnished cocktails at the bar, and a group of young professionals enjoying a post-work birthday dinner. Designed as a joint epicurean and mixology venture, liquor bottles of every shape, color, and size stood in exhibition atop shelves at the back of the restaurant, while tall narrow-necked pitchers and small jam jars filled with orange, cranberry and lime juice mixers, and jam jars filled with pineapple chunks, cherries and sprigs of mint, were lined atop the bar.
Seated behind the bar atop ornate dark wood chairs that looked straight out of a Parisian café, my friend and I were presented with six dishes comprising a four-course meal.
The first round featured a gleaming white plate of four skewered baby corn, grilled and laced with lime, paprika and served with a puddle of cilantro aioli, and grilled squid with frisee (curly endive) and crispy prosciutto. The baby corn were crisp, and sweet, the sharp bite of the paprika and lime balanced by the refreshing and creamy aioli; the chewy squid beautifully charred, given flavor by the smoky prosciutto and tangy chili-citrus dressed frisee.
Next up was a pan-seared foie gras, the crisp, browned skin glistening with olive oil giving way to a soft, perfectly grainy interior, along with my personal favorite: grilled peppery quail legs, buttery soft and meaty as any steak, atop a bed of crisp roasted broccoli and punchy tart pickled onions. An “olive oil” poached filet of flaky, halibut, the “main course,” was satisfyingly chewy, and so mild there was not even a trace of the “fishy” flavor that can be an unwelcome accompaniment to such a dish. The curried potato salad served alongside the fish gave the dish an exotic bent demonstrative of the restaurants self-proclaimed “creative American” cuisine.
The final plate to arrive was the seemingly humble classic “berries and cream,” and while the petite strawberries (though intensely flavored, soft and sweet) were unadorned, the sweet dollop of whipped cream beside them was studded with oats, giving surprising (and utterly delightful) texture to the otherwise silky smooth cream.
While dinners here won’t come cheap (appetizers are about $11, entrees around $25), with its artful cuisine, quiet, and trendy (but elegant) atmosphere, for dinners with the parents, the new boss, or a date you want to impress, it’s certainly worth the splurge.
162 Avenue A (btw. 10th and 11th St.), New York, NY. (212) 228-6900. 4, 5, 6 to Union Square or Astor Pl; L to 1stAve. Tues, Weds, Sun: 6:00 PM-1:00AM; Thurs.-Sat.: 6:00 PM – 2:00 AM; Closed Mondays.
Appetizers $4 – $12; Entrees $21-26