by Dorothy Maras-Ildiz, Cedar St Times
Finally, everyone can stop asking that infernal question “When is the Beach House going to open?” The old gray gal is open, up and running like a champion filly with carrot dangling in front of her nose. Making her debut just two short weeks ago, The Beach House has been jam-pack full of the curious, the hungry and of course…those damned critics.
So far The Beach House has been met with nothing but positivity where ‘the experts’ on Yelp are concerned. Comments range from – “Gourmet dining, Gourmet Service (just a side note-do we really ‘eat’ the service?), without the gourmet price tag.” And the obvious, “What a view! Fabulous French Martini!”
Yelp ‘experts’ aside, here are my personal observations on my first visit to the newly opened Beach House:
As I made my way up those familiar stairs to the front door, I was filled with that wonderful anticipation of dining at a ‘brand new restaurant’. What will it be like? What does it look like inside? Will the food be impressive or god-forbid….ghastly? Will the service tick right along or be clumsy and inept? Ohhhh, how I love seeing a ‘new restaurant baby’ being born!
With my two favorite critics in tow, my mother and my sister, we entered the foyer of the BH and were greeted by three friendly faces at the host stand. First impression of the inside re-do was …WOW! What a great job they did of erasing the old and making it new again. This is no easy task given the physical restrictions of the space, but they sure did one helluva job.
As I walked through the newly strange and crowded bar and dining room areas, I was struck by the number of local diners, including city councilmen, mayors, etc. enjoying ‘their view’ of Lovers Point on a uncharacteristic, spectacularly clear and warm day. While the place was busy, not every table was full all at once, showing me that the front of the house were handling the flow of reservations properly to insure that service and food would be arriving in a timely manner and no one would be overwhelmed.
Now, here is where Dorothy meets the Tin Man, The Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion and the Wizard of Oz…upon approaching my table I realized that the handsome guy behind the bar , my server Philippe and more than a few others in the room, used to work at the Old Bath House and it was ‘old home week’ for me. Good move! Familiar places and faces always make a place feel comfy.
The menu and wine list represented a broad-range of prices and choices. Most of them hit all of the right notes with me, but a couple seemed to be a stretch. But …who knows what the public will dictate? If anyone out there has learned to accurately foretell the tastes of the general populace, you are worth millions to thousands upon thousands of restaurateurs.
From the semi-open kitchen I could see the Chef Christopher Groves, moving deftly about his shiny new kitchen. I can always tell a talented chef by the way they move in their native surroundings. Quick, efficient, focused and in control were my first impressions. The rest of the kitchen staff appeared happy, calm and equally focused at the task at hand. Overall, a very professionally run kitchen for ‘day four’ of the new baby restaurant’s life.
Our bottle of properly chilled Pessagno Chardonnay, (29.00) arrived and was poured into what I am going to say is Not-My-Favorite-Wine-Glass choice. Short, stout, sturdy, this wine glass was designed to take a beating in a high-volume restaurant, but elegant or pretty…it is not. In fact, I think I just described myself ….Oh well, hooray for utilitarian glassware. Without it, we’d all be broke(n). haha!
Let’s talk food – I ordered the zucchini soup, my sister had the Spincah- Roasted Beet salad. Both were good and flavorful. The soup was a little too refined (ultra-pureed) for the casual nature of the place but hey, that’s just my opinion. Chef was generous enough to send out a couple of appetizers to try – The Salmon Galette, which was delicious and well-balanced and the Sesame Crusted Tuna Tartar. For entrees, Mom ordered the Special Halibut which was served with about six ingredients I can’t recall off the top of my head and mom wouldn’t let me try any of it, sis had Christopher’s Chicken with Truffle Whipped Potato, Garlic Spinach and Shoyu-Butter Sauce (16.00) and I ordered the Grilled Pork Loin Chop with Whipped Potato, Braised Fennel, Arugula & Apple Salad with Cognac Cream (14.99) (after all, you are what you eat, right??). All of the entrees were well thought out, balanced and represented a good value for the price. Were they perfect? Close. Did I expect they would be considering the new staff, new kitchen, new equipment and a four-day old restaurant? Nope. Did they exceed my expectations? Absolutely! And that folks, is what matters at this point in the process.
The dessert list has most of the usual suspects on it – in fact, it was a little bit of a let-down after reading the rest of the menu. We sampled the lemon-raspberry cheesecake (refreshing, light and tangy) and the chocolate mud pie which was perfect.
Service was professional, warm and knowledgeable. Poor Philippe! Who wants to wait on me on his first day at a new place?
My overall impression….The Beach House at Lovers Point has been a long time in the making but the wait was totally worth it. Are there a couple of odd things here and there and few rough edges? Of course, but nothing glaring or worth pointing out. This is a brand new, baby and it will find its’ legs around the time it turns one year old. What will it be when it grows up? Hard to say, but as far as I can tell, it has inherited great genes from Kevin Phillips, Jeremy Phillips and Chef Christopher Groves et al. The task at hand is to maintain the energy, stay focused and become what your parents envisioned you to be.
Good luck and God Speed. I will revisit and revisit and revisit and then write a ‘real review’. This was based on one visit only, which totally goes against my credo regarding writing about brand new restaurants.