NYC: Beut – New Korean fine-dining restaurant

NYC: Beut - New Korean fine-dining restaurant

I went for dinner at Beut earlier this month, but I haven’t blogged about it until now, as my feelings have been a bit mixed about the restaurant, and I felt I needed a little more time to process.

Beut is a new Korean restaurant, focusing on Korean royal court cuisine, and they only do prix fixe. It was also the most promising-looking of the restaurants with availability the evening I was looking at, so it didn’t take long to push the “reserve” button. The tasting menu had 8 courses + a number of amuse bouches along the way, so I’m not going to go through everything we had but will focus on the highlights as well as some of the bumps along the road.

If we start from the top, my favorite course that evening was the abalone with caviar. I’ve tried a lot of abalone through the years, but never truly enjoyed it. However, this one was spectacular, perfectly cooked and with a generous topping of Osetra caviar.

The Lobster Three Way made it to my social media feed before our visit, and I suspect it was developed with Instagram in mind. It was an elegant dish, it was lobster; what’s not to like?

Sotbap is Korean rice cooked in a traditional pot and usually mixed with vegetables or mushrooms. At Beut it came with Hen of the Woods mushrooms and different kinds of banchan on the side, as well as sheets of seaweed so you could make your own little wraps with the rice. I went for the $30 uni add-on which took the dish from good to great, while my dinner companion didn’t add anything, and was a bit underwhelmed by the original, sans add-on, version. Too bad he’s not a big fan of uni, because my serving was big enough to share.

As a main course, we could choose between duck or dover sole, or go for the wagyu for an extra $25, which the waiter was trying hard to sell in, but which we refused, partly out of principle, because the upselling was getting on our nerves.

I don’t remember if I had the duck or the dover sole, because we were sharing and stealing food from each other’s plates, and I don’t remember the mains as being particularly memorable. I’ve had better dry-aged duck and I’ve had better dover sole. When we pointed that out to the waiter his response was “I told you, you should have ordered the wagyu”…

Sinseollo is traditional Korean dish, often referred to as Korea royal hotpot as it is known for its elaborate preparation and presentation, making it a highlight of Korean royal court cuisine. The dish is traditionally cooked and served in a special metal pot called a “sinseollo” pot. This pot has a central chimney-like tube that can be filled with hot charcoal to keep the broth simmering throughout the meal.

The staff brought in the full sinseollo pot and told us that we could take photos, but that the pot would disappear out in the kitchen again, and we would be served each our small bowl of the dish. It all seemed very strange. Why show us the nice presentation of the dish in the sinseollo pot, if it cannot stay at our table? Also, as we only got a tiny bit of the content in the pot, we couldn’t help wondering who was getting all the other stuff. Do they have a line of sinseollo-pots standing in the kitchen, or maybe just a single nice one to bring out to show? I think that was an unnecessary move. Either bring in the whole thing, leave it at the table, or don’t bother to bring it at all, because the back-and-forth thing was just weird.

For dessert we had a beautifully plated pavlova with ginseng mousse and makgeolli sorbet, and it tasted amazing. This was a great way to use traditional Korean ingredients in an innovative way and one of the things that convinced me that Beut has a lot more potential than what we saw when we were there.

There was a lot of upselling and wine selling going on that evening. My dinner companion was asked 6 times, in a very insisting way, if he wanted more wine. At the end, it got to a point where we were debating whether or not to tell the staff to back off a bit. Maybe they overheard that comment, because they toned it down a bit for the rest of the evening.

I don’t mind the occasional add-on, because maybe you’re in the mood for a little extra, but when a dish seems incomplete without the extras, it’s not optimal. You shouldn’t feel that the tasting menu cannot stand on it’s own. The constant upselling and wine-selling got to a point where it was interfering with the overall dining experience in a negative, tbh. outright annoying, way.

The Lobster three ways was delicious, but everything with lobster is usually delicious. Same goes for the abalone with caviar. I mean, what’s not to like. Those were safe bets, that it would take a lot of effort to screw up, and that’s probably my main issue about Beut; that they were playing it very safe, with all the usual crowd pleasers, caviar, wagyu, lobster, uni. I guess it’s understandable for a new restaurant, and as I’ve already mentioned, I saw a lot of promising elements at Beut, especially the broths, which where light, delicate and with complex, very delicious, flavors. Except for the mains, I was bouncing between liking and loving everything we had that evening. Food-wise there’s no doubt that Beut has potential to rub shoulders with many of the other Korean fine-dining spots out there and I’m curious to come back in a couple of months time, when they have settled in properly and maybe have had a word or two with the staff about focusing more on creating a good dining experience than on selling wine and wagyu.

Beut, 312 5th Ave, New York, NY 10001, United States

Beut

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