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The Kitchen Counter (and more) at Beacon


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#1 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 10:18 PM

Of the chefs running upscale chophouses in New York I've long felt that Waldy Malouf was uniquely talented, however until now he has not had a suitable venue in which to strut his stuff. Beacon is a solid restaurant, but it is what it is: a well-conceived chophouse targeted at a Midtown business crowd. My favorite meals have been the special events, like the Beefsteak and the Chowder. The regular meals I've had there have been well executed but hardly exciting.

Waldy invited me in tonight for a preview of a new concept he has come up with, called the kitchen counter. Down in the restaurant's pit (that's what they call the dining area down a few steps that overlooks the wood-burning hearth and open kitchen), Waldy has installed a long, narrow counter that seats six people. The counter is formed out of an approximately six-inch-thick piece of mahogany (there's a companion piece in the front bar area), and all six seats face the kitchen.

The kitchen counter is serving three purposes. At lunchtime you can drop in for a burger at the kitchen counter -- there is a new burger menu that has various options (regular burger, tuna burger, sliders). The beef is Niman ranch and the grill is wood-fired; I hope to get down there at some point soon. In the evenings, on most evenings, there's a small plates menu with most items between $5 and $10, and a few in the teens.

The there's "THURSDAY NIGHTS @ THE KITCHEN COUNTER." Each Thursday, Waldy is going to offer a 12-course meal with complementary wines. You can book the whole table of six, or you can come in smaller groups and be paired up with other people if the numbers work out. It's a single sitting, and begins at 7pm with a cocktail (everything is included in the price) and the first course in the bar area. The cocktail was a "smoking Kir royale," basically a Kir royale with a small piece of dry ice in the bottom of the glass -- it creates a smoky effect that lasts for several minutes. With the cocktail, we were served lobster fritters with saffron and tarragon, with a Sherry vinegar dipping sauce. Were we not looking down the barrel of a 12-course meal I'd have eaten 40 of these. As it was I settled for my allotment of two and spent the rest of the evening thinking about them. Note the cool A-frame fork device.

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We were then led down into the pit and seated at the kitchen counter. Waiting for us were small platters at each setting, with two slices of watermelon radish on a pincushion-type plate.

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We were encouraged to snack on radishes (served with butter as in dive bars in France) while Waldy explained what was to come. He had a chopping block set up directly in front of the kitchen counter, showed us the whole watermelon radish and talked about the kitchen counter and the menu. To each platter was added a slice of Beacon's excellent mushroom pizza on a miniature wooden peel.

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Next, two of Beacon's signature wood-oven-roasted oysters with mignonette and herbs, served with Leffe blonde ale from Belgium (which had also been poured with the pizza).

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These warmups were all delicious, but from this point on the food got more interesting and diverged from what you'd typically get at Beacon. The next course was a single massive scallop, seared rare, with cabbage, apple and jalapeno.

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Our table had a dedicated waiter, but Waldy was also very involved in the service. For the courses plated in the kitchen, Waldy ran a couple of plates each time. Later there would also be some tableside service.

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The next course was a small, hot-smoked trout fillet with fennel and chervil, in a vinaigrette. This is probably the only course I'd excise from the menu. While good enough, it wasn't up to the level of the other dishes. I imagine this one won't make it out of previews, as a couple of people at the table only ate about half.

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This is Michael Smith, who is Waldy's chef de cuisine, preparing a course. This photo was taken while seated at the kitchen counter -- the distance is maybe ten feet to the pass.

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This was really good: a single kabocha (Japanese pumpkin/squash) raviolo with capers, butter and sage.

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The scallop, trout and ravioli were served with 2003 Arcadian chardonnay from California, which was a good match with the food if not a particularly interesting wine.

At this point guests are invited to take an intermission, wander around, check out the ovens, use the restrooms, whatever. The next phase of the meal consisted of four meat courses.

First, roasted squab with huckleberries, salsify and Brussels sprouts. This is the best squab dish I've had in several years, not only because the product itself and the pairing were excellent but also because the wood oven creates a beautifully crisp skin while leaving the interior moist and medium-rare.

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Second, a marrow bone with garlic, horseradish and toast. Waldy set the horseradish on the chopping block in front of the table, then shaved some onto each plate at the table.

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The first two meat courses were paired with a delightful 2004 pinot noir from Domaine Moillard. This was the best wine of the evening and after the meal we went back and polished off the second bottle.

Third meat course: short rib with foie gras, served over grits and acorn squash. This dish was mostly assembled tableside on the chopping block.

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Fourth and final meat course: Kobe beef. This was real Kobe beef imported from Japan. We were each presented with a rectangular platter containing some chanterelles and a hot stone that had been in the wood oven for several hours. Waldy placed a piece of the gorgeously marbled Kobe beef on each stone and we were asked to let it cook only on one side, just until it was cooked rare. It was amazing. There was enough for each person to repeat the process several times -- the stone stays hot for about half an hour according to Waldy -- and our mushroom supply was topped off as well.

Those last two meat courses were served with 2001 La Selvanella Chinati Classico, which was a tasty wine but not up to the standard of the pinot noir that preceded it.

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This is the point at which you're supposed to eat it, just as it becomes buttery but still maintains all its deep beefy, fatty flavor.

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That was it for meat. After that, the pre-dessert was excellent quince sorbet with roasted grapefruit:

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Finally, for the main dessert, a chocolate souffle with smoked vanilla ice cream. Smoked vanilla ice cream? According to Google, Waldy is not the first to do this, but it was totally new to me. He puts several vanilla beans in a skillet and sets it off to the side of the wood oven for a couple of hours. The beans get smoked and charred, and they're finished off at higher heat. They're then ground and added to the ice cream base. The flavor is like an old favorite that you've never tasted before: smoke and vanilla are natural complements and I'm surprised I've never seen anybody do this before.

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You're probably asking how much a meal like this will cost you: 12 courses plus wines and cocktails (not to mention beer), a lot of attention from the staff, a unique experience. Guess how much. Go ahead.

$85 per person plus tax and tip. I kid you not. Move over Gray's Papaya, step aside lunch at Jean Georges. Thursday night at the kitchen counter at Beacon has got to be the greatest dining bargain in the city right now. I strongly suggest you book a spot before the price goes up, although Waldy says it's his intention to keep it at $85 for the foreseeable future because he's trying to make some new friends.

There is one sitting, at 7pm, on Thursday nights only. There's a special number -- not the restaurant's main number -- for reservations: 212.332.0508.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#2 tommy

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 06:20 AM

this looks absolutely brilliant and fabulous.

#3 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 07:08 AM

When the meal was over, Waldy asked if this was the sort of experience we'd want to repeat, and I said I was willing to repeat it right then and there. You really have to travel to Minibar in DC to have a non-sushi experience like this one, except the cuisines are vastly different. Still, Minibar is the only other publicly available non-sushi dining experience I've had that was stylistically comparable.

The nice thing about the Beacon experience, though, in addition to it being in New York, is that the food is so accessible. At one level it appeals to foodies in search of an interesting experience, but it's also a great introduction to higher-level dining for people who aren't particularly well versed in that milieu. I have two friends from out of town, for example, who are fine-dining doubters, and this is definitely where I'm going to take them if they ever manage to be here on a Thursday night. It's the kind of experience that really helps prove the point that serious cuisine can be fun, relaxed and unintimidating.

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#4 raji

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 07:35 AM

I was about to ask you how much, and there you go... $85? That's kind of insane, for what you get, and it's right in midtown; he's using the business crowd to subsidize the dining bar/chef's table.. puts a face on the restaurant and chef, doesn't it? Very smart... a ton of restaurants could learn a thing or two...

I'm very impressed that he's serving Kobe beef ishiyaki (hot stone)-style, that's really the way to do it. That, plus all the seafood, also reminds me of the wagyu kaiseki that is offered at Sugiyama, which is around the same price, without a single drop of booze.

#5 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 07:41 AM

Until the moment I saw the actual pricing information, I assumed it was in the neighborhood of a $150-per-person meal, and I absolutely did not imagine any scenario in which it would be priced under $100.

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#6 BryanZ

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 08:16 AM

When the meal was over, Waldy asked if this was the sort of experience we'd want to repeat, and I said I was willing to repeat it right then and there. You really have to travel to Minibar in DC to have a non-sushi experience like this one, except the cuisines are vastly different. Still, Minibar is the only other publicly available non-sushi dining experience I've had that was stylistically comparable.

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Ahh, but if you came to the Triangle in NC you'd know that Jujube does a 20-course meal for $60 w/o wines. This is perhaps the greatest dining value I have ever encountered, ever.

A digression, but I gotta represent the Dirty.

#7 Bueno

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:06 AM

Under $100 for THAT meal?

That could quite honestly be the culinary bargain of the century. Truly, that meal looks more than just tasty. It looks like one of the rare fuck-off-delicious meals that come about only once in a blue moon.

Thank you for the visual orgy and a delicious written account, FG. MMM.

#8 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:09 AM

Waldy gave me a menu to scan and post, and I think I finally got it sharpened up enough to work at this image size. You may recall, above, the way the kitchen counter was set when we were seated.

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That folded up piece of paper has the long, narrow menu printed on the other side.

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#9 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:22 AM

Here are the other two kitchen counter menus. On nights other than Thursdays, this is the small-bites menu:

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And this is the lunchtime burger menu that's offered at the kitchen counter:

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#10 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:42 AM

Ahh, but if you came to the Triangle in NC you'd know that Jujube does a 20-course meal for $60 w/o wines.  This is perhaps the greatest dining value I have ever encountered, ever.

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Hey, I didn't say greatest bargain in the country, just in the city. You can buy an entire furniture store in High Point these days for what it costs to dine at Per Se, so it's not really fair to compare North Carolina prices. Also, isn't Jujube an Asian place? The Asians are all over this style of dining, with sushi, izakaya and tapas-like variants for the other Asian cuisines. The West is like fifty years behind, so much so that if you serve white-people food at a counter like, you know, that Robuchon guy does, then everybody says you had an original idea.

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#11 weinoo

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 11:21 AM

We're so there next Thursday night...when I called this morning, the reservationist said I was the 2nd person to call...2 seats were accounted for and I snatched up the remaining 4.

I've always liked Waldy's cooking - especially the wood burning oven/grill aspect...solid and not over the top. Problem is, I rarely make it into midtown for a meal, so it'll be nice to taste these forays - and from the pictures it looks damn good.
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#12 Nathan

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 12:02 PM

heh...myself and DaveH are the other two...

#13 weinoo

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 02:16 PM

heh...myself and DaveH are the other two...

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Poor Waldy.
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#14 raji

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 02:17 PM

I left a message for 2 on the 15th. Msg said 8th was already booked out. So somebody cool book the 15th!

#15 Mayur

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 05:01 PM

Too late for someone cool. I just booked for 2!
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#16 raji

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 08:14 AM

Ahh I finally meet my Indian food muse! They called you back to confirm? I didn't get a callback yet.

#17 azlee

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 08:04 PM

so was this a friends and family kind of intro dinner? will the menu stay the same or is it based on what's good at the market that day?

#18 Fat Guy

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 08:16 PM

It was a preview for media. They've been doing media previews for the past three or so weeks. I was there for the last preview before they go into real service (remember, this only happens one night a week), so what I saw was probably close to the final draft of the menu, though there certainly may be changes -- we'll know for sure when we hear back from the group going on Thursday. My understanding is that Waldy is planning to follow standard upscale restaurant procedure, changing the menu completely with the seasons and making minor changes week-to-week based on product availability and customer feedback.

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#19 juuceman

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 09:55 PM

So to be clear, this was a meal that was put together for the press, and for which no payment was made to the restaurant?

#20 Fat Guy

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 10:04 PM

That's correct. It was a press preview hosted by the restaurant.

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#21 Fat Guy

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 07:36 AM

Followed a link from Eater to a piece about another restaurant on Gael Greene's blog and noticed, farther down the page (this is the correct link but you need to scroll down a lot to get to "Waldy Smokes at Beacon"), an entry on the Thursday night kitchen counter dinners at Beacon.

Also, Bret Thorn from Nations Restaurant News has been in, though his blog entry focuses mostly on the smoked vanilla concept.

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#22 Mayur

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 03:27 PM

Ahh I finally meet my Indian food muse! They called you back to confirm? I didn't get a callback yet.

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Actually, I'm a moron.

So, I call for 2 on the 15th; however, in the interim before getting the call back I check with the g/f and find out that we have a conflicting engagement... so I say no to confirm. Rather than immediately inquiring about a future date, I let it hang until I can consult further with the g/f regarding schedules. I then call later that day... to find out that the next available seating is December 27th. So I'm SOL (no way are we in town over Christmas anyway). My guess is that we'll probably make it some time next year when the price is $250 a head, the waiting list is backdated four months, and the cooking is being done by Waldy's commis.

Urk. That said, I hope you got a call back, and have locked in a seat!
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#23 Fat Guy

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 03:30 PM

Apparently they're now booked through February 2008 for Thursday nights. Looking forward to the reports from tonight's group.

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#24 raji

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 06:12 PM

Actually, I'm a moron.

So, I call for 2 on the 15th; however, in the interim before getting the call back I check with the g/f and find out that we have a conflicting engagement... so I say no to confirm. Rather than immediately inquiring about a future date, I let it hang until I can consult further with the g/f regarding schedules. I then call later that day... to find out that the next available seating is December 27th. So I'm SOL (no way are we in town over Christmas anyway). My guess is that we'll probably make it some time next year when the price is $250 a head, the waiting list is backdated four months, and the cooking is being done by Waldy's commis.

Urk.  That said, I hope you got a call back, and have locked in a seat!


I spoke too soon as well - I finally got a call on Tuesday, and the earliest they could confirm for was December 7th. So we'll have to meet at Devi after all.

Anybody cool sign up for 12/7?

#25 jon777

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 08:29 AM

We (LPShanet and I) called on Sunday night requesting 4 for November 29th. Booked until Jan 17th (which we took).

A couple of notes --
(1) you'll need to give them a credit card to confirm the reservation. I believe they charge the card the week of your reservation.
(2) 48 hour cancellation policy for a full refund
(3) $85 + tax + 20% gratuity

Really looking forward to it -- wish it was before January, but at least something fun to look forward to after New Years!

Not surprising that it's booked up so fast, given only 6 seats per week!

#26 Nathan

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 08:34 AM

Had an very good meal here last night and it's a fabulous value.

our meal was as FG describes (and photographs) up the thread, except that the trout has been subbed out and replaced by bass cooked in a corn husk with fennel. it's quite good.

the finely diced jalapeno on the scallop was a new pairing to me...and it worked brilliantly. a little too much butter in the cabbage unfortunately.

the squab was terrific. very nice prep with the parts cooked differently allowing for some textural contrasts.

the bone marrow was one of the best preps of this sort that I've had. they also cut them in half lengthwise (a lot easier for the diner)...which I'd only seen before at the late Lonesome Dove.

foie and short rib was exactly as good as that sounds. and the Kobe? there's nothing more blissful than eating seared fat. great stuff.

#27 Fat Guy

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 08:39 AM

Nathan, how were the wines? Also, was there opportunity for interaction with Waldy? Did you give him a hard time? I was looking forward to a thorough test of his social skills.

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#28 Nathan

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 08:59 AM

Waldy was quite personable. thought the wines generally worked quite well. liked the chianti a lot.

the most interesting pairing was the pinot noir with the kabocha raviolo....the saltiness of the capers really made this work.

#29 raji

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 10:06 AM

A couple of notes --
(1)  you'll need to give them a credit card to confirm the reservation.  I believe they charge the card the week of your reservation.
(2)  48 hour cancellation policy for a full refund
(3)  $85 + tax + 20% gratuity

Really looking forward to it -- wish it was before January, but at least something fun to look forward to after New Years!

Not surprising that it's booked up so fast, given only 6 seats per week!


Yeah, it comes to $218 for 2 people, can't complain about that, really looking forward to it, still have no idea who I'm bringing. Maybe I should auction off my 12/7 rez :wink: although I'm pretty happy about it, squarely between the holidays.

Am I supposed to give Waldy a hard time?

#30 Fat Guy

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 10:48 AM

the trout has been subbed out and replaced by bass

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One of the accounts I read of an earlier press preview dinner than the one I attended mentioned bass in the fish position. I imagine Waldy was switching things around and judging reactions. Likewise, for us the marrow bones weren't split, but in earlier previews they were. Sounds like he's made the right call on both.

Am I supposed to give Waldy a hard time?

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I was making more of a prediction than a suggestion.

This is making me hungry. Maybe I'll try to go in for a burger.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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