Maybe I was mentally preparing for all the French food we would encounter on an upcoming trip to Montreal (Restaurant Laloux, Chez L’Épicier, and Au Pied de Cochon are currently on the list — we’ll see which ones pan out), but I’ve been feeling rather French-y these days. So based solely on the name, I decided that a trip to the newly opened La Bête was in order.
It’s in the former Chez Gaudi spot, on a quiet stretch of Capitol Hill. Although I had never been to Gaudi, from what friends say the two interiors seem to bear little resemblance to one another. Coming around the corner to the door, I loved the wood-framed windows that wrap around the building, with wrought iron facing out to the street. Maybe it was the rainy, gloomy night, but those windows struck me as bright beacons out of the dim and inside to a cozy interior.
Maybe the mismatched plates and flatwear add to the cozy factor, but I was definitely charmed by the interior. Pew-like benches run the length of two of the walls and while that might sound chilly, it somehow fit. Another of my favorite elements was the mini-chandelier light fixtures, interesting and also lovely.
The cocktails were noteworthy, among them the Champs Élysées with brandy, Green Chartreuse (there’s that Green Chartreuse again!), lemon, and house bitters; and the Ducati with gin, vodka, Aperol, and an orange twist.
Despite the name, it would seem that the Champs Élysées cocktail and the parmesan gougères were among the Frenchiest things on the menu. Although I’m usually a fan of anything involving pastry and cheese, we skipped the “snacks” section – including the intriguing pork rinds with pickled shallots – and went right to the large plates.
The red and gold beet salad with walnut, blood orange, pomegranate, and feta was a delicious and intriguing blend of textures: the firmness of the beets, pop of the pomegranate seeds, and slight crunch of the walnuts. The chicken and dumpling with butternut squash, hazelnuts, sage, and prunes felt like upscale comfort food. The sea scallops with Romanesco, sea urchin, and fines herbs had an interesting pairing in the potato gnocchi – a sort of similar texture and flavor, though delicious. The mushroom bread pudding, which could have been bland and bready, was in fact made just a touch sharp with the gruyere and just a touch sweet with the caramelized onion.
Our seats along the wall were lovely, but as usual I was eyeing that expansive bar and thinking that next time I’ll perch myself there. Along with another one of those fantastic cocktails, I’ll likely ponder some of the delicious-sounding snacks: tuna arancini, chickpea fritters, and of course, the pork rinds.
Cheers, everyone, and safe travels to you if you’re making your way from here to there for the Christmas holiday!