The Top Ten Best New Restaurants: No. 2, January 2014
Concealed in an old brick warehouse east of downtown, Bestia doesn't tread lightly with the atmospherics. Lightbulbs dangle from meat hooks; loading bays have become giant windows. The gastro-dungeon aesthetic dovetails with the forceful Italian cooking of Ori Menashe, who drives his crew as dishes like squid ink risotto and beef heart tartare with champagne vinegar fly out of the open kitchen. The flavors are uncluttered, their full effect often trip-wired by herbal sharpness. Rubbed with anchovy and lemon paste, the immaculate flesh of the whole grilled orata contrasts with the bitter dandelion leaves tossed over the fish. With the cassoeula milanese, braised greens bring clarity to a broth potent with poached veal ribs and plump sausages. The panna cotta of Genevieve Gergis (Menashe's wife) is a standout. Trembling and loosely clotted, it's paired with Hachiya persimmons—soft and sweet enough to have been picked from a backyard.
Before opening as Bestia, this arts district looker was home to the Test Kitchen pop-up series, where host Ori Menashe, formerly of Angelini Osteria, welcomed chefs from across the city. Now it's his turn to be in charge. House-made charcuterie is a focal point, and the assorted plate—headlined by the superb coppa di testa—is mandatory. Pizzas are beyond fine, but they distract from transcendent pastas like the ricotta cavatelli with pork sausage, a dish that singlehandedly re-deems the use of black truffles. Menashe's wife, Genevieve Gergis, crafts such inspired desserts as chestnut-flour doughnuts with coffee gelato. Leave the beverage selection to rising-star wine steward Maxwell Leer.