Bestia means “beast” in Italian, and Chef Ori Menashe sure knows his. The offerings at this homage to creatures that roam this earth are playful in preparation and interactive in presentation, coupling with the surroundings to make diners feel like artists in an industrial loft, pausing for dinner. We were encouraged to scoop out rich bone marrow and toss with its accompaniment of spinach gnochetti, breadcrumbs, and aged balsamic. The chicken liver served via crostino was not an anticipated dainty mousse, but rather, heaping chunks of diced liver tossed with chive, marjoram, aged balsamic, and sea salt. Decadence remained the evening’s theme with cavatelli alla norcina, or light ricotta dumplings served with homemade pork sausage, and black truffles. And the pizza, which was worth the wait to be served as the main attraction of this meal, was served soft with explicit instructions to let rest before devouring its housemade lamb sausage, ricotta, arugula, tomatoes, and spicy chiles. I washed down these sins with the Chef’s Old Fashioned, a combination of lardo (!) infused bourbon, hickory smoked sugar, bitters, and salt.
Business called, but then it was time to eat again. Baco Mercat serves up eclectic small plates in a small space. We started with a Middle Eastern-style dip, za’atar and eggplant, tossed with lebni, tomato, and mint, served with doughy, puffed bread. Cocas, or flatbread, are a house specialty, and the double mushroom with fontina makes a nice option for the vegetarian crowd, while I enjoyed the “bondiga,” with lamb, smoked jalapeno, and three cheeses. The wonderful Caesar brussels sprouts were shaved like a salad and served warm, smothered in a sauce made with pecorino, anchovies, and garlic. Waffle rilletes played on chicken and waffles, but with savory duck. The chicken sausage and broccolini impressed and surprised, a smoky and smooth chili topped with raisins, sriracha, and feta.
In the darkness of 4 a.m., I was off to the airport again – not tired, but energized by what I had discovered.
West Coasters, please share your favorites for my next cross-country jaunt!