The ownership of the Beehive (Boston MA) has extended its reach across the river into Cambridge with Beat Hotel. The subterranean brasserie offers a similar mix of live entertainment and cuisine that walks the tightrope between the familiar and the exotic. Former Beehive chef Rebecca Newell slid over as executive chef at Beat Hotel.
I wasn't expecting poets with goatees, hipsters with berets or retro dudes holding unfiltered cigarettes flute style, but I did expect a lot more psychedelia than the name implied and some previous write-ups indicated. But that's no disappointment; the approachable maturity of the brasserie is as welcoming as the host and bar staff.
On the right side of the very deep room you'll find not one bar but two, and they're just as deep with about two dozen stools apiece. Across from the bars are rows of tables with chairs on one side and banquettes on the other. High tops near the bars and ledges for drinks add both capacity (room for people) and functionality (room for glasses).
On my fist two visits (pre-Christmas weekday lunch and post new year weekend brunch) a jazz combo played at a volume level conducive to conversation.
Already a fan of the burger at Beehive, I wanted to try Newell's Prime Burger at Beat Hotel. Shortly after I got the me in place, they took care of the mis en place: a large sheet of butcher paper topped with silverware, salt, pepper and ketchup.
At first glance this beast of a bun appears to dwarf the meat, but looks can be deceiving. It's still a little much—just not nearly as much as you'd think. The exterior is crusty and the airier interior has much more give. Think of it as a rounder, fresher version of ciabatta. The bottom looks more like an English muffin, with a brown circle at the center. The inside surfaces are lightly buttered. If you can get past the bun's ratio-tipping volume—or if they could shrink it down a little—you're on your way to a very good burger.
Some chitchat with a manager while I pretended to be deciding what to order revealed that the burger has changed a bit since inception but is currently a blend of brisket and either chuck or sirloin.
From the tell-tale stripes and charry taste, it was obvious that the burger was grilled. The surface varied (not much crust the first time, plenty the second), but on both visits the interior nailed the requested medium rare. Also obvious was the free flowing juice fountain brought on by both the precision cooking and high fat content. Less obvious but just as important was the loose, gentle texture of the patty, viewable in the cross section and confirmed upon bite. Generous seasoning added another check mark to the tally. Beefy flavor wasn't absent but wasn't nearly as distinctive as the juiciness and texture suggested. Not a negative by any means; just not the expected positive. Overall, a very strong effort both times.
The lettuce and tomato, served on the side, were the only constants over the two visits; everything else varied greatly. Both times I ordered cheddar: once it was white, once it was orange; once it was melted into a liquid, once it sweated a little but remained dry and almost gummy. Bacon got the call on visit one and I left it off on visit two; solid but not noteworthy.
The more interesting toppings were the herb studded aioli and the onion strings, which both contributed to flavor, texture and moisture. What made them interesting was the restraint. Sure, both packed a lot of flavor per volume, but the volume was toned down, avoiding the faux drama of extra height and extra messiness that might be photogenic but would distract focus from where the focus belongs: the beef. What varied was how much restraint: volumes on both items were down to only a third of the previous amount on the second visit.
After the first try I thought this could be the one burger that really satisfies both the all-about-the-beef people and the all-about-the-toppings people. There really was a lot going on, yet the beef sang loudest. Then on visit 2 the cheese, aioli and onions all got half-assed. Which is the representatrive version? Hard to say. Some hiccups for sure, but overall, I really like the approach.
The Fries (and Such)
Fries: They're long, thin, plentiful, crisp, very well salted (as
heavily as it gets without being too much) and slightly herby (very much
so on the first visit, faint on the second). Potatoey, not so much, but
for what I suspect are frozen fries, they're pretty good.
Slaw: This brightly colored little extra in a small stainless steel cup looks like it's packing some serious heat, but it's a fairly tame rendition. Not crunchy, not soggy, not flavorful but not bad.
The Bottom Line
It's a very juicy burger, with seasoning and a gentle grind that are extremely pleasurable. If they can reduce that bun a bit and shore up the consistency of the supporting players, Beat Hotel's burger could be elite. With its flaws, it's still upper middle class or better.
Other Opinion/ Info
Yelp reviews of Beat Hotel
Urbanspoon reviews of Beat Hotel
||'Like' PigTrip BBQ Reviews on Facebook to keep up with all of the reviews and much more content not available on the site.