CAMBRIDGE – The lights are low, the music smooth, and the vibe is more than mellow at The Beat Hotel.
Named for the Parisian hotel famous for housing writers and artists back in 1950s, this underground bohemian brasserie is the latest addition to Harvard Square, Cambridge. The enormous dining room is decked out in trippy art and funky lighting, with a laid back staff that seem a bit like beatniks themselves.
“It’s an atmosphere for everyone to come in and relax and listen to the music and have a great meal,” said Chef Rebecca Newell. “It’s unlike any other restaurant in the city.”
While the front of house is certainly a sultry space where you can catch soulful, live jazz nightly, back in the kitchen the vibe is much different.
Newell is the culinary task master shouting orders backstage, to make sure every plate served is absolute perfection, and all of the dishes are coordinated to come up together.
“A lot of people don’t understand how everything has to be really organized so that everything comes out fast, but also fresh and perfectly prepared.”
While Newell does work in a restaurant with a hippy vibe, she doesn’t consider herself one.
“I don’t think that I tend to be a hippy, funky person. I did go camping last summer, so that could be a little hippy. I went to a Phish concert… so that’s kind of hippy.”
Rebecca’s menu is lined with unpretentious fare like Spareribs slathered in a smoky chipotle barbecue sauce, and Nachos piled up with pulled lamb, apple salsa and plenty of cheese.
“We design a lot of food that people can relate to,” Newell explained. “We’re not doing foams. We’re not doing a lot of really crazy food, not that there’s anything wrong with that. We’re doing food that people can come out and enjoy.”
If there is one must order, it’s the Crispy Tuna Spring roll – a dish you won’t find anywhere else.
“The tuna spring roll is a really unique dish because it’s a crispy fried egg roll and inside it has ahi tuna, jasmine rice, avocado, wasabi and green leaf lettuce and it comes served with a really fabulous spicy soy roasted garlic vinaigrette,” said Newell. “When you bite into the spring roll you get a combination of cool tuna, with, like, warm rice and a crispy outside. And it’s just delicious.”
Comfort food classics are given upgrades throughout the men, like the luxurious Lasagna layered with tender short rib and a juicy Burger made topped with cheddar, a port wine aioli and crispy tobacco onions.
“It’s just like a crunchified burger because it has the crunchy tobacco onions and it has the really awesome port wine aioli – that I recommend getting a side of and dipping our fries in. It’s a really unique French fry. I don’t think you can get it anywhere else.”
While the toppings are terrific, the burger patty itself is prime beef, top of the line when it comes to burgers.
“It’s so lux and marbleized,” Newell described, “so it makes a really good burger.”
If you’re looking for something more upscale, there’s seared local Scallops over a creamy parsnip puree, hearty Leg of Lamb with olive oil mashed potatoes, and tender Filet cooked perfectly pink in a ravishing red wine sauce. And if that doesn’t have you seeing red, the Red Velvet Coconut Cake certainly will.
“It’s really heavy on the coconut. It’s delicious. It’s one of my favorite desserts,” Newell confided.
Since she’s back in the kitchen creating all of this flavorful fare, Rebecca doesn’t get out to enjoy the music and mood of the dining room much, but for her, that’s no problem.
“I love cooking. I think when you’re a chef it can’t just be something you like. You can’t like to be a chef. You have to love to be a chef and there’s a huge difference. It’s not a career; it’s a lifestyle.
“Whenever we’re really, really busy and everything is really pumping and were having a good time, it feels so good, because it feels like you fed a lot of people but you had a good time doing it too, so that’s important.”
You can find the Beat Hotel at 13 Brattle Street in Cambridge, or online at beathotel.com.
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