For a drink with old friends or total strangers who may quickly become new friends, drop into Bea, a new boite very close to Little Theater Row that occupies the space of the former Le Madeleine. Bea, pronounced BEE-A in honor of owner Sotir Zonea’s grandmother, a woman with a strong Romanian sense of hospitality, is designed to encourage conversation with ample space between tables and a stunning bar designed so everyone sitting there can see everyone else and watch the master mixologist at work.
Cocktails, both new takes on classics and fresh ideas, are inventive and beautifully presented. My Lavender Monk included vodka infused with lavender as well as ginger beer, the whole garnished with a skewered round of ginger candy. The Bitter Duchess is a frothy, pink creation that blends silver mescal with Campari, fresh lime juice and almond flavor while the Grand Atlas combines rye, Campari, pomegranate syrup and lime juice. All are refreshing, surprisingly potent and the brainchildren of drinks maestro Jason Walsh who comes here after stints at acclaimed restaurant bars including Monkey Bar, Bouley and Le Madri.
Walsh’s creations pair well with the restaurant’s small plates, well-composed new-American bites ideal for savoring or sharing that emmanate from the talented hands of Chef Anunya Clarke. The delicious steamed pork dumplings have a small kick of spice while the beet salad with blue cheese and a nicely balanced dressing would benefit if the beets were allowed to come to room temperature. Chicken livers on toast with caramelized onions are popular as is the plate of filet mignon and tomatoes with a spicy onion sauce accompanied by crispy fries. If you, like me, think drinks and desserts are a perfect combo, Bea offers a chocolaty chocolate mousse laced with berries as well as a plate of three crepes, one rolled around nutella, one with strawberries and a third with blueberries, another offering that would be better a tad warmer to enhance the flavors.
Classic black- and- white movies, personally selected by owner Sotir, are a great touch as well as a cool, meet-more- smart- than cute way to kick off a conversation and are projected on the whitewashed brick rear wall of the “garden” room that has a sky-lit courtyard and live tree and are also on view in the main room.
Service is smiling and pleasant and the music doesn’t get in the way of conversation. Bea stays open until two am making sure visitors have ample time to hang in and enjoy the evening. The crowd is a mix of ages with people from the Hell’s Kitchen ’hood as well as visitors from elsewhere. For a drink and light bites either for an evening out or a great spot to eat before theater, Bea looks like a winner.