I’m not fancy in the slightest.
Granted, my mom dressed me like my collection of porcelain dolls as a child, and, sure, I attended cotillion like everyone else in my junior high class, but I eventually rebelled against those velvety frocks and frilly socks — and we preteens fumbled through the foxtrot to Justin Timberlake’s absolute banger “Rock Your Body” on repeat — so it’s an unimpeachable historical fact that I didn’t learn much about being fancy either at home or at Bruce Lea Dance Factory.
So, when I glimpsed the menu at The Beast & Company, I chuckled to mask the panic bubbling to the surface. Worse, my companion on this particular outing subsists on a strict diet of red meat, sweet tea, and sour candy. Read: He’s the pickiest eater I know over the age of 5.
“Did I just bring you to a place where you can’t eat anything?”
We laughed about it, but even my eyes cartoonishly popped at some of the offerings, like the chicken liver paté, grilled cobia loin, and pan-roasted stingray. Admittedly, this was an adventure for us both.
And what an adventure! The unique concept created by Owner Dustin Lee and Executive Chef Michael Arlt brings global flavors to Southern dishes, and I gotta say, the food delivered. An evening that could have ended at a drive-thru turned out to be a culinary journey that gave me a newfound appreciation for the finer foods in life — thanks to some of the most flavorful fare to grace my plebeian lips.
The restaurant, which opened in April after extensive renovations caused several delays, resides in the spot on West Magnolia Avenue which once housed Mamma Mia. Before that, actor and comedian Jerry Van Dyke established the space as a ’40s Soda Shoppe and Guesthouse. In a nod to the building’s history, the caboose of the train that ran along the ceiling of the shop is now perched atop The Beast’s wine rack.
My party arrived on a Friday evening sans reservation and thoroughly underdressed, but the hostess graciously offered us the last available table. Seated right by the entrance and among a few intimate couplets in their date-night fineries, my guest and I rowdily joked that we’d been mistakenly appointed as the unofficial greeting committee.
While the dinner options may have been “giving fancy,” as the kids say, we detected no air of pretension. Rather, The Beast’s ambiance felt approachable, and the hip music and amicable staff added to its warmth and liveliness. I didn’t even need to brush off my limited knowledge of formal place settings.
The decor was cozily Modern with Western accents and some remarkable features, including a chic black- and brick-walled bar and what appeared to be a reupholstered church pew that served as bench seating for several tables.
Oh, but the food! The two of us indulged in a three-course meal we won’t soon forget. Every time our waiter came around to ask how everything was, my mouth was embarrassingly stuffed to the brim. All I could do was throw an enthusiastic thumbs up and stop myself from miming an O face.
We started with drinks and a complimentary amuse bouche: an airy ball of cheddar and gruyere the waiter described as a “French cheese puff.” My refreshing Hummin’ Bird cocktail, made with Blackland gin, elderflower liqueur, rosé, and lemon and decorated with a hibiscus bloom, tingled the tasters.
Our appetizers, house breads and burrata, set the tone for the rest of the meal. As my friend put it, “It should be easy to talk about these voluptuous buns” — but some experiences are beyond words. Well, not for me. Otherwise, I’d be out of a job. Sampling the fluffy Japanese milk rolls was akin to eating a cloud, and, when smeared with creamy sea salt butter, the sweet cornbread shaped like petite madeleines went from a 10 to a 15.5, easy.
While I’m oft afflicted with hyperbole, I do not exaggerate when I say I would bathe in that burrata. Piercing through the soft outer casing with the toasted crust was incredibly satisfying as the melt-in-your-mouth burrata, garnished with thin peach slices, pecans, and fennel and drizzled with olive oil, slowly seeped out.
I wasn’t the only one impressed. When my choosy friend took his first bite of the banana-leaf duck breast, his eyes rolled to the back of his head. If that’s not the highest compliment, I’m not sure what is. The leg and breast meat had been marinated in a sort of curried sauce, and he gobbled up every bit — without even the promise of a treat for finishing his dinner. The sliver I nabbed was tender and succulent, so I can understand why.
My jaw dropped as the server carefully poured the coconut sauce in a delicate circular motion around my wide-brimmed bowl of eggplant dumplings. If anything that night could be described as sexy, it was that pearl-clutching moment. With perfectly spongy eggplant and an al dente exterior, the handmade dumplings playfully volleyed between sweet, savory, and a hint of spice.
Dessert began with complimentary carrot cake cutely presented on a mini cutting board and topped with itsy bitsy carrot slices. You could feel the pecans, raisins, and textured batter as the cake fell apart on your tongue. For “second dessert,” enter: the buttermilk tart with peach and Chantilly. The consistency was like sinking your teeth into a crispy cookie that’s delectably mushy within, and the sweet and tart were enhanced by the summer fruit and vanilla cream.
Whether you identify as fancy or not, The Beast is worth a visit. It opened my eyes (er, “mouth”?) to a whole new world of upscale cuisine anyone can enjoy. I guess that’s just the nature of The Beast.
The Beast & Company, 1010 W Magnolia Av, FW. 817-945-1461. 5pm-9pm Tue-Wed, 3pm-9pm Thu, 3pm-10pm Fri-Sat. Closed Sun, Mon.
The Beast & Company
House Breads $8
Eggplant dumplings $31
Duck breast $37
Buttermilk tart $11
Grüner Veltliner $12/glass
Hummin’ Bird $14