I had high hopes as I walked into Beefsteak for the first time, and the fact the new restaurant has José Andrés’ name on it increased my anticipation, as Jaleo and Zaytinya are two of my favorite restaurants.
But by the time I left the restaurant, those hopes had completely dissolved. Beefsteak essentially throws a hodgepodge of relatively bland flavors into a bowl and calls it a “concept” as if it belongs in a contemporary art gallery rather than our stomachs.
After waiting in line for 30 minutes around dinnertime, I became alarmed when I saw wallpaper covered with cartoon vegetables with distorted faces, joyously using vegetable peelers to take off their own skins. As customers eagerly waited to participate in this vegetable massacre, I tried to ignore the frightening wall art and let the food speak for itself.
Next I was faced with strange, rectangular metal contraptions raising and lowering vegetables into pots of boiling water, which are used to flash cook fresh vegetables as customers watch.
Customers can choose from an assortment of vegetables, one grain, one dressing and a variety of toppings. Several protein options are available, like avocado, deli chicken and poached eggs.
Beefsteak also offers homemade juices like lavender lemonade, an unusually bold flavor and the only part of the experience I enjoyed.
I picked out a balanced mix of mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli and sweet potatoes, which I never actually got to eat. I didn’t realize it until I sat down, but my vegetables were swapped with another customer’s, so any chance of enjoying my sweet potatoes disappeared.
As I moved to the grains, I found it odd that a restaurant preaching healthy eating doesn’t offer brown rice, and has only quinoa and bulgur. I settled for the bulgur and added black beans, pesto dressing, nuts and chicken. Beefsteak employees top each meal with olive oil and sea salt, perhaps a half-hearted attempt to add some flavor to my cardboard box of super-salty toppings, bland veggies and a disorienting blend of grains and black beans.
Beefsteak has taken Chipotle’s assembly line concept and managed to make it slow and inefficient, relying on the hippie food trend to carry the restaurant through its blunders. The marketing scheme is to make vegetables “cool,” but I cook better vegetables at home.
The whole process was slow and frustrating, as menu options weren’t properly explained and the employees were inattentive and disinterested in customers’ questions and orders. Five years ago this establishment wouldn’t have lasted one day, but now that kale smoothies, chia seeds and quinoa salads are fashionable, I suspect it will remain a cash cow with lines going out the door at every lunch and dinner hour.
Healthy food has fallen victim to the same phenomenon that created pop music and vampire books: It’s become trendy, and the result is quality being compromised for popularity.