A new lunch in town at Beat Hotel.
By ADITYA AGRAWAL and CAROLINE GENTILE
On a cold Monday afternoon, we walked into the psychedelic interiors of the Beat Brasserie and I was instantly reminded of a Moroccan villa crossed with the American Wild West. Tucked away below The GAP store on Brattle Street, the Beat Brasserie has remained a hidden gem in the vast firmament of Harvard Square eateries.
Although the Beat Hotel has been a favorite of Harvard Square for several years now, only recently did they begin to offer lunch. However, it is no surprise they have decided to expand their menu offerings; the restaurant is always packed for dinner and brunch, and is known for having one of the best bar scenes in Harvard Square.
Veteran Indy food critic Caroline Gentile ’17 and I decided to try out Beat’s all new lunch menu. Caroline, unlike the unadventurous me, had been to Beat on previous occasions and was excited to see how the new lunch menu built on the restaurant’s previous offerings. I, on the other hand, went in with a blank slate and an empty stomach.
Beat has aggressively driven down prices relative to its dinner menu to position itself competitively in the race for Harvard students’ wallets. The new lunch prix fixe menu, at $24, comes with a soup or salad and a sizable entrée. For dinner, this is typically the price of just one entrée. In terms of menu offerings relative to the dinner menu, the lunch menu is simply a scaled-down version. None of the appetizers, entrees or drinks are unique to the new lunch menu, but were offered in smaller portions and at much lower prices.
The staff was attentive and the service swift. The soup for the day was a French lentil soup with curried yogurt and kale. As an Indian, lentil soups, or dal as they are colloquially known in India, are a big part of my daily diet. I expected the soup to be a play on the standard moong dal I may have had back home in India on any given day.
And hit too close (and too accurately) to home it did. While I was hoping for it to taste less like what I usually eat in India, Caroline appreciated the fusion of quintessentially Indian flavors into an American dish. However, we both agreed that it had all the sensation of being “heavy” without actually being so. I appreciated the subdued flavors of the soup – the chef did not try to temper the taste of the lentils too much with additional spices or flavors.
But the soup did more than replicate a classic lentil soup. The choice of add-ons was a stroke of genius. The curried yogurt added a pleasantly unexpected zing to the soup, the overall product being both warm and refreshing. With the brisk autumnal weather beginning to turn frosty, this soup is the perfect dish: hearty and flavorful without weighing down your stomach.
The entrée swiftly followed the soup and we couldn’t wait to dig in. I ordered a braised rabbit pasta, while Caroline went with one of Beat Hotel’s signature bowls, the Greek bowl, with an add-on of roasted chicken. The bowls consist of vegetables, a grain, and protein and each have a distinct flavor profile, from more quintessentially Latin flavors to Mediterranean. Both dishes are offered on the dinner menu, but with the lunch prix fixe menu, were significantly less expensive, albeit the portions a bit smaller. For anyone who has not tried one of the four bowls at Beat Hotel, lunch is the perfect time to do so. Not only are they delicious, but also they are the epitome of a well-balanced meal (which can be difficult to find in Harvard Square, the land of burgers, burritos, and fro-yo). In fact, the night before Caroline ran a half marathon, she purposefully went to Beat for dinner to get the Azteca bowl, and claims it was the perfect pre-race meal—take note, athletes.
The rabbit pasta could also be a good pre-workout meal, but it took a lot of courage and self-goading for me to push my frontiers and order it. I generally tend to be very un-experimental with my meats, and therefore would not usually order rabbit. I decided to be adventurous, though, and felt that at a restaurant with as good a reputation as Beat, this was a prime opportunity to try something new. And yet, I was a bit disappointed. While I actually enjoyed the rabbit (fun fact: it tastes like chicken!), I felt that the dish as a whole was bland. While some – like Caroline – may have appreciated the subtle flavors of the pasta, it was not my favorite. I would have loved it if they had brought out the flavors of the rabbit meat more strongly, or made the sauce a bit richer. The light, thin sauce that went with the pasta worked much better with the bread than it did with the pasta.
When all was said (er, I guess eaten) and done, we were overall satisfied. Not only was this meal the perfect amount of food, it was also delicious and served in a reasonable amount of time. For busy students, the latter is ideal. We came in at noon and still made it to our one o’clock classes. However, for some, sparing an entire hour for lunch amidst a busy day of class and meetings can be a challenge. A trip to Fly-By or a d-hall, or picking up a sandwich from Crema or burrito from Felipe’s, likely makes more sense for those who have jam-packed schedules. For this reason, Beat Hotel may not be particularly popular amongst students. Also, $24 for lunch is still a steep price to pay on a student’s budget for one lunch, regardless of the quantity and quality of food that buys you. For special occasions, though—birthdays, relatives in town, taking a professor out for lunch on Harvard’s dime—Beat Hotel is one of the few places in the square, among Harvest and Henrietta’s Table, where one can get a multiple course, high-quality lunch.