Burden and the Beast
Beast & Bounty
Sacramento, CA 95811
Beast & Bounty is the most recent in a series of new fine dining restaurants in Sacramento. It opened this summer on R Street in the Ice Blocks corridor and is owned by restaurateur Michael Hargis and chef Brock Macdonald. With swanky, cool-toned décor and an industrial edge, the restaurant celebrates the best of both meat (beast) and vegetables (bounty). The pair have already proved their mettle with LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar, so the opening of this new venture was greatly anticipated.
The food can be quite good at Beast & Bounty and the plates are beautifully orchestrated from an aesthetic standpoint. That said, it’s hard to not wince when you receive the check, even if you went in with celebratory expectations and a budget to match: $10 for bread? $24 for an octopus appetizer? $42 to $91 for steak? Ouch. High-ticket dining means raised stakes for the staff, who need to deliver on commensurate expectations. A big spend on an epic meal is tolerable if the customer experience is there to back it up. That’s often the case at Beast & Bounty—but not always.
During my first few visits, the Oven Roasted Bone Marrow appetizer ($15), served with fried garlic, fennel chutney and crispy toasts was a perennial table favorite with its unctuous savory quality and high-art design. The Mixed Grill ($65), an impressive meat mélange with various “fixins,” sparked an argument over who got to keep the platter closest to their place at the table. The Watermelon Salad ($11) packed vibrant flavor with lime, peanuts, pickled radishes and baby eggplant. Then there were the service hiccups: One night, our final course showed up nearly an hour late, and when asked about a dessert malfunction on another night, a smug manager mansplained how to eat granita. Facepalm.
Other visits were great service-wise, but several dishes fell short. The Beast Burger ($18) was missing something; the meat and toppings were good, but the bun lacked flavor. The Beast Ramen ($18) contained too many fixings that almost distracted from the bland broth and a clump of stuck-together noodles. The Fried Falafel ($12) were dry, and no amount of soaking in tzatziki sauce quenched their parched nature. The Vegan Caramel Panna Cotta ($10) was tasty, though there was no discernible caramel flavor beyond caramel popcorn and the panna cotta itself had a strange, grainy texture that wasn’t off-putting, but didn’t feel intentional either.
Yet, there were still other winners. The Brussels Sprouts ($12) were sublime, the Margherita Pizza ($15) showcased flavorful crust and tomato sauce, and the Crispy Pork Belly ($15) was a delight, though slightly overcomplicated. I asked the server twice what was on it and gave up trying to remember the long list.
It pains me to write poorly of the food, because Macdonald clearly cares about what he’s producing—he hovers constantly near the kitchen, eyeballing the plates that come off the line—but even the best laid plans can be executed inconsistently due to staff foibles. Beast & Bounty is well worth the visit on an “on” night, but given the ticket price, I’d like to see the food consistently hit the high bar this place is capable of.