Beetle House combines the quirky and eccentric world of Tim Burton with the boozy, deep bass-thumping club vibe of Hollywood Boulevard.
The gothic-themed pop-up restaurant takes inspiration from artistic works such as Burton’s films and the music of The Cure. The popularity surrounding its opening has exploded in the weeks leading up to Halloween, offering patrons an immersive and provocative experience. But the affixed meal, although promising with dishes like Wonka Wings and FrankenFries, was a lackluster and generic dinner.
The prix fixe menu featured either a $40 or $45 three-course meal; the pricier option included expensive cuts of meat such as seared fish and steak. The portions were cartoonishly large; however, the food itself was not up to par for its hefty price tag.
To start, the James and the Giant Peach Salad consisted mainly of a bed of bitter, spring mix greens with little to balance it out. The peaches, however, were roasted nicely with some crispy flecks of sugar encasing their juicy flesh.
The Butternut Squash Risotto might have been a successful appetizer if its creamy sweetness was balanced with a savory element. Instead, the slow-cooked rice was accompanied by tangy pomegranate beads sprinkled on top. The only respite from the dish’s sweetness came from the saltiness in the five or six leaves of crunchy basil that were placed decoratively on top.
The main course, a vegan linguini dish, also arrived with an inappropriate amount of raw foliage, this time in the form of a giant pile of pea tendrils. Covered in a generous amount of roasted red pepper sauce, the dish was as a whole edible, but not necessarily enjoyable. It seems as though the menu designers did not understand that pasta salad is, in fact, not just a literal mixture of pasta and salad. The contrast between the fresh greens and the filling pasta noodles made the dish feel a little unsettling.
A heavier option in the main course selection was the Edward Burger Hands, a cheeseburger with a massive pair of scissors lodged in the middle to hold it together. Though the honey-toasted bun and roasted peppers offered elements that gave the classic cheeseburger a new twist, the dish on the whole was extremely bulky and inconvenient to eat because of how it constantly fell apart.
The dessert of the evening, apple panna cotta, arrived in a glass mason jar. Although desserts typically end a meal on a high note, the base of the panna cotta had a dense texture similar to nearly dried grout with a questionable grainy feel.
Beetle House compensates for its subpar food with a riveting atmosphere that is sure to please even the most loyal Tim Burton fans. From life-size sculptures of iconic characters like Beetlejuice and Oogie Boogie to actors playing roles like Edward Scissorhands walking around and engaging with patrons, the restaurant creates a dark and colorful world of escapism.
However, eating a meal with the discordant playlist of heavy metal songs mixed with upbeat classics was a disturbing experience, which may or may not have been intended by the restaurant’s creators. The giant screen in the center of the room screened miniature clips from Tim Burton movies and other gothic films. The disjointed montage was slightly stress-inducing, and a single, uninterrupted Tim Burton film would have been a much more satisfying visual experience.
Complementing the kitschy and whimsical atmosphere of the restaurant was a gaudy, live-action “freak show” in which performers in uncomfortable costumes walked over glass, laid down over pins, played with fire and made sexually suggestive jokes.
Despite the strange interlude, Beetle House provided an evening of warm, nostalgic feelings stemming from familiar childhood films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as darker favorites like Edward Scissorhands. For die-hard fans of Burton’s movies or those wanting to indulge in a night of gothic elements, the uninspired meal can be overlooked in light of the restaurant’s memorable setting.