Thursday, May 28, 2009

Review: Bar Artisanal

My significant eater and I paid a recent visit to TriBeCa's Bar Artisanal, a newly opened small plates spinoff of Terrance Brennan's popular Artisanal Bistro.  Terrance Brennan himself was in the house the night we were there, increasing our expectations of the restaurant despite its very recent opening.  Despite the boss's presence, Bar Artisanal was a letdown.  

While I hesitate to criticize a restaurant's service when the it has not been open for very long, the poor service we experienced was inexcusable, especially given Chef Brennan's long experience with opening restaurants.  Walking into the spacious restaurant, we were seated at first in the back of the restaurant.  After being seated for a few minutes, the hostess came apologized and said she would have to move us to another table.  She was very gracious about it, but I was perplexed why we needed to be moved in the first place; the restaurant was half empty.  

The service woes continued.  After being seated at our new seat, our waiter took our drinks order.  We order a bottle of Malbec; it took nearly twenty minutes to arrive, after which our waiter promptly disappeared without taking our order.  The restaurant was still only half full, mind you.  Fortunately, as I was very hungry and frustrated, once our waiter took our order, food arrived in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, our waiter again disappeared when we were ready for our check; it took another thirty minutes for him to bring our check and take my credit card.  

After all of our frustrations with the service at Bar Artisanal, I wish I could say that the food overcame the front of the hourse issues.  Unfortunately the food was mediocre, which is a shame because the menu is a very exciting read.  With menu items such as "pork rillette spring rolls, rhubarb marmalade" and "soft shell crab, spicy iceberg, peanuts" you would think that the dishes at Bar Artisanal pack a big punch, but everything we tried read better on paper than it was on the plate.  Manchego beignets ($12) consisted of several fried cubes of cheese on skewers; expensive drunk food, if you ask me.  A duck pissaladiere with gizzard, confit, and foie gras was an excellent mix of flavors and the clear winner of the night, but not worth its $18 price tag.  Grilled octopus with chickpeas and pimenton oil ($12) did not pack the flavor I had hoped for, although the octopus was perfectly grilled.  A dessert of beignets was nicely done and better than its manchego sibling, but again, not crave-inducing.   

What irritated me most about Bar Artisanal is what bugs me about many restaurants that are jumping aboard the small plates bandwagon.  Opened as affordable dining options to give diners a way to continue dining out and still cope with the recession, they are anything but affordable.  After drinking a bottle of wine and ordering several dishes unsatisfying in both size and flavor, I could have eaten at Artisanal Bistro for less than what our meal at Bar Artisanal ended up costing.  And in the end, Bar Artisanal's large plates sibling would have been not only the better value, but the better overall experience.  

268 West Broadway (at 6th Ave.)
New York, NY 

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