Anita Lo, co-owner of the beloved (and Michelin-starred) Annisa, has lately followed the path of many a celebrity chef who was trained in French kitchens: she’s gone downmarket and pan-Asian. First came the Rickshaw Dumpling Bar in 2005, where she consults; and now, Bar Q.
Bar Q is just a few minutes’ walk from Annisa, so she won’t have trouble keeping tabs on the place. But the upscale comfort-food menu looks like it was designed for dependable replication in her absence.
There are a lot of dishes that are braised, smoked, roasted and fried, including plenty of pork. “Tea-smoked” recurs in the description of three different items. There are odd combinations, like “tuna ribs” and “pork wings.” Who knew pigs could fly? A “Trio of Tartares” makes the obligatory appearance.
The space has been beautiully done in blonde woods and white walls. One of the servers said, with a grin, “I painted all the artwork.” There is no artwork; just hard, bare walls. I am a bit concerned that the space could become oppressively loud when full, but that is mere speculation, as the restaurant was nearly empty when I visited at around 6:00 p.m. on a Monday evening. There’s a lovely outdoor garden, which is scheduled to open sometime in May.
The menu is not inexpensive, with raw bar selections at $2–7 per piece, appetizers $11–16, entrées $18–29, and side dishes at $7.
There’s also a tendency to upsell. My server said, “We recommend starting with a raw bar selection, followed by an appetizer and a main course.”
I thought to myself, “Well, yeah, of course you recommend that.”
Once I had nixed that idea, the server helped me narrow down my order to the better appetizer and entrée choices, describing each as a “signature dish.” You have to wonder how that’s possible for a place that has been open three weeks.
There are house cocktails, but when I told the server I don’t like excessive syruppy sweetness, he suggested I give them all a pass. I heeded his advice in favor of an Old Fashioned.
Grilled Squid Salad (left); Stuffed Spareribs (right)
I started with the Grilled Squid Salad ($10), which had a wonderful smoky flavor. I asked the server if the squid had been smoked, and he cheekily replied that this was a “secret”. The accompanying Hijiki salad (seaweed) was unmemorable.
A dish called Stuffed Spareribs ($23) might lead you astray. It’s a solid brick of pork, served off the bone: pork stuffed with pork. The sauce is described as “Lemongrass BBQ, Peanut and Thai basil.” Peanut is what stands out. Is it good? The execution was superb, so it comes down to whether you like your spareribs to taste like peanuts. Hours later, I was still a bit haunted by the porky-peanutty taste. But I’m not sure I want my spareribs like that.
Bar Q offers a little bit of fun, but it strikes me as overpriced for a neighborhood place, yet not quite enthralling enough to become a destination.
Bar Q (308–310 Bleecker Street between Grove & Barrow Streets, West Village)