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Bar Artisanal

Note: Bar Artisanal closed in mid-2010 after a brief, ill-fated Spanish-themed do-over. It is now the Mexican restaurant Pelea Mexicana.


Bar Artisanal is Chef Terrance Brennan’s quickie replacement for the doomed Trigo, which sank like a stone after barely four months in business. What a difference the right concept makes! Trigo was always empty; Bar Artisanal, at least in its early days, is always full.

This being a Brennan restaurant, cheese is naturally the focus. I dropped in on opening night for a glass of wine and four cheeses à la carte (left), telling the fromagier he could choose whatever he wanted, as long as they were soft and at least two were blue.

Although the name is suggestive of Brennan’s Artisanal Bistro in Murray Hill, the menu here is considerably different. Most of the selections are essentially “tapas” — about a dozen in a category called amuses-bouches ($4–15) and another dozen petits plats ($11–18). There are just five entrées ($16–20) and three kinds of burgers (classic, lamb, tuna; $13–18).

Yet another menu category is devoted to pissaladières, or a kind of pizza from the south of France. There are seven of these ($11–15), several with unusual toppings, such as “Duck” (Gizzard, Confit, Egg, and Cracklings) and “Bianca” (Asparagus, Ramps, Bottarga).

Brennan gets full credit for challenging his audience. He isn’t serving duck gizzards, lamb neck, sea urchin custard, and smoked paprika popcorn because diners demanded them. And it appears the menu will change frequently. On the current menu, ramps figure in three different dishes, and they are in season for only a short time.

Last week, I dropped in again for dinner with a colleague. The server encouraged us to order small plates to share—which we did.

Naturally, cheese figures in many of the dishes. We started with a hunk of fresh burrata ($12; above left). Octopus ($12; above right), perfectly cooked, was complemented with smoked paprika.

Skate ($12; above left) was spectacular. I am not sure what was in it, but it seemed to be stuffed with a spicy sausage of some kind (the menu said choucroute garni). Pork Belly ($12; above right) was so good we ordered a second helping. A minor complaint: if the plates are meant for sharing, why serve three pieces?

As he does at his other restaurants, Brennan offers several pre-composed “tasting flights” of cheeses ($16), or you can choose your own from a long list. The one shown at the right is called “Blue Notes” (blue, stilton, gorgonzola).

The wine list is priced in line with the menu, with plenty of reds below $50, and even a decent selection below $40.

There have been some reports of slow service here. Our food came out quickly, but servers weren’t always available when you wanted them, and a couple of times utensils didn’t arrive with the food. Management recognizes me, so I suspect we got slightly better service than the average patron.

There is much still to try here, but so far I am very impressed with Bar Artisanal. If the food program remains on track and the service glitches are smoothed out, this restaurant could have a happy future.

Bar Artisanal (268 West Broadway at Sixth Avenue, TriBeCa)

Food: **
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: *½

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