« Review Preview: Aldea | Main | Review Preview: Bar Artisanal »

Review Recap: Bar Artisanal

Today, Frank Bruni very strangely gets Bar Artisanal right, yet all wrong, in awarding one star:

With the new restaurant Bar Artisanal, positioned and presented as a casual spinoff of Artisanal, Mr. Brennan has made the journey all the way downtown, to TriBeCa, and his cheese, of course, has traveled with him. Much of it is exhibited at a counter not entirely unlike Artisanal’s, but since that’s old hat for him, it’s not the striking part. What’s more arresting, amusing and in many crucial instances rewarding is the way cheese recurs across Bar Artisanal’s menu, dotting and flecking it, like dill or caraway in a wedge of havarti…

Take away the cheese and what’s left is a calculating, somewhat cynical operation, connected to the Hilton Garden Inn, that’s not all that reflective of Mr. Brennan, who guides but doesn’t actually own it. Bar Artisanal pillages and repackages current trends with astonishing thoroughness, commanding attention for that alone. If restaurants could be preserved in amber and tucked away for future students of gustatory anthropology, this might be the one to save and label, “New York City, circa 2010.”

We are struck by this, because although Bar Artisanal does indeed bow to trends, they are the very trends that Bruni has worshipped and adored during his five-year tenure. We are not even convinced that it is true. The cheese course alone makes Bar Artisanal a destination restaurant, since only one other restaurant in town (sister establishment Artisanal) offers anything like this variety, at anything approaching this price point.

And for all that, he calls out only one dish for outright criticism:

…a few out-and-out duds, the overpopulated “duck” pissaladière — with duck gizzard, duck confit, duck liver and a duck egg — foremost among them…

Funnily enough, we had that dish ourselves a week or two ago and considered it excellent. Having lambasted the restaurant for being enslaved to fashion, the one dish he pans is among those being served nowhere else.

We predicted and agree with Bruni’s one-star rating. But in the Times system, one star is supposed to mean “good.” Here, Bruni’s text suggests “Not So Good,” which is all wrong.


In Dining Briefs, Ligaya Mishan channels her inner Restaurant Girl in a review of Public Fare at the Delacorte Theater:

Roasted baby carrots spar in a lively mix of pickled versus peppery… Among the sandwiches, the organic chicken salad ($6.50) pulls rank with the gratifying crunch of green beans, celery and radish, and a fillip of chili pepper… The big disappointment is the B.L.T. ($7). Mine was over-mayoed and under-tomatoed; the pallid slices of tomato, more outer edge than juicy center, were no match for the brash hickory-smoked bacon.

Reader Comments (2)

I read both your and Bruni's reviews of Bar Artisnal, and while I am usually irritated by Frank's ignorance, I think he is closer to the truth than you. My wife and I had a fairly early reservation (7:00pm) on a weeknight, and the service was barely tolerable. Out of six or seven dishes, one stood out for its insulting size. The seafood taster consistedof tiny and overseasoned portions of tuna, scallop and yellowtail for an outrageous $13. Only one dish impressed; the lamb burger was an excellent and interesting dish that I would happily order again. The burrata was very good, but was really just a chunk of a very nice cheese with a bit of salad. The wines were impressive, and the bar seemed competent. And we did like the bread service.

Would we go back? Yes, if we were in the neighborhood, but next time we will order much more carefully, and not tolerate substandard service.

July 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteriamnotachef

Fair enough, and thanks for the comment. Although I’ve been there four times, I have sampled less of the menu than Bruni did. Perhaps I was just lucky with the service and the items I ordered. I did have the lamb burger and agree with you about its merits.

My broader meta-theme is that the Times claims that one star means “Good,” and if the text of the review is correct, then the restaurant should have received zero stars. It demeans restaurants that are actually good when he gives out a star and then writes a mostly negative review.

July 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>