Bâtard-Montrachet is a grand cru appellation of Burgundy, producing wines of 100% Chardonnay. A bastard is “a contemptible, inconsiderate, overly or arrogantly rude or spiteful person.”
Both are applicable at Bâtard, the latest restaurant in the hallowed space that was once home to the beloved Montrachet, and more controversially, Corton. The constants at all three establishments have always been excellent cuisine, Burgundy-centric wine lists, and owner Drew Nieporent, the mayor of Tribeca, who also owns nearby Nobu and Tribeca Grill.
The list of chefs who cooked at Montrachet reads like a culinary Who’s Who. As they left one by one, to pursue other projects, Nieporent kept replacing them, holding onto three New York Times stars until the very end. Montrachet finally closed in 2006, re-opening two years later, named for another Burgundy appellation (Corton), with a much larger kitchen and the talented but difficult chef, Paul Liebrandt, at the helm.
Paul was my partner. He wasn’t my employee. And partners can’t be your competitors. You can’t take the same product, sell it at half the price, and then just move it to Brooklyn.
The five years that Liebrandt lasted at Corton was a personal record. If he lasts another five at The Elm, I will be surprised.
Anyhow, this time Nieporent elected not to replace the chef while keeping the name, as he’d done repeatedly at Montrachet. He re-Christened the space “Bâtard,” a not-so-subtle dig at his carpet-bagging ex-partner. Chef Markus Glocker arrives after a six-year stint as chef de cuisine at Gordon Ramsay at the London. Jonathan Winterman, a former maître d’hôtel at Daniel, is Managing Partner.
It’s immediately apparent that Bâtard a lot more like Montrachet, and a lot less like Corton, where, according to Nieporent, the food in its final days was so avant-garde that he could not even recognize what was on the plate. He told The Times, “It will be more user-friendly than Corton.”
The renovation is less ambitious than the transformation that created Corton out of the shell of Montrachet, but the changes are mostly for the better. The room (which was never Corton’s strength) is warmer and less austere. The bar is longer and more comfortable. The white tablecloths are gone, and I miss them.
The wine list seems slimmed down from the last list I recall at Corton. Nevertheless, it offers one of the city’s best Burgundy selections outside a four-star restaurant. There’s a smattering of bottles below $60 for the budget-minded diner, and it goes up from there. On the cocktail list, try the Ol’ Dirty Bâtard, a bargain at $12, served on a coaster with the recipe pre-printed: Jim Beam rye, punt e mes, cochi rosa, mole bitters, and a maraschino cherry.
The food comes across as uncomplicated, but this is not to say that it is simplistic or easy. Here and there, Glocker takes the road less traveled by, as in his Rabbit “Flavors of Bouillabaisse” and his Octopus “Pastrami”. But considerably more of the menu is made up of dishes that announce their intentions without irony, such as an English Pea Soup, a Pan Roasted Branzino, or a Strip Loin of Beef.
The format is prix fixe: $55 for two courses, $65 for three, $75 for four. There’s a straightforward list of eight appetizers, eight entrées, and five desserts. (One dish carries a supplement, the Lamb for Two, $15.)
You don’t visit such a nice restaurant to count pennies. But if you’re wondering, the two-course option is a hair over-priced, and there aren’t many embedded extras (such as amuses bouches) that would make it a better deal than it seems. Order three or four courses, at a marginal cost of just $10 per course, and Bâtard becomes one of the best deals in town.
The plates are beautifully assembled, such as Roasted Beets “Linzer” (above left) with caramelized hazelnuts, red currants, and mâche salad; or Maine Lobster (above right) with green asparagus, zucchini blossom, and citrus rind.
I was pleased with the Octpus “Pastrami” (above left), an assemblage of braised ham hock, pommery mustard, and new potatoes. The entrées impressed in a more quiet way, such as the Baked Turbot (above right) with organic egg yolk, parsley coulis, and salted pumpkin seeds; or the Roasted Branzino (below left) with gnocchi, ratatouille, and a tomato gin consommé.
Chef Glocker got his training at Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany and Austria, and it’s no surprise that Teutonic influences turn up on the menu. Chicken Schnitzel (above right) is a regular special. Though competently executed, it comes across less impressively, as Wiener Schnitzel with a cheaper ingredient substituting for the usual veal.
The cheese course (above left) is a highlight. Three of us shared the portion shown (they charged us for the equivalent of two desserts), and there’s a modest little plate of petits fours at the end.
There are signs that Bâtard can be a fancier place, when it wants to be. Servers are smartly dressed in crisp ties. There’s a choice of two house-made breads, served individually. Plates are delivered with a flourish. Tables are amply spaced, as they were at Corton. There’s even an old-school cheese cart. And of course, the wine list. But the restaurant does not appear formal, at least as viewed from the front door.
Bâtard is already a very good restaurant. I did not mind Corton’s more overt formality, though I did not find it essential either. Ironically, by taking the space back to something more like Montrachet, Nieporent has created a restaurant more in tune with the restaurants of today. Just pinch yourself: you’re not dreaming that a four-course meal of this quality, in such a nice place, with such a capable chef, is served here.
Bâtard (239 West Broadway between Walker & White Streets, Tribeca)
Food: Pan-European, slightly Germanic
Service: Veering towards formality, but not quite there
Ambiance: Straddling formal and casual