Entries in Bar Artisanal (5)


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.


Review Preview: Bar Artisanal

Record to date: 4–2

Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Bar Artisanal, Terrance Brennan’s cheese-themed brasserie that replaced the doomed Trigo.

The Skinny: We have to admit it up front: we’ve really taken a shine to this place. It’s on the way home, it’s a cuisine that we love, and the menu is perfect for grazing, as often suits our mood after work. Oh, that and the food is very good. We haven’t had a bad dish yet.

All of our visits have been relatively early, before the crowds arrive. Many other reports have complained that as the restuarant gets busy, service starts to slip. We’ve heard it often enough to believe there must be some truth in it.

Other data points? Bar Artisanal’s slightly more ambitious sister restaurant, Artisanal, carries two stars from William Grimes. Bruni visited there in Dining Briefs, finding “some consistency problems.”

Our own rating of Bar Artisanal is 1½ stars, but Bruni doesn’t use half-stars, and in the absence of them I am inclined to round down.

The Prediction: We predict that Frank Bruni will award one star to Bar Artisanal.


The Lamb Burger at Bar Artisanal

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


I don’t usually post so many times about the same restaurant, but Bar Artisanal is right next to the subway station I use every day, so I have an excuse to keep exploring the menu there.

The lamb burger ($16) has a terrific goat cheese center. I’d probably rate it a tie with the Classic Burger (reviewed previously), except that I wasn’t at all fond of the chickpea fries that come with it. I give Chef Brennan credit for trying something different: no one would have considered themselves cheated if it came with regular fries. But the regular fries are indeed better.

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


The Burger at Bar Artisanal

Note: Bar Artisanal closed in mid-2010 after a brief, ill-fated Spanish-themed do-over.


There are three burgers at Bar Artisanal: Classic ($13), Lamb ($16), and Tuna ($18). We dropped in the other day for the Classic. The black angus beef had a nice beefy taste. The accompanying fries were perfect too.

The meal was a carb overload, as the also came with excellent bread service, and a bucket (yeah, a bucket) of gougères were comped.

The lamb burger comes with a got cheese center. That’s the next thing to try.

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


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