Note: Bar Breton closed in February 2012. It has been renamed La Quenelle with the same chef/owner, Cyril Reynaud. He has dropped crêpes and will serve a more traditional French menu. Fleur de Sel, his other restaurant referred to in the review below, has also since closed, so it is not surprising that he wants to use this space to do something a bit more elaborate.
Like many restaurants named “Bar X” these days (Bar Boulud, Bar Blanc, etc., etc.), there is a bar, but it’s beside the point. The menu offers a mix of French brasserie standards along with savory crêpes known as galettes. There are four of these ($12–18), along with small plates called niacs ($8–12), soups & salads ($10–14), mains ($16–26), sides ($5) and desserts ($6–8).
The niacs and galettes are in varying sizes. Some of the niacs are just nibbles, and others are full-blown appetizers. Some of the galettes are appetizers, and others can stand in for main courses. There’s a potential for confusion, but our server’s guidance was spot-on.
The whole menu fits on a page, and except for the burger, it stays true to Chef Renaud’s Brittany roots. It is also terrific food at a budget price. Our bill for two, including a bottle of wine for $32, came in below $100 (before tip). That isn’t easily done these days.
There is a $35 “restaurant week” menu, which I believe will be available at least through the end of February. You get four courses for that price, which is a great deal, though we chose to spend less than that by getting two courses each à la carte.
To start, we had the Salt Baked Potato with braised oxtail ($12; above left) and the Suckling Pig & Foie Gras Terrine ($11; above right). Both came from the niacs section of the menu.
I loved the Braised Lamb Shank galette with roasted winter vegetables ($18; below left). My girlfriend had the burger ($16; below right). I didn’t try it, but I did try the fries, which were perfect. Our theory is that no brasserie has any business serving fries unless it can nail them. Bar Breton did.
I have only one minor complaint. The back of the long, narrow space is separated from the kitchen by two swinging doors that let in a lot of bright light. It slightly mars the ambiance of what would otherwise be a nice room. Obviously it is a casual room, but a sturdier partition could have blocked out the kitchen light.
On a Friday night, the space was close to full by 8:00 p.m., which is always encouraging for a new restaurant. Service was fine, including a nice basket of fresh bread. In a tough economic climate for restaurants, this is one that deserves to succeed.
Bar Breton (254 Fifth Avenue between 28th & 29th Streets, Gramercy/Flatiron District)