Entries in César Ramirez (3)


The Payoff: Bar Blanc

In today’s Times, Frank Bruni makes the remarkable discovery that some places called “Bar ______” aren’t really bars in the usual sense:

In an era of casual dressing, piecemeal supping and food as the adjunct to wine, is a restaurant’s best bet to pretend it’s less than it is? Should it persuade diners that it doesn’t harbor big ambitions or demand close attention, even if the opposite is true?

These are questions brought to mind by Bar Blanc, which belongs to a growing brood of establishments whose names suggest scruffier atmospheres and more modest menus than the places actually present.

Among its semantic siblings is Bar Stuzzichini, a fairly full-fledged Italian restaurant that opened last year, and Bar Milano, an apparently full-fledged Italian restaurant scheduled to open next month.

And then of course there’s Bar Boulud, a new French restaurant — yes, restaurant — that doesn’t even have a proper bar. Misleading nomenclature comes naturally to the chef Daniel Boulud, whose Café Boulud bears no resemblance to a café and whose DB Bistro Moderne isn’t anything oike a bistro.

Oh, yes. What about the food? Two stars.

We’ll admit it: We were very close to betting on just one star. But we didn’t. So Eater and NYJ both win $3 on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $65.50   $81.67
Gain/Loss +3.00   +3.00
Total $68.50   $84.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 31–14   32–13

Rolling the Dice: Bar Blanc

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews the West Village’s latest two-star aspirant, Bar Blanc. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 5-1
One Star: 4-1
Two Stars: 3-1 √√
Three Stars: 8-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: Today’s bet could be decided by a coin toss. Adam Platt and the Restaurant Girl have already awarded two stars, and the New Yorker liked it too, so it would be safe to guess that Bruni will agree. We were less enchanted, awarding only one star.

With most of the entrées between $25 and $35, these are not West Village neighborhood prices. To award the deuce, Bruni will insist on first-class service (not a strength of this restaurant in early reviews) and a high ratio of hits to duds.

The Bet: We are usually inclined to trust our own instincts (one star), but most critics have been positive, and we’re not willing to disagree with quite so many luminaries all at once. We are therefore betting that Frank Bruni will award two stars to Bar Blanc.


Bar Blanc

Kalina via Eater

Note: Bar Blanc closed on April 6, 2009, re-opening as Bar Blanc Bistro, which too has closed. The space is now the Southern-themed restaurant Lowcountry.


Bar Blanc is the brainchild of three Bouley alums, with executive chef César Ramirez at the helm. The very blanc interior is sleek and easy on the eyes. Open since early December, reviewers so far (Andrea Strong, Tables for Two, Gourmet) have found the service clumsy, but the ambitious food promising.

barblanc_logo.gifWe had no issues with the service, though our 6:15 p.m. reservation was well before the masses arrived. We started with a cocktail, and the bar tab was transferred to our table without complaint—something you can never take for granted these days.

The focused menu has just four appetizers ($12–18), three pastas ($20–24), six meat and fish entrées ($24–36), three sides ($8) and four desserts ($10). These prices won’t be sustainable unless Bar Blanc can become more than just a neighborhood place.

The wine list, too, is extravagantly priced. I ordered a Palmer Vineyards Cabernet Franc ($34). Kudos to Bar Blanc for stocking a Long Island wine and serving it at the correct temperature, but that shouldn’t be the only red under $50.


The server tried to upsell us to a tasting menu ($75), and he was also pushing the side dishes, but we both ordered just an appetizer and an entrée, which was plenty.

The amuse-bouche was a small puff pastry stuffed with goat cheese.

barblanc02a.jpg barblanc02b.jpg
Slow Roasted Rabbit and Sweetbread Salad (left); Milk Fed Porcelet (right)

Coincidentally, our sights landed on the identical choices. Slow Roasted Rabbit and Sweetbread Salad ($14) isn’t much of a salad at all, but it’s wonderful nonetheless, with a ricotta purée nicely balancing the two contrasting meats.

The menu description of Milk Fed Porcelet ($32) is practically essay-length. There is roast baby pig, pig head terrine, pig belly, chanterelles purée, diced Brussells sprouts, and a jus of cinnamon, star anise, and orange. That’s probably twice as much as it needed, as most of those ingredients were undetectable. The roasted pig was stringy and tasted like bitter ham. The belly was enjoyable, as pure fat tends to be.

It is still early days for Bar Blanc, and with this much talent in the kitchen I suspect there is much more to enjoy here. Though our entrée was a dud, the restaurant nevertheless looks promising.

Bar Blanc (142 W. 10th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, West Village)

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