Note: This is a review under the opening chef, Will Sullivan. As of January 2012, the chef is Oliver Gilt, formerly of Commerce and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
When I heard a restaurant called Lowcountry was opening in the former Bar Blanc space, I thought it was some kind of Belgian–Dutch hybrid concept.
Actually, no: it’s just good ol’ fashioned Southern cookin’ . . . bourbon ’n’ grits, black-eyed peas, apples, pecans ’n’ ham.
Bar Blanc opened here in late 2007 with the chef, César Ramirez, who now has two Michelin stars at Brooklyn Fare. I wasn’t really sold on Bar Blanc. Frank Bruni gave it two stars, but the neighborhood never embraced it.
After Ramirez left, the owners, Didier Palange and Kiwan Standen, tried to make the space more casual, renaming it Bar Blanc Bistro and toning down the stark all-blanc interior. That didn’t work. Starting over again was the better course, and that is what they have now done.
The space runs the risk of looking like Southern kitsch: I am not sure what green filing cabinets and stacks of old record albums have to do with it. But the totally redone space is at least comfortable and attractive, even if the exposed brick surfaces make it awfully loud.
Prices are a marked contrast too: no more $36 entrées. Here, the bar snacks are $3–14, salads and small plates $7–15, large plates $19–23, side dishes $6. Except for the snacks, there are no more than five items in any category. It is always a relief to see that, as you know you’re getting the handful of things the chef knows he can do well.
And “do them well” is exactly what the chef, North Carolina import Will Sullivan, does.
Shrimp and Grits ($14; above left) with Andouille Sausage and tomato is exactly as it should be. Fried Chicken & Cheddar Biscuit ($14; above right) with Benton’s country ham gravy is awfully heavy for an appetizer, but I had no complaints with the preparation.
Corn Meal Dusted Catfish ($19; above left) with Carolina red rice and “Chow Chow” remoulade is a simple dish, but the kitchen knows how to handle a deep fryer: it was impeccably done. The Bourbon Cider Glazed Pork Chop ($21; above right) was a shade too sweet for my taste, but the pork was tender and the sweet potato purée was flawless.
I felt like I’d been hit with a calorie bomb, but the food is well executed, and you cannot complain about the prices. Even the cocktails are reasonable, clocking in at $10–12. Beers go as low as $6. I didn’t see a wine list, but I probably wouldn’t order wine with this food anyway.
The restaurant was mostly full on a Saturday evening, with both tables and the bar doing good business. Service was friendly, if a bit confused at times; however, the place is still new, and they deserve time to work out the kinks. Somewhat bucking the trend for unambitious places, Lowcountry takes reservations. Good for them; I probably would not have gone, if it did not.
If the owners were looking for a casual place that would attract a neighborhood crowd, and that did not depend on selling $30+ entrées to destination diners, I think they have it.
Lowcountry (142 W. 10th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, West Village)