Monday, March 16, 2009

A mixed bag at Bar Breton

After a very long hiaitus, the girls got together once again for a Sunday night dinner-and-dish extravaganza. Our location this time: Bar Breton, the new-ish Flatiron restaurant specializing in buckwheat crepes.

I arrived at the storefront on a rather desolate stretch of Fifth Avenue first, and the hostess seated me gladly. While waiting for the other girls, I sat in our hard wooden booth and gazed around the mostly-empty restaurant; it was cheery and pulsed with upbeat, loud music. The waitstaff largely left me alone and continually refilled my tiny, shot-sized water glass while I waited.

Once the girls arrived, we made our choices and placed our order, with the waitress providing recommendations when asked. As we commenced our wait for the food, a small bread basket arrived with an iron thimble full of butter. The bread was dense and hearty wheat bread, the kind that feels like one of those expanding sponges in your stomach after you swallow a lot of it. The butter was really soft and spreadable, but unfortunately it was unsalted and there was no salt on the table. The bread also seemed relatively unsalted, so the whole package was a bit bland.

Blurry bread

It was quite a while before our entrees arrived, which was somewhat surprising, especially since we were one of only a few parties in the restaurant on a slow Sunday night. First up came SL's "braised lamb shank" buckwheat galette, topped with roasted winter vegetables. It was quite pretty but rather small-- she dispatched the entire galette in a few bites (which she said were delicious, it must be noted).

Isn't this pretty?

AC had ordered the "Open Face" spinach coulis galette, which came with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. She requested mushrooms instead of the tomatoes, to which the waitress assented eagerly. The first galette that arrived had the tomatoes; apologizing profusely, the waitress whisked it away to be replaced, despite AC's protestations that she'd just pick out the tomatoes and didn't mind. When the real thing came back, everyone dove in for a bite, and it was very tasty and incredibly filling. Interestingly, the taste of the crepe itself isn't a huge draw-- if you haven't tasted buckwheat before, it's simultaneously very nutty and very bitter, almost like over-toasted (i.e., burned) nuts.

The first version

My own selection was a combination of two sides, the roasted baby vegetables with parsley butter and the spinach & mushrooms. I requested both with minimal butter/oil, but not surprisingly both were pretty buttery/oily. The baby vegetables were cooked very well, but I wasn't a huge fan of the taste of the parsley butter. The spinach & mushrooms, however, were really delicious; despite the fact that our waitress had described the mushrooms as "regular white mushrooms," they were in fact delicious tiny gourmet mushrooms, which were really tasty.

Like the veggies from your youth

These mushrooms look like delicious

After we finished, service lapsed entirely; the time between receiving the dessert menu (which we didn't want) and actually receiving our printed credit card bills stretched to a half hour or more. Again, this was surprising, because the small restaurant wasn't full-- it was as though our previously engaging waitress had just forgotten our booth existed. Regardless, we had a good meal at Bar Breton-- while not every dish was a huge hit, the highs were high, and the food was clearly creative, fresh, and well-crafted. I'd return to try some of the salads or a dessert crepe, and I certainly respect what Bar Breton is trying to do. It deserves a solid three Offset Spatulas.

Bar Breton
254 Fifth Avenue

No comments: