Two things in life that I adore: A good brunch and a good deal.
And I like them all the better if I’m able to combine the two.
Bar Artisanal in Tribeca? It delivers on both fronts.
The restaurant has gotten some mixed reviews since Terrance Brennan (of Artisanal and Picholine) opened the place in late April — Serious Eats raved about the lamb chops and lamb burger (“a flavor knockout punch”) while the New York Times’ Frank Bruni picked apart the “overpopulated” duck pissaladière (a French pizza) featuring duck liver, gizzard, confit and a duck egg.
But when it comes to brunch, the verdict is a little clearer — the menu is simpler, the food is perfectly decent. And the prices, well, they just can’t be beat, considering what you’re getting.
At $21 for two courses (which could include two main courses) and dessert, you could make off with a $40 meal for about half the price.
Which, suffice to say, is a pretty darn good deal in Manhattan.
Just as it is with Brennan’s other restaurants, cheese is liberally sprinkled throughout the menu, most notably on its list of amuse bouches, which include cheese tempura and roquefort parfait.
Now, whenever I’m at Artisanal, I get weak-kneed at the slightest whiff of the gougeres the restaurant makes. I’ve been known to scarf down two big baskets of the airy, cheesy bites in a sitting — with absolutely no regrets. They’re worth every calorie.
(It’s worth noting that Bar Artisanal is attached to a Hilton Garden Inn and handles its room service. If those guests can order gougeres off the room service menu, they’re seriously lucky people.)
With a big brunch ahead of us, however, we decided to be responsible and pass on the gougeres.
The brunch menu is an extensive one — sections include salads, burgers, breakfast dishes and pissaladieres and each of those categories features several dish choices. (Prices range from $8 beignets to a $16 pissaladiere topped with smoked haddock, bacon and eggs.)
We decided not to be greedy and order two mains. So for starters, we had the $8 small plate of giant white beans with merguez sausage, which wasn’t anything revolutionary but was tasty nonetheless.
The small plate that did blow our minds was the $12 softshell crab on a spicy iceberg salad, topped with tart slivers of pickled mango and chopped, roasted peanuts.
The spicy, southeast Asian style salad dressing coupled with the pickled mango was a truly refreshing foil to the crispy, fried softshell crab.
Next up, we had the Eggs Benedict Artisanal ($16), which was a boring but perfectly delicious version of the classic brunch dish.
The scrambled eggs with clams and chorizo ($15) were far more memorable. The combination of briny and spicy tastes with the creamy eggs was lovely.
(I just wish there had been more of it — the eggs come in such a little dish they should have been listed under “small plates” instead of “breakfast dishes.”)
When we brunched at Bar Artisanal, the $21 deal did not include dessert — that appears to be a recent change. Nonetheless, we considered ending on a sweet note, being generally unable to contain ourselves at the mere mention of warm beignets.
But as we sat there waiting for our waiter — which took quite a bit of time, even though the restaurant was mostly empty — our meal settled in and the need for a nap or a long walk suddenly kicked in.
That beignet report? It will just have to come another time.
Bar Artisanal, 268 West Broadway, New York, NY; 212.925-1600; http://barartisanal.com/index.php