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Bar Artisanal: No Art Here

Bar Artisanal reminded me of the adage, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Usually, this means that something wonderful lies underneath a not-so-wonderful exterior. However, in the case of Terrance Brennan’s Bar Artisanal, it is the glossy exterior that wows in the face of a rotten interior.

The restaurant is gorgeous. Tall, bright, and airy, the cavernous room reminds of a luxurious terrace restaurant in the south of France. Dramatic windows, tiered vintage chandeliers, and towering potted plants dominate the decor, which is completed by a marble cheese bar and black-and-white tiled floors. If you were to judge based on looks alone, Bar Artisanal would pass with flying colors.
However, beyond the masterful decoration, Bar Artisanal falls completely flat. My first major complaint is the service. Brennan, of Artisanal and Picholine, should be embarrassed by the state of both the hostess service and the table service at his French American ‘barstro.’ At 8pm on a Monday night, the restaurant was only about 60% full and the hostess refused to seat me, 1/2 of a reservation for two, until my friend, who I had informed would be 20min late, showed up. After standing for 10min, staring at empty tables for 2 with a particularly sour look on my face, she finally decided that it would be more prudent to seat me. What if my friend never showed up? Would she just suggest I eat at the bar? Do they have a minimum # of people per party that are allowed to eat in their restaurant? Pitiful.
After being seated, I can count on one hand the number of times our waitress approached our table throughout the entire meal, and that includes the clearing of dishes. It took her over 30 minutes to take our order; she never brought us our second order of wine; she never once checked on how we were liking our food; and I had to ask another member of the waitstaff if we could ever pay our bill. I could never recommend this restaurant purely because of the total lack of attention paid to patrons.
Some of the service slips may have been forgiven if the food were truly worth the money. However, even the most enticing of menu items lacked flavor or elegance. My friend Jen and I started off with two of the ‘petit plats’ – the pumpkin hummus and the grilled cheese bites. The pumpkin hummus was utterly flavorless and textureless, while the grilled cheese bites were merely soggy pieces of a grilled cheese I could whip up on my own stovetop. We then sampled the Artisanal Blend Burger and the Lamb Bolognese Pappardelle. The burger looked pretty great, yet the special sauce was indistinguishable and served only to make the bun soggy. The cone of fries was, sadly enough, the highlight of our meal. Admittedly, my pappardelle was cooked well and the lamb bolognese sauce was tasty; yet, it couldn’t hold a candle to Metrazur’s veal pappardelle that I had recently.
The major issue with Bar Artisanal is value. This is a ‘refined’ establishment that tries to create the illusion of value with small plates and cheap entrees ($17.50 for my pappardelle). However, in reality, it’s not a great value at all. The wine is over $12 a glass, averaging out at around $14 a glass; the food, if you include the small plates and dessert, can easily add up to over $55 a head. Thus, you end up with not cheap food in a restaurant without any finesse or understanding of proper service – doesn’t seem like a good combination of characteristics to me.
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend Bar Artisanal; however, if you’re desperate for mid-priced food in a chic environment that’s large enough to accommodate groups, Bar Artisanal is one of the only at least mildly acceptable options in Tribeca.

Bar Artisanal on Urbanspoon

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