Bar Q (closed)

by Susan on May 20, 2008

[Food:2.5/5]

This week I dined at Bar Q, yet another new NYC restaurant with the word “bar” in its name. Chef Anita Lo’s Bar Q however, manages to take the semantics game to a whole new level. There’s a small bar used to shake and stir shmancy cocktails. There’s also a raw bar of sashimi and shellfish. And then, lo-and-behold, there is Q. Q, you ask? Yes, as in BBQ; contemporary Asian style.

The vibe: uber-cool. The décor: uber-modern. All-white furnishings and glowing light orbs make you feel like you’re in a Jetson’s episode. With no sound-absorbing materials and ceilings that are lower than a post-war apartment’s, the noise level: uber-loud. Though seated in a booth, a white leather enclave that was a wee bit cozy for a foursome, we had to raise our voices to be heard over the din.

Lo could teach some of her fellow NY restaurateurs about service; it was impeccable. From the greeters at the host’s stand, to the unfailing water service, to one of the more professional and friendly servers I’ve had in recent memory.

The menu will get your heart pounding. Tea smoked fish and meat, numerous types of ribs, miso, and kimchee abound. The menu is not large, but four of us still had trouble narrowing down our order.

The Kumomoto Oysters, accompanied by four “dipping” sauces, were first to arrive. How to make a Kumomoto even better? Spoon on some of Lo’s yuzu.

Then came the food, a parade of beautifully plated dishes on stark white (what else?) dishware. Our taste buds tingled in anticipation. But as the four of us dug in, an awkward silence fell over the table. We wanted so much to love it. We assumed that we would.

A starter of Tea Smoked Salmon, caught in a nova-or-sashimi identity crisis was left to flounder somewhere between lackluster and delicate. It got an extra boost when dipped into the accompanying shot of leek and artichoke soup, but the soup’s funky flavor wasn’t enjoyable on its own.

Lo’s answer to hush puppies? Unagi and Scallion Fritters. They certainly had potential, but with too much fritter and not enough unagi, most bites were nothing more than fried batter dipped in soy.

Baby Back Ribs had a healthy dousing of a deep and earthy sauce. The meat itself was tough; pulling and tearing with teeth were required.

Over-salting was our biggest entrée grievance; it permeated through most of the proteins and their accompaniments. Lucky for us, top-notch water service meant that the long gulps required to calm our over-brined taste buds were readily available.

The Stuffed Spareribs were so tender they were easily cut by the edge of a fork, but too much salt over-powered the flavor of the meat as well as the peanut and Thai basil stuffing.

The Tea Smoked Chicken was moist, tender, and flavorful. It was the best entrée at the table and evidence perhaps, that some small tweaks could correct the seasoning of the other dishes.

The Tea Smoked Duck Breast, in contrast, was rubbery and infused with the taste of brine. After doling out bites to the rest of the table, I didn’t even finish the small piece that remained. Considering the name of this blog . . . .

Grilled Australian Loin of Lamb was cut into un-natural looking triangles. Though the meat was rubbed with a nice blend of spices and aromas, the small pieces were over-cooked and dry.

The menu also offers a handful of sides, but be aware, most of them have already been designated to an entrée as an accompaniment. The duck breast, for example, comes with a healthy portion of sesame noodles; the lamb, with two hefty squares of the Garlic Fried Milk. Our server let us know, enabling us to switch our order to a half portion of Grilled Eggplant, a beautiful and tasty stack of miso-glazed slices.

Regardless of how you do it, make sure you try the inventive and delicious Garlic Fried Milk. Silky, tofu-textured cubes are lightly battered and fried. It showcases Lo’s capabilities.

A couple years ago I had a blissful meal at Anita Lo’s first restaurant, Annisa, where I was impressed by her unique flavors, balanced dishes, and elegant presentations. Bar Q just might have the potential to reach a similar level.

Bar Q
www.barqrestaurant.com
308 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
212.206.7817

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