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Bar Blanc
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Bar Blanc

Address: 142 W. 10th St., at Waverly Place.

Phone: (212) 255-2330.
Dinner: Tues.-Sun., 5:30-11 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Cuisine: Creative European.
Vibe: Stylish lounge.
Occasion: Intimate date; chic dining.
Don’t Miss Dish: Four-cheese ravioli; ginger-roasted red snapper.
Price: Appetizers, $12-$18; entrees, $26-$36; desserts, $10.
Reservations: Recommended.

Everyone looks beautiful at Bar Blanc. Perhaps it’s the way the
candlelight bounces off the polished white tables that casts an
unmistakably flattering glow throughout the space. It’s a stylish stage
set in the West Village, where diners lounge on shimmery banquettes in
the 65-seat dining room. Bar stools wear plush leather and even the
servers are fashionably dressed.

But make no mistake: Bar Blanc
is an ambitious restaurant in a laid-back disguise. This supposed “wine
bar” offers a four-course tasting menu ($72) that begins with steamed
foie gras and follows with sea scallops and Burgundy escargot. Chef
César Ramirez, who runs this spot alongside two other Bouley alumni,
has devised an eclectic, French-based menu. Thus, you can start with
tuna sashimi before settling into savory lasagna stacked with braised
lamb.

I immediately entered into a love-hate relationship with
a duo of tuna: On one side of the plate, an exquisitely fresh piece of
sashimi nestles in crispy burdock, tender elf mushrooms and a black
truffle dressing – a beguiling interplay of textures and flavors. On the other, a disconcertingly salty tuna confit gets a pasty anchovy dressing with shocks of rosemary.

Other
appetizers aren’t quite such stormy affairs. In fact, Ramirez is
skilled at balancing acts. There is a baby Boston lettuce salad with a
poached egg, and a palate-cleansing tangerine gelée that tempers a
herbaceous dressing. He also offsets the succulence of sweetbreads and
slow-roasted rabbit with a delicate spill of ricotta. A roasted red
snapper gets a shiso dashi broth that forms a smoky-sweet glaze around
the fish and infiltrates a tofu puree.

Even better, the
homemade ravioli look like a store-bought sheet straight from a box.
It’s a deceptive maneuver with criminally delicious returns: Each
doughy pocket gets plumped with a vivacious mix of four cheeses and
spackled with a silky lettuce sauce. It’s a superb indication of the
kind of performance Ramirez is capable of, but often fails to deliver
here.

Some dishes simply looked better than they tasted.
Drumstick sausages, bursting with flavor, steal the limelight from a
bland centerpiece of “slow-cooked organic chicken” that slips into the
backdrop. There was an artfully plated but indistinctive black cod
eclipsed by a surplus of accessories. The same was true of a tough
strip steak that couldn’t be salvaged, even by a rich bone marrow
sauce.

Though Bar Blanc proves a stylish showcase, the kitchen
can be inconsistent. During one dinner, seared scallops with an orange
confit were beautifully caramelized and juicy. At another dinner, they
emerged rare and gummy, deflecting any sweetness the orange confit had
previously invited. A bittersweet chocolate cake was moist on a first
visit, dry and chalky on a return trip – not to mention remarkably
small.

The best of the menu’s low-impact desserts was a Meyer
lemon soufflé accompanied by huckleberry marmalade. You’d be wise to
revisit the handsome wine list as you bask in the irresistible glimmer
of the room. If only you could request ambience in a doggie bag.


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