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Bar Breton

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Brunch is more like it at Bar Breton.

254 Fifth Ave., near 29th St. (212) 213-4999.
Dinner: Sun.-Thu., 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 4 p.m.-midnight;
brunch: Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

CUISINE: Casual French bistro
VIBE: A bit like home
OCCASION: Brunch, casual date
DON’T MISS DISH: Croquettes de bacalao, Chelsea buckwheat galette, Mont Saint-Michel galette, Red Eye cocktail
PRICE: Appetizers $11; entrees $21; desserts $7
RESERVATIONS: Accepted

I think Bar Breton should change its name to Brunch Breton. Even Breakfast Breton would make more sense. Because the best dishes on the dinner menu are items you’d order for breakfast.

Cyril Renaud, the chef and owner of this new restaurant on Fifth Ave. near 28th St., is from Brittany – or, as the French say, Breton.

And Brittany is famous for its galettes. Galettes Breton
aren’t dainty or delicate crepes. They’re not wafer-thin platforms –
edible plates – piled with strawberries or slathered with Nutella,
honey or chocolate.

What sets them apart from traditional, white-flour crepes is that
galettes Breton are made with buckwheat flour. Unlike refined wheat
flour, buckwheat flour, ground from buckwheat seeds, tastes bold and
slightly bitter, with a dark whisper of mushroom. And this makes
galette an entirely different and better beast altogether.

At Bar Breton, all the savory galettes are good. Take the Mont Saint-Michel. It’s a warm galette layered with nicely charred slabs of ham, Gruyère and a sunnyside up egg.

My favorite is the Chelsea galette – smoky shreds of chorizo, sweet
onion confit and an over-easy egg – which is only served for breakfast.
This is unfortunate, because it’s one of the best dishes at Bar Breton.

The only dish that really stands out on the dinner menu is the
croquettes de bacalao, ping-pong balls of salt-cured cod bound together
by a bechamel-like sauce and served with rosemary aioli. As for the
rest, the seared scallops bored me to tears, as did the black sea bass
and a dried-out duck-leg confit salad. Even the burger was a bore.

This is surprising when you consider that the chef earned a Michelin star at his first restaurant, Fleur de Sel,
an upscale French restaurant just down the street from Bar Breton.
(Sadly, Renaud has just announced that Fleur de Sel will close at the
end of the month.)

We all love the idea of eating brunch at home. Bar Breton is so
homey that the only thing missing is your bedroom right next door.
There’s a faux fireplace, mismatched chairs and an enormous cupboard
filled with teapots, teacups and ceramic pitchers that servers dip into
frequently. In the back dining room hangs a cluster of black-and-white
photos of Renaud’s family taken from the 1920s.

 

I trust a Frenchman’s taste in pastries, and Renaud goes straight to
the source, importing his croissants and pain du chocolat from
Brittany. And I’m learning to trust a Frenchman’s taste in morning
cocktails. Before Bar Breton, I’d never had brunch in a mug. Order the
Red Eye and out comes a mug full of freshly pureed tomato juice, vodka,
horseradish and a swizzle stick of bacon. Bobbing in its midst is a
barely poached egg dusted in smoked Spanish paprika.

Or try Denise’s Bloody Mary. I’m not sure who Denise is, but she
must be a hell of a woman. She drinks her Bloody Marys with
house-infused lime tequila, sardines en escabeche and cornichons. How
does it taste? Odd and oddly excellent, especially on a roll-out-of-bed
Sunday afternoon.

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