406 Broome Street, at Cleveland Place
TYPE: American brasserie with a French bent
VIBE: A definitively social spot OCCASION: A casual date, bar dining, or group gathering DON’T MISS DISH: Skate with cauliflower puree, maitake mushrooms & brussel sprouts DON’T BOTHER DISH: Tuna tartare DRINK SPECIALTY: Bar Gibson (the house favorite) PRICE: $45 & up HOURS: Dinner, 7 days a week, 6 PM – 2 AM; Lunch, Sat. & Sun., 10 AM – 5 PM; Lunch, Mon. – Fri., 11 AM – 6 PM. RESERVATIONS: Reservations accepted & recommended for dinner. RESTAURANT GIRL RATES: 7 on food, 9 on scene
FINAL WORD: Not your ordinary restaurant du jour, Bar Martignetti is intent on reinventing the lost art of table-hopping. With some kick-ass cocktails and a satisfying menu, this spot will undoubtedly breed a following of aspiring regulars.
After great anticipation, countless false starts from the media-at-large and a two-week delay in schedule, Bar Martignetti has finally scored a liquor license and is off to the restaurant races. With their newest venture, more ambitious than the last (Martignetti Liquors), Anthony and Tom Martignetti aim higher than just booze, hoping to make their mark with an American brasserie menu.
What was once upon a
time a factory, has been transformed into an airy brasserie with high
tin ceilings, antique mirrors, exposed brick walls, brown leather
banquettes and two sets of floor-to-ceiling windowed walls, that make it easy to window shop the good-looking, prepster crowd from the street. A team effort by Tom, Anthony and interior decorator, Jason Horvath, Bar Martignetti has that neighborhood fixture, brasserie feel. I scurried down to the new 100-seat space, camera in tote, on opening night and broke in the zinc bar with a house favorite, the Bar Gibson – a gentle, but dangerously easy-on-the-tongue elixir of Hendrick’s gin, picked onions and brilliantly house-pickled cucumbers.
Though it would’ve been all too easy to linger at the bar for the night, I squired a table to take a spin around the menu. The casual, but polished menu, is also a joint effort by chefs Lonnie Dyner (Brasserie 8 1/2) & Sung Park (Jean Georges) – who knows what happened to Ryan Arnold, the Odeon chef set to lay claim on the Martignetti kitchen? Dyner & Park have collaborated on the classic American bistro fare – lobster rolls, burgers and oysters rockefeller – enlisting notably French preparations, the likes of steak tartare, steak frites & chicken paillard. I started with their signature, eggplant Martignetti, apparently a long-standing family recipe. Homey and flavorful, three simple slices of egg and pecorino-battered eggplant are pleasantly fried, then topped with mozzarella and a tangy tomato sauce. I was particularly partial to a warm and earthy goat cheese & beet tart; a flaky shell wrapped itself around a velvety, whipped goat cheese with a sprinkling of fine herbs and gently sweet baby beets, tossed in an acacia honey vinaigrette. Regrettably, I was less impressed with the tuna tartare, a layer of avocado and asian pear, stacked with yellow fin tuna, dressed in a spicy dashi broth. Lacking in texture, the chile clashed with the sweetness of the pears and overwhelmed the tuna entirely.
But it was smooth sailing through the entrees, which were all quite good, perhaps not particularly innovative, but I doubt the Martignetti brothers are too concerned with breaking gastronomic ground. Still, the food firmly holds its ground, especially in the seafood department. A pan-seared skate, nicely browned, rode a cauliflower puree so luscious and buttery, it could’ve easily been mistaken for whipped potatoes. Not the brussel sprouts of your youth, these brussel sprouts, blanched and simply seasoned with salt & pepper, were so tasty and perfectly cooked, we demanded an additional side of them. I also took to the pan-seared diver scallops, nicely crusty on the outside, each perched on individual mounds of butternut squash, and creatively paired with delicate, honshimeji mushrooms. A mixed green salad, topped off with fresh, plump lobster, may have been slightly overdressed in a creamy espelette vinaigrette, but I was too distracted by an adjacent table of generous young men, willing to sneak me a bite of their filet mignon, to pay much attention to salad dressing. This unusual phenomenon of plate-sharing and table-hopping was curiously taking place throughout the restaurant, singles sharing frites with strangers.
By dessert, the music was pumping and the restaurant was in full swing, packed with a happily unpretentious, neighborhood set. I savored the feeding and flirting frenzy, over a creamy affogato, spiked with espresso, and dabbled in the usual suspect, a warm apple tart.
With lunch and brunch on the imminent horizon, not to mention the opening of the Belgrade, their new, swanky subterranean lounge just below the restaurant, the Martignetti mini-empire will undoubtedly become a one-stop amusement shop. Charming spots like Bar Martignetti, provide a welcome alternative to velvet ropes and Meatpacking madness. As so for me, I’ll be back for all of the above.
Until we eat again,
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