Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bar Artisanal

Last night Ryan and I celebrated 6 years together! We have nicknamed our anniversary of meeting/dating the "anniversary of knowing". I feel very lucky to know Ryan....

So, we ventured to Tribeca to check out Artisanal's little sister, Bar Artisanal. Long before this blog, perhaps some three or four years ago now- *gasp* time goes fast- we went to Artisanal with a large group of friends during restaurant week. Friends who have been living in Italy for two years... friends who have been in Florida for a year... Friends we dearly miss! Anyway, sentimental romanticizing aside, we had an amazing time. Artisanal began as a fromaggerie- a cheese shop-and though I can't recall the majority of the food and wine we had, the highlight for me was a "1,000 cheese " fondue. It was a blend of many different cheeses, and it was just awesome. Beyond that, I remember tasty french fare, and mainly just a lot of fun.

So, back to Bar Artisanal. This new spot highlights Spanish wine and food, rather than the uptown spot which is french through and through. We Started off with a glass of Albarino- a citrusy, refreshing white wine ($11)- for Ryan, and a glass of Cava- a sparkling, champagne- like white ($10)- for me. Both are perennial favorites and hit the spot on a humid and muggy night. We didn't try the sangria- which was probably a huge mistake, as it looked awesome- and comes in several styles, including a hot & spicy version ($8/ glass) ! I'll add that to my "next time" list.

We started off with some tapas- small plates- which they offer in both 'classic' and 'modern' versions. We ordered marinated olives($4) and patatas bravas ($7) from the classic side, and manchego tempura ($7) from the modern.

The patatas bravas- basically fried potatoes- are a favorite dish of ours, and I've always seen them before as actual potatoes, but here were french fries. They were really nicely seasoned, salty, lots of pepper, and some herbs, and served with two traditional sauces, one which has a smoky, chipotle flavor, and a second which was an aioli, a creamy garlic- olive oil-mayonnaise. I thought this dish was really awesome and both sauces were addicting- but I wished they were served as potato wedges rather than fries.

The Manchego tempura was really interesting- manchego cheese was shaped into a ball and then batter dipped and fried. Awesome. My only complaint was that they were way over-salted, at least the two I ate, but Ryan did not have the same experience, so this might reflect a heavy hand more than the actual dish. I also thought the fries were salty too, so this might be my one complaint. Then again, I am an exception to most people's taste in salt.... I wonder if the manchego would have benefitted from a sweet sauce of some sort, just to balance the savory and salty flavors of the cheese and the batter. But overall, my mouth is watering recalling this dish, so clearly the saltiness did not ruin an otherwise lovely plate.

I had a glass of red wine, a Tempranillo from Rioja, which, as my husband often forgets, is a region and not a grape or style of wine. The red was really nice- and I received by far the most generous pour of the evening. We did notice that the bar seemed inconsistent- some glasses were quite full, primarily mine, and Ryan's always seemed rather small. The tempranillo had a subtle oak flavor that complimented the tapas wonderfully. Ryan ordered a glass of viura, a white wine also from Rioja- that was very floral and perfumey, but lacked the citrus notes I'd like in a glass of white.

We then split a meat and cheese plate ($25), I mainly eating the cheese.. and Ryan taking on the meat. The plate came with 3 types of meat: Chorizo, salchicon, a dry cured sausage, and lomo, cured pork loin. I DID sneak a bite of the chorizo, which was nice and spicy, like salami. oooh yes. As for the cheese, I asked the waiter to select one cow, one goat, and one sheep, and sort of pick his favorites. The goat was semi-firm, nutty, sharp, and really nice, but the sheep was my favorite- Roncal- and Ryan's. It was not quite as sharp as the goat, but also had a nutty flavor, similar to manchego. The last was definitely a curiosity- a soft cow's cheese that had cayenne in it- Afuegal Pitu. We both thought it was interesting, but not sure that either of us could really say we liked it. I'm glad I tried it, just for the experience!

Finally, we shared a dessert, another classic- churros ($10), served with hot chocolate. I love churros- fried dough- and these were really fresh and tasty. The hot chocolate was also great, I actually poured a little into my coffee!!

Overall, I had a really nice time. We both saw more we'd like to try- Ryan wanted to taste the mussels, and I saw some tasty looking salads, as well as more cheese I would love to sample. Not to forget the sangria!! I definitely see this spot as good for snacking and drinking.... Ole!

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