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Bar Americain - Review

A couple days ago I was watching the Slam Dunk contest on TNT the night before the AllStar game. As they normally do, the camera was scanning the audience looking for celebrities that were in attendance and there popped up Bobby Flay. What in the world is Bobby Flay doing on the TV? Don't get me wrong... I love the Food Network and watch it religiously. And heck, I would definitely like to meet Bobby, Rachel, or Mario, anytime. But mainstream celebrity?

My answer to my rhetorical question: "Hell yeah!"

I bring this up only because later that night I had reservations at Bar Americain!

All little too pretentious and over the top, the decor at Bar Americain was as classic upscale New York as they come. I can't complain too much though, since I try and frequent these types establishments often. It wasn't too dark, but a good loud bistro-like environment. Actually, did you know that Bar Americain is labeled as an "American Brasserie." And did you know that a brasserie, as defined by American Heritage dictionary, is: "A restaurant serving alcoholic beverages, especially beer, as well as food." I didn't.

All in all, I had a pleasant experience. The service was top-notch. My cousin's wine glass had a little green speck in it, that the waiter immediately changed the glass and wine, and was very apologetic. And my glass of wine had really a lot of sediment in it (I mean I can handle a "normal" amount, but this was excessive), and while I didn't notice it until I was three quarters through my glass, he gave me a new one at no charge - I left a good tip. What do you think though, at a restaurant like that, is it bad service to even have to deal with that?

We started the dinner with the Three Shellfish Tasting - Lobster, Crab, and Shrimp. The shrimp was way overcooked; the crab, which had little-to-no flavor, was subtly sweet in its mango sauce; and the lobster was awesome - chilled, yet not too firm because it was cooked well, with a very subtle and savory vinaigrette tossed with some greens.

I had the pleasure of having dinner with my two cousins, who were amenable to me "suggesting" what they should eat and letting me try it (Translation: I ordered three entrees and ate off of my cousins' plates). Cousin 1 had mussels with frenchfries. The mussels were well cooked with big soft pieces in each black clutch (that's a small woman's purse that she holds in her hand, in case you didn't know what I was getting at), that highlighted a little red pepper spice that added just enough heat to make the dish memorable. French fries were not memorable, but definitely not bad.

Cousin 2 had the pork chop, which on first bite was succulent, juicy (which means succulent), briny, soft, and scrumptious. Bite 4-5, revealed an overcooked piece of meat, and we realized later the waiter had never asked us how we'd like the chop done. That made me very sad.

My BBQ ribeye steak was done absolutely perfectly. The inside was red (not pink), without even a hint of blood, but was juicy nonetheless. I have to admit, the steak wasn't as flavorful as I'd hoped, despite the BBQ sauce and excess amount of fat that was marbled throughout, a bit too though.

If you're a tea lover, get the early grey tea ice cream. Awesome.

Overall, you can't get away from the celebrity chefs. And why would you want to? Mr. Flay, can I get your autograph?

http://foodabee.blogspot.com

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  1. Bar Americain rates as one of the top places for me. I have been numerous times because I work close by. Lunch is always solid and a great place to take clients. I also sometimes go after work for happy hour with my colleagues and it's fun to eat at the bar with the lively scene and good bar food.

    Most times, I get the apps there: grilled pizza, seafood trio (as foodabee mentioned above), tuna tartare and some duck pancake.

    But what I never forget to do is order the souffle for dessert. Unreal.

    1. I love Bar Americain. I think its Bobby Flay's best restaurant. I also LOVE the seafood trio! The salad with asparagus and chedder cheese is great and I love the salmon! You have to have the homemade potato chips with blue cheese. They are decadent! I have never had dessert there but the cheese plate is really good! I thoroughly enjoyed it! The brunch there is also great!

      1. I've only been there for lunch...and that experience was average at best. Service was atrocious (hungover much?) and my grilled goat cheese on brioche was burnt. How hard is it to make that dish right? Other items like the onion soup were good but I would never go back on my own dime.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dkstar1

          I went for lunch once as well (on the company dime) and was not impressed. I ordered a salad with smoked trout that was lackluster (and it sounded really good), and a french onion soup that had no flavor. the service was awful as well. it took forever to just get a glass of water, let alone order any food. i think it is overpriced, and will not be going back.

        2. I'm with dkstar1 and twiggles. As I've written before on this board, it never ceases to surprise me whenever I read a positive review of Bar Americain since the food I had there was so poor. The lamb I was served was more bone than meat, and the side that was described on the menu as a sweet potato gratin turned out to be exactly two tiny pieces of potato with no gratin-like quality in evidence.

          We didn't have any problems with service. As for the decor, though it was attractive in a glitzy kind of way, I have no idea what the o.p. means by describing it as "classic upscale New York." However, when it comes to the cost, foodabee did get the "upscale" part right. Unlike dkstar1 and twiggles, we paid. Walked out feeling totally ripped off!

          1. I completely disagree. I thoroughly enjoyed Bar Americain. I have been on many occasions because I am a big fan of Bobby Flay's other restaurants (esp Mesa Grill). I feel that his food is consistently served with the utmost quality, flavor and precision. I especially appreciate the big and bold flavors. The service is hospitable and it's an enjoyable time whenever I dine at any of his restaurants, especially Bar Americain. I'm a fan.

            1. i went there expecting much more. I think his southwestern place on lower 5th ave is much better. The food was not exceptional at all. One of the seafood trio options was so sickenenly sweet i could not eat it. Overall it was not anything special or even above average. There are so many great restaurants in NYC that this one is lacking in atmosphere and the food is not good enough to command a repeat visit.

              3 Replies
              1. re: grlygrl

                I've been to Bar Americain twice now, once for lunch and once for dinner, and was thoroughly unimpressed both times.

                The first time was perhaps excusable, as it was not an ordinary night. American Express had reserved the entire restaurant for cardmembers who had received free three-course dinners through AmEx's "Membership Changes Everything" promotion. My guess is that the A team was not working, as tips were probably dismal (we tipped more than 50% on our wine bill, but it probably still wasn't as much as a regular 15-20% tip would have been on a full meal, and I'm sure many other diners that night tipped far less than we did). Anyway, service was decent, but not particularly attentive. I've had better service in plenty of far less expensive restaurants in NYC. And we found the food remarkably uninteresting, heavily dominated by sugar and salt and not particularly well-cooked. I had the Florida-style snapper. The fish was dry and overcooked, and the sauce was the least flavorful sauce I'd ever had outside a hotel banquet hall. Desserts were better, but were still nothing special. I left thinking that either the restaurant really sucked, or they were really having an off night because of the AmEx thing.

                Willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, I went back for a business lunch a few weeks later. This time I had the chicken pot pie, which I again found to lack any flavors other than sweet and salty. The chicken pot pie at a typical Jersey diner is about the same level of quality (although without the biscuit-dough crust--the only thing that makes Americain's unique), and I liked the chicken pot pie at PJ Clarkes is much more. Service was even worse this time around. We had to wait forever for our food and the waiter came to check on us maybe once through the whole meal. My water glass sat empty almost the whole meal.

                I've since met a few people who liked the place, but I've met a ton more who had the same reaction as me: it's a nice room, but I found the food overpriced, uncreative and underflavored, and the service to be mediocre. I won't be back a third time.

                1. re: themicah

                  Forget the negative reviews, hairsplitters and pundits, BA is an all around nice experience

                  1. re: themicah

                    Hey, themicah, Glad to have someone else join those of us who are not fans of Bar Americain.

                    Despite the circumstances surrounding your first experience, I'm not sure I'd have done what did and given them a second chance. In fact, one would think that exactly those circumstance would have been the perfect reason for B.A. to put out its best effort in order to entice those AMEX diners to come back on their own dime.

                    Given how dismal the food was on our first visit, and adding on top of that the very high cost of that meal, no matter how many Hounds praise it, there's no way I'd ever go back there.

                2. Can't believe no one has mentioned the trio of artisanal hams or the grits with shrimp and bacon, both exceptionally good and unusual items. I think they do a pretty good job overall. In fact, my biggest complaint is that they don't change the menu enough. I've had lunch there a half a dozen times over the past year and have had very good experiences with the food and service overall.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Bill L

                    Went there in early Nov 2007 for a cousins dinner (6 of us) and everyone liked it. In fact my husband booked his office's holiday dinner there for Dec. Food was very good. Wasn't impressed with the desserts as much as the appetizers and entrees.

                  2. i continue to get a kick out of bar americain. my m.o. is to hit the bar as close to 5 p.m. as possible, aim for the last seat on the left, kick back with the nypost, a decent vodka gimlet and wait for deb to join me in half-an-hour or so. this sometimes requires a refill.

                    we eat at the bar. usual fare includes the chips, seafood cocktails, mussels, hanger steak and various salads.

                    i like the barkeeps. they're funny, accommodating and pretty darned good.

                    i have no problem with the bar americain nay-sayers. i'm just not one of them.