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Jan 3, 2009 02:31 PM

New Wine Bar in Sunnyside

Anyone been yet? I'm surprised that there are no posts here yet on Claret. Went there last night to ring in the new year with a friend and had a pleasant time. I ordered the prosecco, my friend a Riesling, and some Serrano ham and Italian Fontina cheese (both $3 each.) The prosecco was pricey at $11 but very good, and we were happy with the platter of ham & cheese which came with bread, almonds and some sweet fruit paste. All in all, we enjoyed everything and the place itself, a welcome addition to the otherwise drab dining/drinking scene in the nabe, except for Quaint and Bliss.

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  1. I went recently too. I thought the wine prices were reasonable. Definitely more economical to get a bottle or carafe vs. a glass, which is odd. Why not just have it be 1/4 of the bottle price? I thought the cheese was reasonable and you got a good portion. Not the most exciting cheese selection but the cheese was good and comes from Murrays. Another weird thing was that the bartender didn't have you taste the wine before pouring it. In fact I had a carafe filled from two bottles (the first bottle ran out) and the bartender topped it with a new bottle w/out testing it. What if it were corked, you would have ruined the other good half of the carafe.

    Other than that, a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

    9 Replies
    1. re: quentin

      Thought it was pretty bland and very average, to be honest. The beer (Bluepoint) was off but the bartender was adamant that 'It's an ale, they all taste like that'. (I almost went to the deli up the block to buy a bottle of Bluepoint to drop off to her after we'd left...)

      The atmosphere's pretty depressing too - Norah Jones on an iPod, a waiter who insists on literally standing almost touching-distance to anyone sitting at the far end of the bar (it's completely unnerving and very unnecessary), and the unavoidable view of watching the guy who has to wash up the glasses. The lighting's way too harsh too - more like something from a cheap hotel.

      Better off taking to train a few stops down to Domaine's in LIC if you want a decent wine bar. Or going over to Brooklyn if you want a decent bar full stop.

      1. re: Pookamay

        I have to agree with the depressing atmosphere and the garish view if the dishwasher from the bar is a deal-breaker. I spoke to the manager and suggested that they get some kind of cloth/curtain to hide the kitchen from view, he said they were "working on it". A week later, the dishwasher is still in full view from the bar. Ugh.

        1. re: chinatownmike

          I was looking forward to checking out this, I'm not so sure....I'll be moving to Queens in the next few months, is there any other wine bars that you enjoy, or I should check out??

          1. re: wonka

            Domaine's in Long Island City is wonderful, but other than that you're probably better getting the train into Manhattan. (Although if you like really terrible Irish pubs then Queens will seem like heaven to you.)

          2. re: chinatownmike

            I feel really sorry for the poor guy doing the dishes - it's impossible not to gawp at him!

            1. re: Pookamay

              Odd that with the full view window in the place, you gawp at the dishwasher, but I have to say that Claret is the best bar related thing that has happened locally in years. There is nowhere else to get a good glass of wine. As for the beer, it's the only decent two taps in Sunnyside. They have Sixpoint, better than Bluepoint anyway ( which is better bottled). Is Norah Jones depressing, or just quiet and atmospheric? Sorry, I just think it's good to take a place for what it is. It's not something I'd take a train to from outside woodside/sunnyside, but if you live here it's a very welcome new addition.

              1. re: Paulomet

                It's not that you chose to gawp at the dishwasher - it's that if you're sitting at the bar or anywhere in the place that involves you facing the bar then it's the brightest and most conspicuous thing in there - it's hard not to look at it!

                I don't think anyone's being unduly critical or harsh for the sake of it - and I'm sure by virtue of its location alone they'll get an okay amount of business (those six story co-ops buildings house a lot of people!) - but you get the impression that, however well-meaning their intentions, the owners have barely ever been in a wine bar or bar before, hence the cliched Norah Jones music, lack of attention to the lighting etc.

                1. re: Paulomet

                  It's a welcome addition, relative to the neighborhood, but I agree with the above posts.
                  The lighting is atrocious, especially if you are sitting on the banquette and anywhere near the raised, vividly lit back area. The service is amateur, but friendly (almost as bad as it was at Quaint when they first opened).
                  The music is a disaster, both in playlist and in sound system. Muffled, with too much bass, but clear enough to know that what is playing you really don't want to hear.
                  To me, the atmosphere at a wine bar is nearly as important as the wine.

                  Yes, happy to know there's no tv, but I find the always-on laptop at the end of the bar nearly as annoying and mood-breaking.

                  1. re: tracyk

                    "To me, the atmosphere at a wine bar is nearly as important as the wine."

                    Agreed. I'll put up with an 'off' atmosphere at a restaurant if the food's amazing, but when it comes to bars you usually go there for the vibe as much as anything else.

                    The owners would do well to take a quick trip over into Greenpoint and check out some of the bars on Franklin there - The Pencil Factory, for instance, would have been an easy starting point.

        2. I have to say that I feel as if most of the replies here have been a bit harsh...I myself have been in the restaurant biz for years, still work in a reputable Manhattan restaurant and am a certified wine sommelier. I have lived in Woodside for 3 years and have been dying for a wine bar within walking distance to hit the Skillman strip. I went here last night and was pleasantly surprised. My friend and I had a very helpful bartender (who tasted us on all wines we requested). There was a great neighborhood feel at the bar and the music fit the crowd and atmosphere. Maybe I hit it on a good night or this 3 week old wine bar has ironed out some kinks that others complained about. Plus our bill was only $52 for 4 glasses a wine and two beers! Unheard of it Manhattan!

          1. Where is Claret? I don't think I've noticed it. Must be on the north side of QB?

            And if anyone's counting, I'm with yez on Norah Jones. Aaaaaaaaaaaa. Painful. It seems to be thought of as the safe peoplepleaser disc akin to the typical Billie Holiday/Frank Sinatra retro cd mix (which I actually like) or the Gypsy Kings -- but terribly, terribly misdiagnosed.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Up With Olives

              Place info ...

              46-02 Skillman Ave, Queens, NY 11104

            2. A great addition to the neighborhood, even though it's still very much a work-in-progress.
              Wine list is pretty safe, so it will be interesting to see how that evolves. Best value is in
              bottles in the $30-40 range, but there are plenty of nice wines by the glass in the $10 range. Decor, music, lighting, kitchen all need attention, but the clientele seems nice and the owners are lovely. Like any good claret, best to decant Claret and let it breathe.
              And hooray for a Sunnyside bar with no television!

              7 Replies
              1. re: Bunkerman

                A $10 glass of wine in the neighborhood seems ouchy to me but it might be worth paying for no TV...if the music isn't too annoying &/or loud.

                1. re: Bunkerman

                  The condensation on the windows was a bad sign, I just think "poor ventilation" but I went in with my friend for the first time. As we were walking, an NYU type guy rushed out telling his friend on his cell phone to bring his friends over, "tap beer is half price!" NOT A GOOD SIGN! But we went in and looked at the menu. My friend's husband is a wine merchant so we were hoping for some interesting choices but we were distracted with the overwhelming noise. We couldn't hear one another and we were standing elbow to elbow. I'm sorry, but we walked out. Yes, they serve wine, but it just seems to be another Starbucks. We ended up going to Quaint and ate and drank for 2.5 hours. I do want Claret to survive. So please start with the noise, this includes Nora Jones, and work out the circulation issues, it's all about the presentation. I'll come back, once I can see through the glass.

                  1. re: mwl718

                    the fog and the chatter in the bar do not bother me one bit. i mean, let's not forget it's a BAR.

                    that said, the new "solution" for the dishwasher is for her / him to stand in the dark when not actually washing. a very interesting option to STILL not have installed a curtain (even one of those curtains that only go halfway down (like in a japanese restaurant) would be perfect.)
                    the wine is decently priced. they still don't offer a taste before they pour the carafe, but it's not the end of the world.
                    laptop was off the bar, which is good b/c all the seats were taken.
                    it was hopping on a sunday. music still cheesy (crash test dummies, or dave matthews or something like that), lighting still a bit much, but they seem to already have a following.
                    i will certainly give them a bit more time to figure things out. And they're still higher on my list than Quaint, whose wine leaves MUCH to be desired, isn't any better priced (actually, i think it's a worse value for what you pay, with their 2009 vintage bottles).

                    i'm not sure what you mean by Starbucks comment. It's not a corporate chain. and aesthetically, it's less crafted than a Starbucks without a clear design aesthetic....

                    1. re: tracyk

                      "that said, the new "solution" for the dishwasher is for her / him to stand in the dark when not actually washing."

                      Haha, that's insane! Someone needs to interview the poor dishwashers!

                      Re: the Starbucks comment, I think the poster was alluding to the fact that you go to an independent coffee shop and it will have a very specific and carefully crafted atmosphere and look, whereas Starbucks is all cookie-cutter and completely lacking in atmosphere.

                      1. re: Pookamay

                        i actually think starbucks' cookie-cutterness is part of their design aethetic. I think some people actually like the pendant lights, the over-stuffed chairs, the easy listening music and the consistency from location to location.
                        While it's not my aesthetic, i actually think some thought does go into merchandising those stores.

                        1. re: tracyk

                          Claret should sort out a deal to get a Starbucks concession in the back of their wine bar - perfect match!

                          1. re: Pookamay

                            yup. the lighting's just about right back there.

                2. I drop into this great little spot a few times a week, and would have agreed to some of the earlier criticism's, but since they have been posted the owners have been very responsive and have closed the door to the kitchen and have beefed up the cheese plate menu to include salds and panini's, the atmosphere has definately improved as a result of the positive change.

                  I Have also joined the claret facebook group and was pleased to get an invite to the film festival they held, Very pleased if they bring great things too sunnyside like this more often.