Bar Americain dinner exceeds all expectations
By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor
After three days enjoying friends and family in the up East city we call the Big Apple, a fabulous wedding rehearsal dinner, a fantastic wedding reception, and daily trips to authentic – I'm talking REALLY authentic – international deli, the crowning glory of our gastronomical odyssey was an exquisite dinner for four-and-a-half celebratory diners at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain restaurant in midtown Manhattan. (I say four-and-a-half because Penelope Heller did a very fine job of holding her end of tasting everything the Food Network's Iron Chef had to offer, thank you very much.)
According to the website (link above), the restaurant is an American brasserie (a restaurant serving alcoholic beverages, especially beer, as well as food) that "celebrates the foods of America with a healthy dose of the bold flavors Bobby Flay is most known for" such as Crab-Coconut and Lobster-Avocado Shellfish Cocktails to Smoked Chicken with Hatch Green Chile Spoon Bread.
The 200-seat restaurant, designed by Rockwell Group, features traditional brasserie elements with "Hollywood" banquettes (long upholstered bench placed against or built into a walll) in the dining room. Bar Americain's mezzanine (a partial story between two main stories of a building) provides a slight respite from the street and an ideal vantage point for watching people on the main floor below.
Over-the-top style, ultra-hippness in design and presentation from the impressive pewter bar counter top to a fish of the day iced counter that makes you think seriously about seafood as an excellent dinner choice.
The very chic presentation in this 'everybody goes to Bobby Flay restaurants' had the GLOB Master feeling way more important than should be allowed. You know it is said that a special dining experience is more than just a good plate of the daily special? David our bartender, Jennifer our server, and Michael the evening's manager appeared to be genuinely having as much fun as the newly weds, Lynn, and I were having.
In our eagerness to try everything, along with Michael's enthusiasm, we successfully filled our dinner table with more epicurean goodness than should be allowed. Noteworthy edible curiosities were crispy squash blossoms with black pepper; BBQ pork and ricotta cheese; spicy deviled eggs with pickled shrimp remoulade where the shrimp are mounted on individual stuffed eggs; grilled pizza with double smoked bacon, carmelized onions and toasted garlic; divine asparagus with green peppercorn vinaigrette; sweet potato gratin; collard greens; rabbit with mustard BBQ sauce; Porter House lamb chops, Horseradish Crusted Halibut; and, of course, a supremely impressive looking new York Strip Steak.
This wedding party of diners quickly turned our table into a min-buffet where we all sampled delectable goodies from each others plates.
The Bar Americain appetizers were fun, great conversation starters and very delicious. The Hot Potato Chips and Blue Cheese Sauce were fantastic. The sauce was warm and very creamy and the effect was to mellow the blue cheese sharpness, which made it an umami delight. The stuffed eggs had a good portion of spicy horseradish in them that opened your eyes with the pleasant surprise of an "Oh my" dining moment.
The grilled pizza had a crispy crust and sweetness of the grilled onions combined with smokiness of bacon and richness of toasted garlic into a totally satisfying foodie wake up call.
The sides for our dinner were served family style and kudos to everyone for showing restraint by taking JUST their share. The GLOB Master's winner was the Asparagus and Green Peppercorn Vinagrette that was like a Hollandaise sauce, enriching the freshness of the vegetable. The Creamed Kale with Crispy Shallots were the best kale ever - not bitter at all. The sweet potato gratin that I received with my lamb was, well, sweet potatoes. The homestyle serve yourself approach to this fine dining experience was a pleasant surprise in such a sophisticated setting.
I think I must've been thinking about the Porter House Lamb Chops for the last three months and was I ever pleased with the thick, charred, flavorful crust that enveloped each tender morsel of great tasting grilled lamb chop.
The new Jana Heller liked her halibut, Lynn enjoyed the strip steak but thought it could have had a little more sauce becuase it was so lean. New Man of the house Chris Heller was pleasantly surprised with his rabbit entrée, however I did notice him eying my lamb chops.
After so much food we really weren't thinking dessert until Jennifer and Michael looked genuinely surprised we were giving up the BA's signature sugary entrees.
So we ended up ordering a Creme Brulee and Chocolate Cream Pie. YUM. Jana and Lynn liked the brulee best - smooth as silk, wonderful flavor, crispy carmelized topping. The chocolate pie was sharpt dark chocolate. It was great also but having it at the same time as the brulee really brought out the bitterness of the chocolate. Another example of how important combination of flavors can be. There is a complet Bar Americain at the BoBby Flay's Bar Americain website.
What a great dinner to end an extraordinarily fun three days in New York City. The GLOB Master is now a proud Poppa to a new family member, I was able to see many old friends of the family, and was very lucky to make some new Friends of hte Family as well. Upon leaving Bar Americain I told Jennifer and Michel that I was coming back. They smiled appropriately, and that's when I added, "But not tonight."