Monday, November 3, 2014


BLT lost its LT: Laurent Tourondel is no longer associated with what has become now quite a substantial chain of restaurants.  It was always a solid bet with him at the helm, in that reliable steakhouse fashion, so much so that it attracted the attention of a monied buyer.  It then branched out into a myriad fish, steak, burger and veggie-centric establishments.  The latest, a Bar & Grill, came to my attention because my sister happened to be planning a company event requiring a large private dining area, and although we were peripheral that, it's why I was here.  I strayed from my titular objective, to say the least.

The BLTs are a part of ESquared, each of which have their own executive chef.  Bar & Grill has David Crain, an alum of Gramercy Tavern, Union Pacific, and coincidentally, Gotham Bar & Grill.... the most un-bar-and-grilly bar and grill one could imagine.
  BLT B&G shares some of that: its sleek and spacious dining room, gently illuminated by an eclectic array of glittery, suspended bulbs is decorated with amusing quirky quotes chalked graffiti-style on the walls.  It's no rival to the muted elegance nor culinary excellence of Alfred Portale's iconic restaurant, but it gets the job done.   Plus, it's not trying for much more than super hearty, substantial American fare, and for this, you could find much worse.  And I have to say, our server was en pointe-effective and attentive: if he ever needs a new gig, he'd be easily capable of a greater grill.

The menu is enormous.  Selectively, one could format a meal that would fit the constrains of Steak, Prime, Fish.. whichever BLT you chose.  There're pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads, sides, entrees of all inclinations.... you name it.  You couldn't not find something to eat here, whether in the end it was necessarily that thrilling.  And we started off those signature popover, a welcome holdover from Tourondel's original.  Puffy clouds of carbohydrate and fat were slightly denser than I remember, but still buttery fragrant and perilously hot.  And they paired well with my  beet salad, which was tasty enough, and like the popovers (and everything on the menu), big enough for sharing.  Cool, pickly beets offset by a pungent crumble of gorgonzola were adorned with the requisite frill of frisee and walnut dressing complete with immense sugar-crusted
 nuts big enough to serve as dessert themselves.  Another appetizer option also entailed cheese than greens, although entailed more of the former, duly titled Crispy Goat Cheese.  Three pucks of warm, melty chevre were crusted  in a crisp crust of bacony breadcrumbs and nuzzled into tufts of more frisee.  A fairly standard rendition, and aptly composed.  The tufts of mache were a nice touch, along with squiggles of a mustardy dressing to liven things up.

As noted, this menu is expansive.  Entrees could've gone in any number of directions: pizza, pasta, meat, fish, poultry, or even just go with the daily special, the Wednesday that we visited was featuring a seafood hot pot with saffron rouille which was probably the most intriguing option, although there probably was nothing wrong with Friday's ginger crusted cod with leek soubise, or curried mussels on Monday.  Off the standard menu, however, the mushroom whole grain mustard tipped the scales in favor of a double-cut
 pork chop, which was easily three inches thick and amply pooled the umami-rich gravy.  That gravy ameliorated substantially my sea scallops, which I ordered still wistfully recalling the miraculously good ones from Piora.  These were fine, but strikingly below average in comparison to Piora's.  I know it's not a fair comparison, but it was just so vivid: these were wan and "regular", although stealing spoonfuls from the pork chop's sauce helped immensely.  The pallid fava bean tabouleh that accompanied might have benefitted the most.  The favas were just shy of tender, complete with a slight raw-bean flavor, unsettling firmness and not much else, so the rich gravy, while it made little sense, at least gave the combo a little chutzpah.  The
redeeming factor of the repast was the brussels sprouts, and unfortunately not for the brussels sprouts themselves, but just the fact that Hurrah! brussels sprouts are back on the menus!  There weren't the most brilliant reintroduction to autumn's finest vegetable, but I was just happy to have them back in circulation.  In fact, it seems I was so excited that I forgot to take of picture of them.  Which is odd, but there they were, roasted with bacon and honey, and a bit too much of both, but not mortally so.  I still finished them off, although there remained a small pool of sweet, oniony bacon in the bottom of the crock.

But sweet has its time and place, and found it effectively in a caramelized apple tatin, crunchily edged in burnt sugar.  It was in keeping with the rest of the meal, tasty in its own right, if not exceptionally executed or novel in any sense.  But it's a Bar & Grill, after all, and for that, it lives up to its name.

123 Washington Street
(entrance on Albany Street)
tel. 1(646) 826-8666

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