Went to Barfry on the second night they were open last week. Nice space, not too dimly lit, nice looking bar. Unfortunately, they didn't have their liquor license yet and weren't byob on that night, either. Specials were written up on a large chalkboard, and the menus were folded pieces of paper found on your table-- maybe they'll switch to something more durable and less vulnerable to grease in the future?
The menu is basically split into po' boys and various types of tempura. There were some bento box-type set meals as specials, too. The waitress told us that people were usually getting around 3-5 types of tempura. Since we wanted to get a good sampling, we ordered two po'boys (chicken, and pork katsu with kimchi), and several types of tempura: green beans, pumpkin, scallops, shrimp, eggplant, something else I'm forgetting... we also got a few of the sides: shiso peppers with pumpkin seeds, fresh wasabi peas and sugar snaps, and balsamic tomatoes.
I only tried the pork po'boy-- it was a fried pork cutlet (donkatsu) with some chili mayonaisse and kimchi. The flavors inside the sandwich were terrific (I always like something acidic to cut through fatty flavors, so the kimchi was great), but the sandwich was overwhelmed by the cold brioche bun it came on. It would have been better if it were toasted.
The tempura... well, it's a tough thing to get right, so it's a gamble when your entire restaurant turns on it. From the outset, I'll repeat that this was only the second night Barfry was open, and of course it's expected that there would be kinks. But the tempura was not good. While everything inside the batter was perfectly cooked (the scallops in particular were luscious and just past rare), the batter itself was sodden and oily. The temperature of the oil needs to be increased to ensure a light non-greasy crisp on the outside. Easy enough to remedy, so hopefully they'll get everything under control as they're open longer. As for price, I think tempura ranged from $4-$7 for 2-5 pieces of tempura per serving depending on what it was (e.g., 2 scallops, 5 green beans). Also, the tempura came with three different sauces, none of which were good approximations for the traditional tempura sauce (there was a chili aioli, a sweet miso sauce, and one that was supposed to be traditional but wasn't sweet enough).
The sides were decent, with the exception of the shiso peppers, which were extraordinary-- lightly sauteed with some soy sauce and pumpkin seeds, I am still thinking about these this week. The shiso peppers had a slightly floral flavor that was nicely offset by the nuttiness of the toasted pepitos. My only gripe is that sides were pretty expensive at $7, but I still think I would gladly pay that for the peppers.
Overall, I liked the atmosphere and think the concept is great (it was only a matter of time before tempura houses started to crop up like the ramen joints we've seen in the past couple years), but the execution could use some work. I plan to give it another month or so to get everything settled and then try it again.
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