My best friend and I had been interested in trying Bar Americain, being fans of Flays food for many years. Both of us have been to Bolo, me to Mesa (albeit not in NYC, the one in LV) so I especially wanted to make a comparison. I had read some good reviews and some that were just mediocre but figured, that it certainly wasn't going to be a bad experience.
We had an early reservation, which apparently was a smart thing to do because by the time we were leaving around 7:30, the place was packed and buzzing. The restaurant itself isn't the kind of place which shouts out at you - I found it quite restrained in color and style, a nice change from Mesa's usual raucus atmosphere. It was also much larger than it first appeared - I didn't even notice the 2nd floor until we were leaving. Tho I have to say, having only a 2-stall women's room for a restaurant that size is problematic - take my word for it (let alone the coat/bag rack which is placed way to high for people of short statue - I nearly couldn't reach it! Someone please take note and move that thing down about 6"!).
Ok, enough complaining about bathrooms - this isn't the venue, I know :-)
Our waiter appeared swiftly and was very pleasant, but not overbearing. He knew when to leave us alone and didn't intrude on us at all unless needed. We both ordered one of the special cocktails, the "Gooseberry" which is vodka, chambord (yum!), lime juice and muddled fresh berries. Very refreshing and I had to be careful not to suck it down too quickly (I was parched when I arrived - pretty much raced from East 38th to West 52nd).
The bread basket came and in it was the darn best cornbread we'd ever had. There was an interesting taste to them which we couldn't figure out. I thought
maybe bacon, something sort of smoky/sweet seemed to be in it. My friend was thinking some kind of cheese. We asked the waiter - he said it was something even we could do - carmelized shallots! It really added an amazing layer to the cornbread - butterier (I know it's not a word) and better.
We ordered our appetizers, she the crayfish/dungeness crab cake which didn't seem to have a bit of filler at all - just pure crab - really outstanding. I had the artisinal ham tasting. This was very pleasant, not exceptional, but enjoyable. It was served in a long thin white plate with 3 compartments. The first was the ham on top of grilled pineapple. The was my least favorite, not that it was bad. The second was the ham in a miniature biscuit that I think had quite a bit of black pepper in it, along with honey mustard. The third was served italian style - curled on top of tiny chopped pieces of fresh mozzerella and roasted peppers topped with basil.
The only small problem with this was when I asked the server of the appetizer exactly what each small taste was, he practically was clueless, to the point where he mistook the basil for parsley. I corrected him (it was so apparent). He also didn't know what type of ham(s) I was eating. I called over my waiter to ask for further explanation. It seems it was only one type of ham (Smithfield) which was fine but I had expected it to be 3 types of artisinal hams - not 1 ham 3 ways. So, while I enjoyed it, I was somewhat disappointed and felt a bit letdown. But, I would recommend it - it was a nice way to get your appetite going.
My friend had the lamb porterhouse chop (2). We both are lamb lovers and this dish was perfect - I nearly even forgot it was lamb when I first tasted it. Lovely kind of sweet sauce (cinnammon) and a sweet potato galatte which was creamy and had those fall spices in it. This dish was a great autumn meal - usually I think of lamb in the spring - but using this kind of seasoning gave it new meaning.
Thursday nights, lobster is their specialty. I hadn't had a lobster in ages and it was calling my name. I thought this dish was heavenly. A whole boiled lobster (probably about 1-1/2 pounds), drizzled with a butter & cream black pepper & basil sauce which seemed to have a vanilla undertone to it (I forgot to ask). They were very careful with the basil, it just had a hint of it. It would have been easy to go overboard and it hit just the right mark between being scented and flavored with it. The lobster meat was perfectly cooked - to be cliche, melted like butter. I was trying hard not to suck up all that butter sauce but there was a lot of it at the bottom of the dish and it was so tasty I started using a spoon to drink it up (I did finally talk myself into putting the spoon down - reminding myself of all the saturated fat I was sucking down). The lobster came with their signature fries, served with a red pepper mayo dipping sauce. Great french fries - I hardly ever eat them anymore, unless they are fresh like these.
Only complaint for me - no bowl was given to me for the shells (tho it came promptly when I asked for one) and no bib (not that I would have used it anyway - brand new shirt be damned - and it was). Also, no "wet naps", but even better, when I mentioned I needed something to clean my hands another server appeared (there are several, as many restaurants have these days) with fresh lime slices, drizzled them over our hands and handed us clean napkins to wipe up with. MUCH better than those disgustingly scented wet naps!
BTW, I chose not to have any wine with dinner. The list was quite extensive, but I was happy with the one cocktail I'd had (I'm not much of a drinker). My friend however, had several glasses of a savignon blanc which she enjoyed.
We both opted for desert which we don't normally do, because everything was so tempting. She had the chocolate coconut swirl sundae which was very generous with the ice cream - 4 nice sized scoops, with toasted coconut chunks, and they poured hot coconut flavored chocolate sauce on top (and left the extra in the tin nearby). We both enjoyed this - maybe just a tad overdone for the coconut flavor for my taste - I think the chocolate sauce should have just been left as the good dark chocolate it was.
I had the maple meringue creme brulee. My husband and I are brulee fanatics - we critic them everywhere we do. I only wish he'd been with us last night - as this could well have been the best I'd ever had. Cold interior, the perfect "crack" on top, almost to the point of being burnt, but pleasantly so. The maple flavor worked so well with that nearly burnt flavor.
Dinner for 2 with tip and tax, came out to $200 (a bit more or less). This was for 1 cocktail, 3 glasses of wine, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 2 deserts. Seemed to be about the same as any other good restaurant these days for that amount of food. All in all a great experience, they need to iron out a few minor service issues, but nothing so bad as to distract from the experience. We both agreed we'd love to go back, and I'm sure I'll be dragging my DH there one night too.