I ate at Bar Tartine again tonight and was disappointed this time.
My first visit took place when they'd been open for a week or so. The place was fairly empty. We sat at the bar and had apps: the arancini were perfect (like Sicilian home cooking, not like typical restaurant fare); our salad of lentils, porcini mushrooms, frissee and a poached egg had an ethereal flavor. Another salad of lettuces, beets and chesse was almost equally delicious. And I was impressed with the wines by the glass, starting at $6. So reasonable, and yet very nice quality.
This time the same lentil salad was made using only mushroom stems. The flavor was still good, but not transporting. The arancini were still fine, though perhaps slightly overcooked. A lobster risotto was almost too salty to eat (though the lobster on top was perfectly prepared). Likewise for a side of chard -- again too salty. A small plate of fried potatoes was okay, but certainly not great quality fries. A selection of blue cheese was generous and artfully served with a bit of honey comb, some fruit compote and a couple of slices of dates.
For dessert we had a trio of sorbets. Two were fine, one was made with what seemed to be very underripe kiwis. To finish, we were given complementary glasses of a quite delicious eggnog, which came with small biscotti.
Service was as gracious and friendly as always, but the food this time just didn't cut it. Not only were dishes much too salty, but corners had been cut on the ingredients! That lentil salad was one of the best things I'd had recently and it was ruined by skimping on mushrooms and instead using only left-over stems.
This could be growing pains -- the first time I went it was only 1/2 full, this time it was completely full and had been all night. There were only 3 people working in the kitchen most of the time, and perhaps that just wasn't enough to allow them to focus.
I'll probably go back, but not for a while.