Restaurant Review: Bar Blanc

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Superb French fare transcends a glossy lounge setting in Greenwich Village

Bar Blanc might suffer from multiple-personality disorder. Is it a lounge? Is it a restaurant? Is it a gimmick? Perhaps. Blanc is one of several haute eateries, from Bar Boulud to Bar Stuzzichini, hiding behind bottles of beer, wine and booze.

The thinking’s simple: Call yourself a bar, and the bar for food is set limbo low. How hard is it to trump chicken-wing expectations? But Bar Blanc’s pedigree demands more than finger-lickin’ success. Bouley vets Kiwon Standen, Didier Palange and chef César Ramirez bring fussy French style to this slender West Village hideaway that’s rustically mod and modern—and white as an Englishman’s chest after a long, cold winter.

A luxe marble-topped bar contrasts “Saturday Night Fever”–style white-leather banquettes and circular silver lights, while undulating albino-brick walls dominate both dining rooms. They’re populated by high-heels and high-rollers fingering iPhones and blabbing over clubby beats.

Euros and businessmen, welcome to your newest hangout.

Bar Blanc, blissfully, doesn’t go whole-hog with haughtiness. Though Internet chatter has chided waiters for inexperience and inattentiveness, service quirks are now ironed out. Waiters are attentive without being irritating (or forcibly up-selling bottled water), and bread-basket boys mill around, freely distributing tangy slices of olive bread.

Gratis treats are the rule, not the exception. Expect a petite puff-pastry amuse bouche crammed with goat cheese, which makes a marvelous precursor to the old-fashioned cocktail: a burly blast of bourbon and bitters, smoothed out by juice from bobbing oranges. It’s a serious intoxicator, and seriously worth $12.

Conversely, the apps ain’t a bargain. Boston lettuce, hearts of palm and a poached egg costs $12, and you’ll spend $18 for tuna sashimi with mushrooms, crispy burdock root, black truffle dressing and painterly swipes of intensely salty miso mixed with squid ink. Ingredient overkill? Perhaps, but a finer palate-provoker is the fried sweetbreads. They mingle with a rabbit terrine, greens and sheep’s milk ricotta in a crunchy-creamy tango that gives glands a glamorous spin.

Ramirez’s mash-ups extend to the flirting-with-$30 entrees, which are too diminutive to merit such a mark-up. Ginger amps up steamed snapper, tempered by a tofu puree and a shiso sauce clearer than tap water. Flaky cod wears a briny coat of saffron-mussel sauce.

The chef heads to the barnyard for the other current creature du jour: Twee “milk-fed porcelet” is served as fatty belly, loins ringed by lollipop-crunchy skin (which overwhelms the too-delicate cinnamon, star anise and orange sauce) and terrine. “It’s all the leftover bits from the pig’s head,” the waiter offers helpfully. It’s fried brown beyond all recognition, and is as innocuously delicious as any oil-singed morsel.

Carb-cravers can opt for a trio of pastas, including lasagna with braised lamb shoulder and fettuccini pasta with sinus-clearing, mustard-braised rabbit. Turned off by that wascally wabbit? Stick to the sturdy, charcoal-grilled strip steak. It’s juicy decadence with a dose of bone-marrow sauce.

That should red-line your richness meter. But should you crave a sweet finish, choose wisely: The Meyer lemon soufflé is middling, while the warm almond cake’s about as special as Paris Hilton. The home run is the bittersweet chocolate cake with a brittle candy cap, sided with salted caramel ice cream. Spoon up a dab of both and it’s sweet dreams, appetite.

You could follow dessert with an aperitif or two, but it’s best to get liquored-up in another saloon or lounge, not such a superbly executed restaurant.