Bâtard: Where World-Class Food is Accessible to All (NYC)
The establishments of Montrachet and Corton used to occupy 239 West Broadway. This is an important point according to some because they were ultra-chic places with killer menus and home to some of the best chefs on the west side of Manhattan and managed to draw in the who’s who of the Chelsea/TriBeCa/SoHo set. While these restaurants are still revered and achingly missed by some I will go out on a limb anyhow to say I’m glad they are gone. I say this because the past no longer matters. You see, I’m the sort of person who’s all about living in the now and what the now is about is the restaurant that has risen in Corton’s wake: the earnestly innovative and stupidly affordable Bâtard.
Because Mr. Intolerant had something to celebrate earlier this month I spent the better part of June scouring the Internet for a place to take him with the hope that whatever I found would blow his mind. We had a delightful experience at the well-known TriBeCa haunt of Bouley last year and so the pressure was on. I wanted to try for a repeat performance or possibly even surpass it. I was looking for a place where we could spend an evening drinking and eating to our hearts content, and it was with that hope seared onto the underside of my brain that I spent countless late nights reading through so many restaurant reviews I nearly went cross-eyed.
Thankfully the pain of endless review-reading was resolved after two short weeks when I found inspiration flipping through an edition of Time Out NYC. I came across a feature on a restaurant in TriBeCa recently opened by a celebrated New York restauranteur. It offered a set menu that caused my stomach to rumble as soon as my eyes flicked over words like “black olive,” “tenderloin” and “roasted beets.” Only open since late May this establishment was already gaining a solid following and repertoire of four and five star reviews. I turned down the page of the magazine and slept on it for one night before making a booking the following day. Entering the details in my calendar I then proceeded to forget about it altogether. I forgot about it, that is, until late last week when we, the Intolerants, rocked up to Bâtard–smartly dressed but clammy from a punishing Brooklyn-Manhattan subway ride–with our game faces on and hearty appetites in tow.
And I tell you, Bâtard delivered an experience I am still unable forget.
The restauranteur behind Bâtard (Drew Nieporent) is also responsible for several other NYC hot spots like Nobu, Tribeca Grill and the now-closed Corton. When it came time to erect something new in Corton’s stead Austrian-born chef Markus Glocker (a man with Michelin star experience) was brought on board and Bâtard was the result. The two colluded on establishing a restaurant where a strict dress code was deemed passé and culinary goodness would be accessible to every man/woman via a prix-fixe menu with two ($55), three ($65) or four ($75) courses on offer.
Shown to a corner table where we had lay of the land we admired the sweeping dining area, open kitchen, vaulted ceilings and minimalistic decor, everything bathed in cloying beige tones. Not wasting our time we perused the wine list and, with the help of an impassioned sommelier, took a bottle of Austrian white that would compliment several of the dishes we were considering.
I stuck to three courses while Mr. Intolerant went for four and between us we ordered the yellowfin tuna, octopus “pastrami” and marinated artichoke to start. This was followed by our mains of baked turbot with egg yolk and salted pumpkinseeds, and a dairy-free pan roasted branzino with gnocchi and a tomato gin consommé. For dessert Mr. Intolerant opted for the black forest sablé while I took another glass of wine and chased it down with a pot of herbal tea.
Now before I start banging on about the food let me preface my blubbering by raising my glass (which is presently full I’ll have you know) to the restaurant staff as everyone (from the servers to the bussers to the sommelier, bartender and the host/hostess) was professional, assertive and congenial; the servers especially helpful in listening to my allergy-specific concerns and consulting the kitchen regarding items that were/could be made dairy-free. Not only were they great in that regard but they also proved to be extremely patient in answering any other trifling questions.
As for the food, the dishes were sophisticated and wonderfully executed. Everything looked and smelled tremendous, and tasted divine. Fresh-from-the-oven rolls were offered before the first course arrived and because they were made in-house I had to give one a go. The result? I was reminded of the buns my mother used to make when I was young. *sigh* As for the fixed-menu I was especially pleased with the marinated artichokes even though it is a rather straightforward dish. Given that I’ve had my share of mouth puckering, stringy artichokes I wasn’t sure what to expect and had been holding my breath. However, when my plate arrived I was won over by the arrangement and then overcome (in a good way) by the taste. Tossed in a white wine and lemon base with a smattering of garlic, carrots and kalamata olives it was a delightfully savoury course that set the tone for the rest of my meal.
My second starter was the yellowfin tuna, which wound up being as memorable as the artichokes. The mains then arrived and after momentarily losing my mind over the first bite of pan roasted branzino I leaned back and took my time relishing the rest of the dish. As I tried to stretch out every morsel I watched Mr. Intolerant do the same, sucking mouthfuls of wine through the spaces in his teeth, cleansing his palate between bites. Given that he went quiet during most of his meal I felt I had, once again, been successful. I had chosen well. Finding the food to be well presented and inventive, he enjoyed everything save the octopus “pastrami,” quietly murmuring out of the corner of his mouth that he “wasn’t totally convinced.”
Each to his/her own I say. I mean, he pretty much licked his plate clean so it couldn’t have been all that bad.
Now, while I could prattle on for ages I’ll cut it short presuming you’ve long gotten the point. But just in case I need to drive the point home I’ll end by commenting on the monetary incentive for going to Bâtard. If you’ve been to New York City and dined anywhere on any given night you will know the difficulties of securing a quality meal (whether it is sub-par sushi or a set menu involving bromidic “new American” with costly kale salad and extravagantly priced mac & cheese) for anywhere close to $65. It is for this reason alone you should make a reservation at Bâtard. Not only will your stomach and senses thank you but your wallet will as well. I know of few other places where one is spared the injustice of saving up for months on end or handing over their first-born child for a first-rate meal. At Bâtard you don’t have to choose between good food and great atmosphere, and you also don’t have to worry about mortgaging your car for your meal because you will get everything you expect and a little bit more.
Exceptional food + satisfying ambiance + killer value = the sort of trifecta I can get behind.
Every. Single. Time.
239 W Broadway
New York, NY
Tel: +1 (212) 219-2777
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 17:30 – 22:30.