Bar Q 308-310 Bleecker St, 212-206-7817 Price range: $26-$43
Bar Q, a new venture from Anissa’s Anita Lo, isn’t gunning for that restaurant’s Michelin star, but it’s no less a feat and certainly makes for a more fun night out. The minimalist, futuristic space, a 1960s Kubrickian vision in stark white with slate floors, is softened by dim amber, recessed lighting, with the color coming strictly from the kitchen’s creations.
Asian barbecue is the specialty here, and a Chinese tea-smoked duck breast ($26) was stellar, its creamy ruby flesh melding with a smoky, salty, crunchy exterior. A tea-smoked salmon starter ($13) was equally fine, a Jewish favorite from the Far East with salmon roe and a quail tea egg. They also tea-smoke a chicken, but Bar Q is so much more.
The cocktail list is inventive and mature, with a fine house cocktail ($12) of pear brandy, sake and elderflower, and a bracing Hendrick’s gin pickle-tini ($13). But a supposed specialty of spiked bubble tea — green tea, vodka and almond milk with tapioca pearls ($12) — was just nasty (apparently that’s the staff’s consensus, too, so expect it to be gone shortly).
The raw bar’s offerings are few, but they rank among the best in the city. Kumamoto oysters, Taylor Bay scallops and streaky salmon sashimi were only $2 to $3 each, and amazing, served with four inventive yet subtle sauces.
A starter of crisp spit-roasted pork belly ($13) was served with kimchee, daikon pickle and steamed buns as good as Momofuku’s, creating fun, worldly and wholly satisfying sandwiches. Nearly as refined yet unpretentious were the addictive fried bites of unagi (BBQ eel) and scallion fritter ($12). A side of sesame noodle ($7) didn’t have the same impact, being acidic and completely al dente, but served as a terrific, healthy palate cleanser, along with an outrageously full-flavored Hitachino beer with ginger, recommended to us by a well-informed server, perfect for the lingering flavors of the fatty smoked duck breast. Next time I’m saving room for dessert. Warm walnut soup with malted Rice Krispies sounds too good to pass up again.
Bar Q is a stunning restaurant (though the “Spartans in Space” look may bore some) with equally stunning food, which wouldn’t bore even the most jaded Village denizen. It looks to be becoming a scene, so book a table before it’s mentioned in the tabloids, or, God forbid, USA Today, and the tourist hordes waddle down from Times Square hoping to catch a glimpse of Heidi Montag. They won’t like it anyway. But I did.