Le Barricou 533 Grand St, 718-782-7372 Price range: $30-$45 Rating: 3 L's
Grand Street at Union in Williamsburg still has the feeling of a stretch of wholesalers and manufacturers, slowly fading into the post-hipster sameness of condo sales office-s and dog manicurists, without the fleeting excitement of performance spaces, arts communes, and good old American anarchy. Jumping on this neighborhood evolution are experienced Brooklyn restaurateur Jean-Pierre Marquet and chef Joab Masse, who have opened a large and dependable, if un-spectacular, bistro in this underserved micro-’hood.
The look is Seine by the way of the Olive Garden, without the cash to overdo the theme. But the amber stained glass, Le Monde clippings, Parisian street signs, and antique foosball table in the back transport one — if not to Paris then certainly to Quebec.
Our food came quickly, as did glasses of the bargain house Cab, from our perky and professional server. Roasted Bosc Pear Salad ($9) was a pleasant and reserved mix of bitter greens, sweet poached pear, blue cheese, and toasted walnuts, lightly dressed with simple balsamic vinaigrette. A salad to eat every day, but nothing to surprise or enchant. The Crab Cake ($10), large and plump, topped with a chunk of avocado and paired with red pepper coulis, was a disappointment. A crab cake shouldn’t need to be slathered in two types of fat; the crab itself (fresh lump crab, preferably) will retain moisture, and its subtle sea flavor is too delicate to be burdened with strong sauces. Well, this crab did need the avocado and coulis, obscuring the unpleasant metallic tinge of canned crab.
Entrées were equally old-fashioned. Seared Scallops ($17) were pleasant, fresh and just cooked through, but underseasoned. Accompanying homemade roasted sweet potato ravioli, grilled green scallions, and toasted walnut added a balance of sweet flavors and an opportunity for an artful plating with streaks of creamy ginger sauce. Grilled Hanger Steak ($16) was just as I expected, cooked medium-rare, sliced against the grain, bathed in red wine jus — about as good as this cut gets, with plenty of extra sauce for the fresh-cut fries to soak up.
Le Barricou makes for a fine neighborhood joint, with a friendly atmosphere, reasonable prices and serviceable bistro fare, enlivened by the occasional Asian dish, but it won’t become a destination. Nor should it. The owners were smart in not going for a home run; sometimes people just want to linger — even in Williamsburg.