Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bahr Che -- Hop Over to the Hip New Wine Bar on Astor Place

By: Anne M. Raso  

Bahr Che is located on the side of a posh apartment building called the Gwathmey Siegal Apartments on the highly gentrified Astor Place--and it is quite easy to walk past. But don't let that happen to you! When you walk inside, you'll find the minimalist modern atmosphere relaxing (this is not a loud NYC students' "hang" like the nearby joints on St. Mark's Place). I went there more for the bites than the wine (Bahr Che called itself a "wine and cheese charcuterie"), and was pleasantly surprised. Let me point out that everyone on the staff know the wines there inside and out and offer you at least a few free pours before you have to pick! That sort of wine knowledge and generosity should be at the core of any Manhattan wine bar, and it's not! You'll find the staff friendly and hip--but most importantly, helpful.

A half carafe of wine runs anywhere from $13 to $18 and you have more than 1,500 bottles of wine to choose from. The staff will happily pick selections to match your food if you wish. Everything seems to be served as small plates rather than full size entrees here, so you might want to pick two or three things if you are really hungry. Most of the plates average around $8 or $9 dollars. 
Two of the great items for vegetarians and non-veggies alike are the Warm Japanese Eggplant ($9) featuring tender eggplant grilled to perfection with a balsamic reduction and the Vegetarian Quiche ($10) with its buttery tasting crust and perfectly tender red peppers, broccoli, onions, wild mushrooms and little bite-sized bits of more locally raised colorful produce!
Warm Japanese Eggplant
Heartier fare is Bahr Che's most popular dish, Lobster And Black Truffle Mac 'N Cheese ($16) that features four types of cheeses including cheddar and Asiago and has large chunks of lobster. It's a generous portion and the truffle oil is what gives it a mellow flavor. It does not have the "kick" of other gourmet Mac 'N Cheeses we have tried lately, but you might want something that is a little more mellow instead of having a peppery kick or heavy truffle oil taste (truffle oils seem to vary greatly in their "nutty" flavor, so you never know what you're going to get when you order a dish with it)!
Lobster and Black Truffle Mac 'N Cheese
The Warm Goat Cheese Salad ($9) is stupendously fresh--picture tender locally grown field greens and roasted grape tomatoes with the freshest goat cheese from the legendary Murray's Cheese Shop, plus lovely pieces of toasted, slightly buttery French baguette bread from Bouchon Bakery, and you're got a winner. There are actually two very large pieces of toast with goat cheese on them, so this is a great appetizer for two.
Warm Goat Cheese Salad
Desserts are prepared by the legendary Black Hound across from St. Mark's Church at 10th Street and Second Avenue, and their butter creams are quite possibly the best in Manhattan. If you've ever gone into Black Hound to purchase their delectable mini-cakes portioned perfectly for one, you'll know they run $7 or $7.50 and Bar Che admirably does not mark them up that much. We had both the Pear Almond and Chocolate Gianduja minicakes, which tasted like they were just made a couple hours before we got to the eatery at 5:45 (and quite possibly, they were just made). The Pear Almond cake ($9) featured classic white butter cream on top and a special gooey kick inside that seemed to be caramel like and it was served with streaks of raspberry liqueur-based sauce while the Chocolate Gianduja cake ($9) was not a "death by chocolate" situation but rather thin layers of mild chocolate cake and almonds with while whipped cream filling and mocha buttercream on the top and sides. Did we fail to mention that the Chocolate Gianduja cake is served with a warm homemade chocolate sauce and a few sweetened soft strawberries nearby?
Chocolate Gianduja Cake
Beyond the food and extensive wine list, Bahr Che has a solitude that is unlikely for the nabe, and the elegant large blown glass vases in the windows (with the arrangements actually under water) give it a homey feeling although in general, the place has a very clean cosmopolitan look. It's the perfect after-work place, when you want to relax with some light nibbles, a good glass of wine and would appreciate not having to overhear what the people at the other tables are saying. (We also highly recommend it as a late night snack "light bites" place after taking in a show at the nearby Joe's Pub). "BC" is a cozy place for 40 to fifty people and you can also sit at the bar and do "wine talk" with the staff. Bahr Che is a taste of the Upper East Side brought down to Astor Place--but without any attitudes. The red banquets up in front next to the bay windows gives the best people-watching vantage point, by the way--and this Bahr Che is in a great neighborhood for that!

Bahr Che
26 Astor Place
New York, New York 10003
(212) 260-2220
Dress: Casual

Bahr Che on Urbanspoon

Photos: Anne M. Raso

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