The change in the kitchen at Barrique has had little evident effect on the dining room. When executive chef Pierre Rougey left a month ago, Frank Falgiano, his sous chef, took over the reins. The menu is basically unchanged, still a testament to current dining trends — small plates, cured meats, modern Mediterranean and updated comfort classics. On Friday night, the dining room and bar were both mobbed, the food came out quickly, and it looked great.
If only it had tasted as good as it looked: Veal meatballs were adorably presented, four in a little cast-iron dish, sitting in marinara sauce, each topped with a pretty piped hat of ricotta. But the meatballs were dense and dull. Cabernet-sauced short ribs were bitter and overbraised into stringiness. The bland broth for our mussels tasted mostly of cream. A special of olive-oil-poached salmon had none of the unctuous richness imparted by oil-poaching and was way too acidic. A salad of arugula and beets was fine. The only really successful dish was a special, a roulade of roasted vegetables.
Desserts are beyond precious. Your server comes over with a rack holding eight glasses, each filled with a sort of parfait, be it strawberry shortcake, tiramisu, Key lime pie, carrot cake. You make your selection; she puts a spoon in it and places it in front of you. It's not bad, it just evinces no more skill than the ability to fill a glass with bits of dessert and layers of whipped cream.
I should add that I didn't fare much better at Barrique when Rougey was still in the kitchen.
Barrique continues to puzzle me. It is a great looking restaurant. Servers are friendly and well trained. Management does a good job of keeping patrons happy during the inevitable waits for tables. The wine list is extensive and interesting. But its success makes me wonder how important it is that a restaurant serve food that actually tastes good.
Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar is at 69 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-321-1175.