Dinner at Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar last week. Barrique got three stars from Newsday when it opened in the Fall, and has been praised by everyone I know who has been there. So, I expected to love it and, until our food started arriving, I did. All weathered wood and brick, the place looks like a million bucks and a hundred years. Instead of formal place settings, the tables are equipped with striped cotton dish towels and stacks of plates meant for sharing. The wine list was interesting and well-priced and the sommelier helped us pick out a big ol’ Zinfandel.
But something was definitely amiss in the kitchen. An arugula salad with pickled fennel and a teeny bit of goat cheese was OK, as were the polenta fries, but everything else disappointed. “Sauteed” calamari was tasteless, watery, seemingly poached in its red sauce. “Roasted” octopus had been braised into mushiness, muddily sauced and then served in a cold cast-iron pan. How hard is it to heat up a pan? Veal meatballs were dense and deadly dry. The Barrique pizza, billed as “sliced meatballs, fresh ricotta, basil, & marinara,” looked like your average bar pie, perfectly round, the tomato-mozzarella veil surmounted by sliced meatballs and blobs of grainy, Boursin-oid cheese.
The servers were, if anything, overly friendly: “How are you enjoying your pizza, ladies?” “That wine will go great with your dessert!” But our waitress spilled both our wine and then the sauce for our fries—entirely forgivable, but she forgot to clean up either spill.
On my way out I asked for the name of the chef, half expecting to learn that Pierre Rouget was no longer on board. But no, according to the server, he’s still running the kitchen. If he was there last Thursday, he wasn't paying attention.
Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar is located at 69 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-321-1175.
Newsday photo / Michael E. Ach