Bar Frites seems to be having an identity crisis. The dependable French bistro (Newsday's Peter M. Gianotti gave it 2½ stars in June 2010) has morphed into a French-New-American-Asian-fusion bistro whose menu now features “wok hay” frog legs, Baja fish tacos, Vietnamese summer rolls, sliders (including Asian salmon), fried chicken and whole crispy black bass Chinois — alongside the onion soup, salade Nicoise and steak frites.
I took one of the new items out for a test drive. Vietnamese spring rolls had been made not with whole, poached shrimp, but with weird little grilled nuggets made, our waiter told us, with minced shrimp. Instead of a garlic chive, each roll was pierced with a thin cylinder of what appeared to be fried wonton skin. Neither of these innovations represented an improvement. Then again, the fish tacos at the next table looked pretty good.
Less far-out items fared only slightly better. A grilled-calamari appetizer and an iceberg lettuce wedge were good, but the beet salad was overrun with extraneous flourishes — string beans, tasteless asparagus, avocado and candied walnuts. The slab of boucheron goat cheese was welcome, but not the gutless vinaigrette. My duck was a disaster. The seared breast had not a trace of pink, the skin not a hint of crisp. The confit leg was covered in a nondescript brown sauce.
The two best dishes we had were also the most bistro-appropriate: an unimpeachable hanger steak served with good fries, and an individual apple tarte Tatin.
Bar Frites is at 400 Wheatley Plaza, Greenvale, 516-484-7500.
Vietnamese summer rolls at Bar Frites