This venue is closed.
Jeffrey Chodorow has always had an old-fashioned restaurateur’s fondness for Disney-style grandeur and theatrical display, and his latest big-top production is no exception. Bar Basque—which opened several weeks ago, on the second floor of a gleaming hotel tower called the Eventi, on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea—occupies an area almost as long as a city block. The lounge portion of the operation (ghostly lighting, black cocktail chairs, scarlet walls) looks like some recently refurbished, postmillennial version of an old Tunnel of Love amusement-park ride. The cavernous, well-appointed dining hall sits under the kind of majestic glass roof that suggests a Texas megachurch or the atrium of an expensive Asian hotel. In the evenings, random images (Spanish dancers, gorillas, anime cartoons) flicker on a Jumbotron screen suspended over the courtyard outside, giving the whole scene a weird, spacey Lost in Translation glow.
But the menu at Bar Basque is tightly focused and surprisingly well executed by a young Hawaiian chef named Yuhi Fujinaga. If you have $34 in your pocket, you can taste a representative sample of glisteningly rich, acorn-fed “Ibérico de Bellota” ham. An inventive “crispy farm egg” is flash-fried in panko crumbs and wreathed in a nest of crushed potatoes, Serrano ham, and a milky Idiazabal-cheese sauce. The pricey shrimp paella was mushy and meagerly sized, but the suckling pig had a nice earthy crunch to it, and the sea bass (with an artful, haute-Basque garnish of fennel, frizzled artichokes, and crisped Serrano) was perfectly grilled. The wine list is Spain-centric and therefore almost fairly priced, and the desserts (a dense chocolate ganache with candied hazelnuts; eggy, French-toast-like torrijas with cinnamon and lemon) are first-rate. The only problem are the boom-era prices, which make you feel like a befuddled tourist frittering away your worthless dollars in some distant international hotel.