N, R, W at 28th St.
This venue is closed.
Cyril Renaud’s restaurant, Bar Breton, opened late 2008 on an indistinct stretch of Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron district. Renaud (as any blog-obsessed restaurant geek can tell you) is a talented chef from Brittany whose excellent little French restaurant Fleur de Sel was granted a star by Michelin three years running, beginning in 2006. But Renaud closed Fleur de Sel earlier this year, and he has replaced it with a down-market bistro a few blocks away that features a happy hour (4 to 8 p.m.), a signature cheeseburger (the “BB Burger”), and even a flat-screen TV, which glimmers dispiritingly above the bar. Instead of the former haughty, European-tinged clientele, the customers now include groups of disoriented shoppers, and instead of Michelin-approved soufflés, the specialty of the house is a kind of crêpe called a galette, stuffed with ham and cheese or smoked salmon or Nutella.
Galettes are a Breton invention, it turns out, made with buckwheat flour, and Renaud presents them appealingly enough, sliced in delicate segments on little trays made of black slate. There’s a very nice one served at breakfast, made with a comforting mash of eggs and chorizo, and if you go at dinner, the galette to get is the one garnished with carrots and celery root and filled with deposits of braised lamb. The non-galette portion of the menu is slightly less interesting and tends to veer unsteadily between proficiently rendered bistro favorites and a high-minded Frenchman’s somewhat tortured idea of what nouveau-casual food should be. The appetizers include tedious curls of shrimp crusted in phyllo, an interesting Caesar-like salad construction made with romaine and chunks of crunchy duck confit, and a delicious little brick of suckling pig and foie gras terrine, which Renaud plates with an elegant little tuile tasting faintly of buckwheat.
The main courses at Bar Breton tend to be more spotty and various, and at this early date the service (which is better on crowded evenings, strangely, than slow ones) is a little spotty, too. The scallops I ordered one night were dank and bland, and the sea bass was unsettlingly fishy, and if you like rabbit, don’t order the rabbit–and–foie gras roulade, which was overcooked the night I tried it and set in a wan carrot broth. But Renaud turns out a capably poached duck breast and a delicately sweet, wine-rich version of boeuf bourguignonne, and his burger is as good as most of the haute-burger variations now flooding the market. At his former restaurant, the desserts included a feathery pistachio financier with a dab of brown-butter ice cream, but at Bar Breton you’ll have to make do with garden-variety profiteroles. If you’re feeling nostalgic, however, try the chocolate mousse, which is scattered with chocolate-covered Rice Krispies and enlivened, for old times’ sake, with a touch of fleur de sel.Note
The galettes make a nice brunch.