Nearby Subway Stops
1 at Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M at W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.
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This venue is closed.
Anita Lo is a talented fusion chef who is fond of lacing Chinese-style dumplings with luxe ingredients like foie gras (at her flagship restaurant, Annisa) and Peking duck (at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar). At Bar Q, her theme is Asian barbecue, and she approaches it in a characteristically stylized way. The boxy, whitewashed space looks more like a boutique beauty salon than a rib joint, and if you perch at the tiny marble-topped bar, you can sip juleps spiked with shiso or a $13 “pickletini,” made with Japanese pickles. The elf-size tables are set with chopsticks, and a few of the hulking, barbecue-ready gentlemen at my table considered some of the portions to be elf-size, too. “This place is so Sex and the City,” said one as he gnawed without conviction on a baby back rib swathed in hoisin sauce.
Predictably, my wife had a different reaction to Ms. Lo’s Carrie Bradshaw–meets–David Chang experiment. “I like this place,” she said as she tasted a sophisticated, un-barbecue-like trio of fish tartares mingled in a refreshingly cool avocado soup. She liked the unagi fritters, too, which are made with delicate chunks of freshwater eel, and the strips of crunchy pork belly, which are designed to be folded, Chang style, with housemade kimchee into a steamed taco-shaped Chinese bun. As more of these careful little dishes hit the table, it’s clear that Bar Q isn’t really a barbecue joint at all. There’s a lobster-roll riff—steamed lobster with shiitake mushrooms, leeks, and spinach, wrapped in a flat rice noodle—that Chang might well be proud of. If you’ve never had tuna ribs, you’ll find that they can be quite palatable when soaked in yuzu. And even the sticky, Applebee’s-like hoisin ribs are salvaged by Lo’s ingenious topping of kimchee and Japanese pickles, all sealed in a tempura crust.
Many of the entrées at Bar Q have a similar compulsively tasty quality, although the stilted tone of the room can cut into the pleasure of eating them. Lo’s pork wings (pork shanks in a spicy Korean hoisin equivalent) beg to be devoured with greasy fingers and a bib, and so does the tea-smoked chicken, stuffed with a messy assemblage of sticky rice and sweet sausage. My wife was very happy to eat her chile-rubbed, tea-smoked duck breast with a knife and fork, however, and dainty eaters will enjoy the lamb as well, which is also marinated in tangy chile and served with stacks of fresh bok choy. None of the sweet dishes at Bar Q quite manage to transcend the goopy, uninspired realm of the Asian (and barbecue) dessert. Stick with the smooth coconut soup laced with papaya and mangoes, or try the ice creams and sorbets, which are made fresh and flavored in pleasing ways with unlikely Asian ingredients like sweet pandanus-leaf paste, from Malaysia.Note
Try Lo’s fiendishly addictive “garlic fried milk,” a kind of savory, garlic-infused custard seized in a tempuralike batter.Ideal Meal
Pork belly, unagi-and-scallion fritters, spicy pork wings, coconut soup.
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