A Classic Bistro with a Pedigree
Bar Frites Restaurant
Jun 11, 2010

WHEN Bar Frites opened in Greenvale in late April, it was instantly popular. Even in the first few weeks, diners calling for a weekend reservation two or three days in advance were left with a choice of 5 or 10 p.m.

Chalk it up to the restaurant’s pedigree. It is owned by Gillis and George Poll, two brothers who also have Bryant & Cooper Steak House in Roslyn, Cipollini and Toku in Manhasset and Majors Steak Houses in East Meadow and Woodbury. This time they are giving French food a whirl.

In line with the current trend, Bar Frites is a classic bistro with white subway wall tiles, hanging globe lights and menus written on mirrors. The floors are mosaic tile in the bar area, glowing wood in the dining rooms. There’s a covered outdoor dining room that looked especially appealing on a recent warm night.

Informal doesn’t mean inexpensive. Nine of the 13 listed appetizers were $14 or $15. Most were quite good, but the frisée salad with lardons and a poached egg on top, which goes for $9 at my neighborhood bistro, costs $15 here. A recent three-course dinner for two was $145, including tax and tip and two glasses of wine. And one of the diners ordered a hamburger ($15).

The cooking is less consistent than it should be at those prices. The appetizers, though, were all worthwhile. The tuna tartare atop avocado cream was lush. Escargots crowned with little puff pastry caps were garlicky and terrific. All the salads, including the frisée, hit the bull’s eye; other winners were a red and golden beet salad with haricots verts, pecans, goat cheese and lots of baby arugula in a tangerine vinaigrette, and a baby romaine salad with niçoise olives, cucumber, tomatoes  and feta cheese.

Entrees were a different story; they were wildly uneven. Of the six sampled, four missed the mark, mainly because of overcooking. The dry hamburger was especially dismal (though the frites that came with it were good).

The steak frites, a New York strip at $32 that was ordered medium rare, arrived just barely pink. Worse than either of the meats were the fish: dry, overcooked halibut and overdone skate that had separated into unappealing raggedy strips.

Our favorite entree was bucatini Bolognese with a sauce of veal, pork and beef that had been braised for six hours. Also good was the Long Island duck: a seared breast and a confit of leg served atop a celery root purée and tiny cubes of roasted apple.

The meal ended on a high note with outstanding desserts. Our favorite was a warm apple tarte Tatin sitting on a pool of crème anglaise with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. A close runner-up was the profiteroles, tiny cream puffs filled with ice cream and served with a pitcher of thick hot fudge sauce. The meringue-crowned lemon tart and the molten-center chocolate cake were good, too. The chocolate mousse was rich but needed a dollop of whipped cream.

The servers are amiable young people who try hard and usually succeed despite the crowds. The noise level is capable of killing all conversation. As we were leaving, a tablemate said, “If I came again, I’d have an appetizer and a dessert and bring earplugs.”

Appetizers include tuna tartare with avocado cream. Photo Credit: Dave Sanders for The New York Times