Chez Sardine Changes Course, Now Bar Sardine

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Photos by Zachary Feldman

The city's fish face-eating fanatics were left distraught earlier this month when restaurateur Gabriel Stulman and chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly closed their eccentric West 10th Street izakaya Chez Sardine for a design and concept revamp (RIP miso maple salmon head). The petite space reemerged last night as Bar Sardine (183 West 10th Street, 646-360-3705), a bar for small plates and cocktails. We stopped in to sample and get the skinny on the new approach.

The design's been pared down somewhat, with bar and counter seating taking up most of the room and only a few tables placed near the kitchen, which now serves a menu of New American bar food. That means items like a Caesar-esque salad with charred cauliflower florets and house-harvested little gem lettuce covered in parmesan and green goddess dressing (good), which costs more than the $10 burger (better).

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With a recipe created for a Montauk Burger Bash from years past, the Fedora burger -- which isn't even served at sister restaurant Fedora -- is an excellent entry into the city's burger lexicon. LaFrieda beef hardly gets my blood pumping anymore (and not just from hardened arteries), but the patty arrives hosting a pick-up sticks game of fried potato slivers, hugged by melted smoked cheddar, and smothered in barbecue mayonnaise. Fries, however, must be ordered separately for $7. The fried potato sticks also make their way into a complimentary bar mix, along with peanuts, cashews, and seaweed.

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Smoked chicken rillettes are nearly as rich as a platter of Gruyere grilled cheese, the fatty bird bits smeared onto crostini and sat next to a demure pile of pickled beets and cornichons. And while bar snacks -- like black garlic deviled eggs, cod fritters with lemon mayonnaise, and market vegetable crudite -- are all familiar territory, they're noticeably punchy under Brunet-Benkritly's watch.


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