After reading the Voice's paean to the new garden of tempura called Barfry, we figured we had to check it out sometime. We really wanted to peek into Market Table, which is next door; it's Joey Campanaro of Little Owl's new place in what used to be Shopsin's, but it's only open for lunch these days. Dinner by Friday, they say. So we went to Barfry. As the name suggests, it is a bar that serves fried foods!
Due to the intricacies of liquor license legislation, Barfry isn't serving alcohol. (That is annoying to your average diner but even moreso to the disgruntled bartender there who was making no money at all.) Among the more positive things about our experience: Our waiter looked like Josh Hartnett. Fried pumpkin is delicious, surprisingly. They had this Matsutake mushroom soup that served as an excuse to talk about that New Yorker article by Burkhard Bilger and about how we've subscribed to the New Yorker since we were like nine. Whatever. No big deal!
Perhaps the best fried things we ate were the shitake mushrooms and pumpkin. The beef beignet looked and tasted like a pasty in a good way. Skip the pork dumplings, crab cake, and string beans which all taste like various degrees of nothing.
A menu comprised almost exclusively of fried food will become wearisome somewhere between the fifth and sixth nugget of batter and cholesterol. Tempura fatigue set in. There is the beige monochromaticism of the meal and also the thin sheen of grease that forms on one's face.
The second inherent weakness of the endeavor is the clientele that a bar specializing in fried foods will attract. Last night for instance, I had to endure the endless gag of a businessman on the banquette next to me pretending to steal my iPhone. He seemed emblematic of the once and future clientele: Jocks who are now making enough money to spend $163 (for 4 people, without booze) for glorified chicken fingers but who are not rich enough to have an assistant to go to the Apple store.