Upon first glance, you might think the name Bar et Boeuf refers to the selection of alcohol and meat, and it wouldn’t be an inaccurate way of describing the fare at this financial district eatery. While they do have an extensive wine collection and several signature cocktails, the term ‘bar’ actually refers to ‘sea bass’, while ‘boeuf’ translates to ‘beef’. Many of the dishes in fact combine seafood and meat in ways that give whole new meaning to “Surf & Turf”. While vegetarians might not be flocking to the restaurant, their carnivorous counterparts would be wise to swing by.
A perfect spot for group dining and events, Bar et Boeuf caters well to the young professional crowd, and can handle over 150 diners at a time. With it’s prime Old Port location, it serves as an attractive first stop for a fun evening on the town; after all, Confessional bar is right across the street and several other of the city’s most happening spots are well within walking (stumbling) distance. Although our evening plans were decidedly more tranquil, we couldn’t say the same for the bachelor party that we sat next to. Donning matching white shirts, khaki pants and red bandanas (i.e. random and extremely un-stylish bachelor party attire), the 40-some-odd inebriated “gentlemen” laughingly made several attempt to convince a nearby table of attractive ladies to meet up with them post-dinner. We’re not betting folk, but…
With shiny white walls, pink lights shooting up from floor to ceiling, and Victorian style chandeliers, the modern ambiance was surprisingly warm and inviting and the dimmed lighting helped create a more intimate feel for our table of four. Our only complaint about the space is the midget urinals. Guys, check out the bathroom and you’ll see what we’re talking about.
Bar et Boeuf’s late night menu begins at 10pm and consists of ten choices which change seasonally. For 22$ you get your choice of two of the ten plates. Plus, we got an amuse-bouche of duck pate, which was a very pleasant surprise at this price point.
Our waiter was well-versed in the cuisine and didn’t hesitate when we asked him for his preferred dishes. If there’s one thing that bugs the hell out of us, it’s when we get a cop-out answer like “I like EVERYTHING on the menu”, but this fellow didn’t disappoint, confidently suggesting the Arctic Char and Suckling Pig – both of which we already had our eyes on.
The cod was a definite highlight of the night candidate. Sliced and then fried, the cod’s crunchy exterior gave way to a tender, velvety interior. Paired with an airy, creamy chicken liver mousse, and sweet, buttery squash this dish was a lesson in rich flavors and contrasting textures. While known for his fabulous plating, it ultimately comes down to taste, and chef Simon Mathys did not disappoint us in either regard with this dish.
The sweetbreads were out of this world. Smoked ravioli stuffed with mushrooms provided the perfect accompaniment to the unctuous, melt-in-your-mouth offal. The poached leeks provided a nice sharp flavor against all the other rich tastes in the dish while the beautifully complex mushroom sauce paired nicely with the smoked pasta. If you like sweetbreads, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not trying chef Mathys’ rendition. If you don’t like sweetbreads, this dish could change your life. If you think sweetbreads are literally a sweet bread this dish will confuse the hell out of you.
Our waiter’s first recommendation, the char, was another winner. We love skin-on fish as it gives the dish that fresh-caught look and seals in the moisture so the fish is never dry and always delicious. This char was no exception, perfectly moist and seasoned. The fish was paired with a pork jus, which at first glance may seem like an odd pairing for fish, but after one bite we were convinced: pork really does make everything better. The sweet beets worked very well with the salty fish and the German spaetzle, which is typically served as an accompaniment to meat, matched surprisingly well with the meaty char. The way Chef Mathys combined seafood with meat in this dish was pure genius.
The suckling pig was cooked to perfection – that wonderful yet elusive combination of crispy skin and a moist interior. The sweet potato puree and glazed parsnips added a nice touch of sweetness to the otherwise savory dish, although the parsnips were slightly undercooked and difficult to chew. Despite this misstep this dish was a group consensus favorite because frankly, crispy pork skin is just about the best thing on earth.
With our belts one notch away from bursting, we decided to take the plunge and opt for the Alpaco Dark Chocolate dessert – after all, you don’t come across Alpaco 66% chocolate every day. The chocolate, with notes of orange zest and jasmine worked wonderfully with all the fruity flavors on the plate, while the toasted cashews added some much needed texture to the dessert. We delightfully shoveled it down, leaving but a few sprinklings of nuts, finishing as the bachelor party departed with but a few sprinklings of their dignity. Oh, and the passion fruit sorbet was the BOMB.
All in all, we were pleasantly surprised by Bar et Boeuf – not because our expectations were low, but because everything seemed to come together perfectly from the helpful and informative waiter, to the warm and inviting decor and most importantly, the great tasting grub. Original, high quality food and excellent service for a mere 22$ has got to be one one this city’s greatest bargains.
- Delicious food & original flavor combinations
- Exquisite plating
- Surprisingly fun and enjoyable ambiance
- Friendly, knowledgeable service
- Some would call the portions small – we found them suitable.
- Could get a bit loud inside.
- Getting shot down by a group of attractive women.
- Midget Urinals?!
How much you save by eating after nine: Roughly $10 to $20
Where to Grab a Drink After:
Confessional across the street. It’s not the biggest place in the Old Port, but it has a certain charm that makes it a great place to spend an evening.