Friday, July 29, 2011

Bar Tartine - a new face

Bar Tartine has gone for a complete makeover, and by that, I don't mean aesthetically. It's the food I'm talking about. No longer can you find paninis and the ubiquitous bone marrow dish. Instead are the barely enunciable gulyas, halasles, and kapusnicas. In case you're wondering, I'm speaking Magyar, or the Hungarian language. The new chef, Nick Balla, has applied his Hungarian roots in the once American fare of Bar Tartine.

          Meggyleves - chilled Hungarian soup of sour cherries and sour cream

The frequent dousing of sour cream vaguely reminded me of my short stint in Budapest. Although, abashedly, I only knew to order goulash, the common place soup of stewed beef and vegetables often drizzled with sour cream. The meggyleves, albeit a ghastly pink color - much like the results of one too many cranberry and vodka - is actually quite refreshing and savory.

Langos - fried potato bread with onion garlic and sour cream

                       Bottarga, grilled bread, butter, radish

                                                       toasted rabbit livers, arugula, dill sauce

An audacious move on the part of Bar Tartine to terminate a "safe" menu that, although isn't as lauded as its sister, Tartine Bakery, is still considered an innocuous bet for all-American cuisine. It seems the reaction is a positive one as I tapped in on the next table, "This is way better than before." I agree. The flavors are more dramatic, a colorful fusion of Hungarian with mild Japanese undertones, as expected from Nick Balla who ran an izakaya previous to this stretch. The langos is a respite from the conventional flatbread or pizza. Much like a Hungarian pizza, but more rich, flaky, and simpler in flavors that allows the bread to speak for itself. Do not overlook the Bottarga (salted mullet roe). Bottarga is another dish that isn't seen enough nowadays. Its delicate briny flavors sing harmoniously with the bitter, crisp of the radish. The meal was undoubtedly a memorable one, with each dish justifying a few commentaries after depletion, in spite of the flacid turo cheesecake - nothing Hungarian about that.

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110-1114
(415) 487-1600

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