Hot Meal: Bar Tartine

Categories: Hot Meal
J. Birdsall
The rib steak for two: Challenging.
Bar Tartine's been reborn. Well, reshaped. When the Valencia Street restaurant reopened two weeks ago, its menu had morphed from the meticulously etched cooking of former chef Jason Fox to the more low-slung, classic Northern California style of Chris Kronner.
J. Birdsall
Fig-walnut anchoiade: Alice-y.

But simplicity isn't always easy to pull off. Sure, the kitchen nailed it with an appetizer of fig-walnut anchoïade ($8) served with leafy radishes. You couldn't devise a more ardent homage to Chez Panisse: the soft, mashy dip, softly radiating anchovy, above a dark, sweet shadow of fruit. And a little munchie of cheddar crackers ($3) were as tasty as the browned, frazzled ooze from a grilled cheese sandwich.

Other dishes cried out for more polish. An app of potted foie gras ($14), encased in congealed duck fat, offered up a livery nub all but lost in its unctuous insulation. A rib steak for two ($48) had the intense animal throb of nicely aged beef, but -- webbed with fat and sinew -- it was difficult to cut and, when it came to some of the muscle fibers running through the steak, chew. A side of corn pudding ($6) had a one-dimensional sweetness and soft, pappy texture.

Still, we'd be fools to give up on the new Bar Tartine after a single dinner. If Kronner can make the simplicity of the menu approach the dark elegance of Tartine's narrow dining room -- brooding as a Dutch painting -- he'll have achieved something worthy of the reshaping.

Bar Tartine 561 Valencia (at 16th St.), 487-1600

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