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1/2 *wow, these closings are getting faster and faster (4/23/08)

As someone who has been known to throw B.Y.O.C (candy, duh) deep fry parties, I couldn’t really ignore BarFry, gimmicky concept or not (though I do think it’s odd to have barf in the name of your restaurant). I figured it would be a while before I got around to trying the restaurant, though.

Barfry_interiorOne, I’m never in the neighborhood, and two, I hate crowds. But Saturday night I found myself attending a rooftop party in the West Village and discovered that a Times Under $25 review has less affect on diners than I’d assumed (even if a write up is so-so, I figure that jus the mention of a new venue might pike curiosity). While Bleecker Street was already kind of a mess at 8:30pm, BarFry was nearly empty. Ok, so neither New Yorkers nor tourists are sold on the concept of haute fritters.

TempuraIt’s certainly not the type of meal you’d want on a regular basis, and as I’d anticipated, the prices quickly add up (though four drinks probably made up half the bill). Even if you could justify eating this battered, fried food daily, you might not be able to afford it. We were encouraged to order six-to-ten items for two, which I thought was a little excessive.

For the straight up tempura treatment, we went with pumpkin, shishito peppers, a crab cake and two pork dumplings. You’re given four dipping sauces: sweet miso, jalapeño soy, chile yuzu and wasabi remoulade. Soy, proving you can’t always fight tradition, worked the best. The batter was crispy, barely greasy and seemed like a fitting match for equally light items. The pork dumplings didn’t really need the coating, but I could’ve told you that before ordering them.

Po_boyWe split an oyster po boy, which was a bit heavy on the lettuce. I couldn’t even tell you what the oysters tasted like. As part of a sampling meal, the sandwich wasn’t a disaster but if it was the only thing you picked you might be disappointed.

Our only non-fried dish, a special of “noodles” made from cuttlefish, spiked with wasabi and I think shisho leaf, was a smart departure. If there were to be a next time, I would balance out the meal with more fresh items. But how many tempura-centric restaurants does one encounter in a lifetime? I didn’t go there to eat delicate Japanese-influenced raw dishes.

Cuttlefish_noodles_2I’m not a chefy person but I did notice Zak Pelaccio wandering in and out the front door during our meal. Later, at the party where I didn’t know anyone because the common thread was Johns Hopkins and U. Penn, James made an offhand comment about how we’d just been at BarFry and saw Fatty Crab. I don’t assume that anyone knows anything about restaurants. I barely do, myself. But a younger, brownstone Brooklyn version of Susie Essman standing nearby barked, “I’m friends with his wife.”

Ok, lady, no disparaging was occurring (it’s not like I got into my irrational displeasure with the Times’s obsession with his parents’ Soho loft). I don’t think being called a fatty crab is so horrible. In fact, I’m a fatty crab personified.

Yum…crabs. BarFry should totally tempura soft shell crabs, assuming they’re still in business by the time they’re in season.

BarFry * 50 Carmine St., New York, NY

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