Sunday, August 06, 2006

Review: Bacar

This past Friday, my girlfriend and I both got out of work early so we decided to check out the lunch special at Bacar (448 Brannan Street; 415-904-4100), a trendy spot in SoMa known for its expansive wine collection. Featuring a three story glass-enclosed wine wall, Bacar ("wine goblet" in Latin) features more than 1400 selections from all over the world and 80 wines by the glass.

Lunch at Bacar is a once-weekly affair, available on Fridays only. Thanks to congestion on the Bay Bridge, we almost missed lunch, but managed to find street parking right in front of the restaurant and arrived with 10 minutes to spare. The restaurant was practically devoid of the lunch time crowd by the time we arrived, but we were cheerfully greeted at the door by their gracious host and quickly seated in the airy, three-level space.

The lunch menu at Bacar is a three-course prix fixe, consisting of an appetizer, an entree, and dessert for $21.95. You can also order a pizza from their wood-fired oven a la carte, but we were both very hungry and opted for the featured items from the main menu.

To start, my girlfriend ordered the wok-roasted PEI black mussels, while I opted for the arugula salad. The mussels arrived steaming hot in a huge metal bucket, steeped in a flavorful white wine sauce containing large cloves of softened garlic. The order was enormous, easily big enough to have been an entree in disguise. The arugula salad came with halved figs, candied walnuts, and crumbled bits of blue cheese. I wasn't sure that the blue cheese would work in the salad, but it matched very well with the figs, which were soft and perfectly ripe (we are, after all, smack in the middle of the fig season).

After downing the appetizers, which made serious dents in our once-ravenous hunger, we were presented with our main courses. My girlfriend selected the roasted petit chicken, which came with roasted fingerling pototoes and brussels sprouts. I chose the pan-seared halibut, which came in two generous sized fillets on a bed of mushroom risotto. As is our norm, we split our entrees, switching plates after we had finished our half of the dish. The chicken, which looked about the size of a cornish hen, was mostly deboned and nicely roasted. The bird was flavorful and moist - it was a very nice dish. Even the brussels sprouts, which are among my least favorite vegetables, were pretty good. The halibut fillets were lightly seared on one side. I would have preferred a slightly more developed crust on the fish, but that would have probably overcooked the fillets, which were very moist and succulent. The risotto accompanying the fish was creamy and chock-full of mushrooms. Another fine dish - Bacar went 2-for-2 on our entrees.

By the time dessert (espresso gelato for her, watermelon/strawberry sorbet for me) came around, we were both stuffed. We made some efforts to tackle the sweet offerings, but it was an uphill battle. As we were taking care of the tab, our server mentioned that we were welcome to stay for Happy Hour, which starts on Fridays after lunch ends at 2:30pm. The Happy Hour specials include $1 oysters from the raw bar (yes, you read that right, $1!), and 1/2 price drinks until 6:30pm. Unfortunately, given our satiated state, we had to decline, but we are both looking forward to the next time when we start our weekends early so that we can check out the wine selection and raw bar at Bacar.