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Wednesday
Mar112009

Revisited: Dinner at Bar Americain

(To see Bar Americain, Mesa Grill and Bobby Flay's websites, please reference "links to this post," located at the bottom of the review. Thanks.)

For someone who always feels like she’s the one picking the restaurant, it’s nice when another takes the reigns every now and then. After having fallen in love with Mesa Grill in Las Vegas (and Mesa Grill’s celebu-chef, Bobby Flay), Teddi suggested that we try Bar Americain. Little did she know, I had been to Bar Americain, twice before, in the spring/summer of 2006. My first visit was so positively memorable, that I decided to take my mother there for dinner a couple of months later. Unfortunately, our meal was mediocre; probably the reason that I have not returned in 3 years.

I’ve followed Bar Americain’s passionately mixed reviews over the years (if graphed on paper, the result would resemble the peaks and valleys of a polygraph test). I decided that dinner with Teddi would be a great opportunity to give BA another shot.

I arrived at Bar Americain about twenty-minutes before Teddi, and decided to grab a drink (or 3) at the bar. The restaurant was buzzing with lively “business-attired” happy hour patrons, leaving me grateful to have found a stool at the bar. With an extensive wine list and creative assortment of cocktails, it was tough choosing a beverage, but I settled on a glass of ice wine. Bar service was courteous, prompt and professional.

Upon Teddi’s arrival, we were seated within minutes. She couldn’t help but gasp at the restaurant’s ample size, grand staircase leading to a second story and the visibly glistening raw bar. Even BA’s biggest critics can’t deny the masculine-chic/attractiveness of the space’s casual elegance and dramatic interiors.

We began our meal with a cocktail (I stuck to ice wine) and BA’s gorgeous bread basket. Cloverleaf rolls, a mini baguette and four cornbread “sticks” arrived with a shallow dish of spreadable (not frozen) butter. I abstained from this carb-fest as long as I possibly could, but eventually gave in. The crispy and slightly spicy corn bread was my favorite, followed by the soft cloverleaf roll.

Though our waiter passively tried to rush our order, we successfully stalled him for 15-20 minutes while we caught up on some gossip and perused the menu. I ordered the tasting of three shellfish cocktails: Shrimp Tomatillo, Crab Coconut and Lobster Avocado. A slender tray arrived with three large “shot” glasses (each filled with the shellfish listed above). The presentation was lovely, but I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the flavor combinations or the quality of the seafood.

Two plump, freshly-grilled shrimp (flavored with olive oil, salt and pepper) were accompanied by a subtly creamy and tangy tomatillo salsa. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and I found the salsa to be a nice flavor enhancement to the delicate flesh. The second cocktail was crab meat and diced mango that were drowning in a milky-white sauce kissed with coconut. This was my least favorite of the three. While I appreciated the effort here, there was too much sauce and not enough of a differentiation of taste and texture between the crab meat, mango and coconut milk. The final shellfish cocktail was the Lobster-Avocado, which was my favorite of the trio. Chunks of fresh lobster meat, avocado and cilantro created the most memorable trinity of ingredients (definitely one that I wouldn’t have paired together). This was so delicious; that I could have eaten at least three more orders (I finished my entrée within 5-10 minutes, because it was that good).

Teddi and I had an incredible experience at Bar Americain and I hope that those of you who’ve not yet been (or have not returned in a while) will reconsider. Wipe those negative reviews out of your head, and go judge for yourself (hey, I’m guilty of this too). On my next visit, I will make an identical meal out of the Shrimp Tomatillo and Lobster Avocado cocktails (minus the Crab Coconut) the bread basket, and one-too-many glasses of ice wine.

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