Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 14 April 2015
A Step Up From a Night Out at Bacchanal

A Restaurant Review
146 Bowery near Broome Street, Little Italy
Getting There: B,D to Grand Street; J,Z to Bowery

As their one year anniversary approaches, a trip to the Bowery’s Bacchanal has been long overdue. The space, which sits on the ground floor of Sohotel, is adorned with a unique mixture of elegance with a bit of modern sensibility, a combination that remains consistent from the place’s decor to its menu. Dimly lit as we approach the space for a weekend dinner, Bacchanal is intensely intimate- sexy even.  Despite its more than moderate noise level resulting from a room of buzzing patrons and a lively music playlist,  the restaurant still manages to leave you appreciating its many desirable qualities en route to a festive night on the town.

In an almost industrial feel, Bacchanal is outfitted with seemingly equal parts metal and leather draped everywhere you won’t find exposed brick. The spacious U-shaped bar is surrounded by thirsty drinkers amid a surprisingly casual setting, though diners seated at the plush leather banquettes that outline much of the remaining space appear far more conservative both in dress and demeanor. Fortunately, despite an elevated menu, the room and setting are hardly stuffy and work in unison with the decor. As a result, the overall dining experience is a more of a youthful play on that lavish evening out, as if the restaurateurs have given a wink of the eye that shows they know exactly what they’re doing as you sit down at your table.

Though the chefs have experienced some turnover here in the past eleven months, you wouldn’t know it based solely on the consistently tasty and eclectic array of dishes being served. Bacchanal is widely lauded for its extensive wine list, one that is both pleasantly affordable and vast in both region and varietals. Eschewing the list of more than six hundred bottles though, it was the restaurant’s cocktail program that left us drooling. The distinctive “Blood & Sand” ($13) offered up a twist on the classic mixture of scotch, cherry and orange, while the sweet rose-colored “Dutch Gin Fix” ($14) was a seasonally delicious refreshing blend of fresh raspberry and citrus.

The American-inspired menu meanwhile was equally as diverse in both price and inspiration. With so many tempting options, choosing between the likes of the “Roasted Bone Marrow” ($16), “Crispy Chicken Buns” ($8) and a “Steak Tartare” ($14) topped with a creamy truffle aioli was no easy decision. The tangy “Shishito Peppers” ($7) were admirably prepared, littered with clumps of fresh sea salt and a squirt of zesty lemon. Though we unearthed several fiery stems, we made it through the generously sized portion just fine. Where Executive Chef Ryan Schmidtberger really showed off his acumen- after cutting his teeth for many years as the Chef de Cuisine at Lure Fishbar- was with his masterful seafood preparation, which we enjoyed immensely.

The “Steamed Branzino” ($25) that was served half folded and skin side up for example, was both beautifully plated and delicately tender. Each meaty white morsel blended excellently with the juicy bed of crispy garlic-laden bok choy and savory black rice that lay nearby. Situated in a puddled citrus-soy blend, the cilantro speckled filet was entirely flavorful and each of the elements were showcased front and center in perfect balance. Similarly, the coconut curry and mussel broth soaked up by the bulbous cut of “Wild Striped Bass” ($26) was a nice marriage of sweet and rich that complemented the smattering of leeks, peppers and Thai basil which decorated the totality of the dish. Both helpings were certainly prepared differently, but were similar in their utter brilliance.

With the kinks of its early stages seemingly fully fleshed out, Bacchanal seems to be hitting its stride as it approaches its first complete year on Bowery. Amid the shuttering of inferior spots forced to close up shop with less fanfare, the restaurant seems to have carved out a nice little niche for itself, one that’s been missing in the neighborhood now for some time. Though Bacchanal has hardly reinvented the wheel for dining out, its atmosphere and execution in doing so are nearly flawless- and there’s considerable value in being able to deliver upon those quintessential principles.

Rundown of the Meal

Drinks & Spirits
AC/DC ($12)
Blood & Sand ($13)*
Dutch Gin Fix ($14)*

Shishito Peppers ($7)

Steamed Branzino ($25)*
Wild Striped Bass ($26)*

* Meal Highlight

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