Jul 1, 2010

Carlos Ferreira's Bar F now open, next to jazz fest's main stage: first photos

By Alexandra Forbes

Here's an insider tip you're not likely to hear elsewhere: the best thing about the brand new Bar F, which opened this week, is the fact that it sits a mere 50 meters or so from the main stage of the jazz fest.

So if you book a table outside, under one of the white ombrellones (pictured below) you basically score a V.I.P. pass to whatever show is going on as you eat.

 Here's a zoomed-in view of Bar F's terrasse and the stage (called the Scène TD):

And Carlos Ferreira, the owner, sitting at one of the terrasse tables with his daughter Sandra:
Ferreira seems especially proud of the restaurant's bar, covered in a trompe l'oeil of a Portuguese tile mosaic which one could swear was actually hand-painted:

The F Bar calls itself a Portuguese brasserie, with 50 seats indoors and another 70 outdoors.

I had read somewhere that the place would specialize in stews served in cute little cataplanas, but after reviewing the menu and trying some of the food, I'd actually call it franco-Portuguese, with a few contemporary twists and the odd nod to the head-to-tail and haute charcuterie trends.
There's even an homage to chef Daniel Boulud's infamous burger (with foie gras in the middle of the beef patty), which is delicious but quite different from the original.

Bar F's version, unlike the N.Y. original served at Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne, combines baby arugula, grilled mushroom, aïoli and melted cheese.

And here's a very bad photo of the last burger I had at Boulud's DB Bistro in New York, just for the sake of comparison:

Mine was quite the carnivorous lunch...

I found the pig's trotters, sliced paper thin, to be delicate and lovely, nearly playing second fiddle to the spicy shrimp coated with a red pepper rub and served on top. The side salad, crisp and crunchy, was seasoned just barely, comme il faut.

I couldn't see much of Portugal in the beet salad, the deep-coloured cubes and slices perfectly al dente, contrasting nicely with the soft strips of lardons. Loved the freshness of the mix, crunchy and tender at once. But... wait! There IS a Portuguese touch after all.... a less observant diner might take them for some sort of cheddar, but the shavings crowning the whole are actually São Jorge cheese...

The kitchen is run by executive chef Gilles Herzog, voted  Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1995. “I want to offer diners very light, flavorful dishes typical of the Mediterranean, my home, with a taste of Portugal. My main secret ingredient? Olive oil!” he says.

No olive oil flavours to be found in the special of the day that I had, though... It struck me as  pure Frenchness on a plate: super al dente green beans, melt-in-your-mouth cuisse de canard and mashed potatoes.

The chef makes a riz au lait that only very faintly reminded me of the Portuguese version of my childhood, arroz doce. This one consisted of an ever so slight amount of creamy rice at the bottom, compote of morello cherry, crumbled tea biscuit and a quenelle of a sorbet so creamy it could have been ice cream (funny how the supersonic Pacojet sorbet maker can work its magic with textures).

The dinner menu is longer, and a bit fancier.

There's a catch, though: as great as it may be, Bar F won't have its liquor license before the end of the jazz fest... so no "wining" and dining for now.

Still, it's sure to quickly become a popular choice for al fresco dinners, since Ferreira is known for the top-notch quality of the food he serves at his other two restaurants - upscale Ferreira Café, casual eatery Vasco da Gama, both on nearby Peel Street.

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