By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
On the one hand, you have Sketch, which is trying to make a restaurant out of nothing more than a salumi bar and the best intentions. On the other, you have D Bar — Keegan Gerhard's attempt to take some people's favorite part of dinner (dessert) and build a restaurant dedicated to serving almost nothing but. They are related, these two operations — both reaching for a purity of expression that is incredibly attractive to chefs looking for a different path than the old crispy outside/soft inside, meat/starch/veg mantra that dominates their professional lives.
And at D Bar, Gerhard and his wife, Lisa Bailey, come damn close to charting that new course. Desserts are obviously the big draw here, and D Bar's crew is masterful at presenting both fresh takes on elderly classics (vanilla-bean crème brûlée with housemade biscotti, and molten chocolate cake classed up with Guittard 65 percent cacao, malbec fruit compote and aged vanilla) and new tastes on the nouvelle edge of the pastry arts. It ain't Ace of Cakes with fireworks shooting out the ass of a sculpted badger or anything, but rather a vigorous attention to detail, top-notch ingredients and an abstract artist's eye for plating that sets D Bar apart. On my most recent visit, I had champagne and an ice cream sandwich for dinner, squeezed between two fresh waffles crusted with rock sugar and decorated with three-cherry compote, a cherry reduction and amaretto whipped cream. It was the best dessert I'd had in a year or more, besting my former favorite dessert (smoked cherries and chocolate) that, no surprise, also came from D Bar.
Still, the desserts are only part of what Gerhard and Bailey do. D Bar has an actual kitchen and an actual menu, a simple board called "Things We Like to Eat" that includes such plain pleasures as a fanned avocado dressed in nothing but olive oil, Maldon salt, lime and cracked black pepper; a plate of dates, almonds, smoked bacon and parm. There are also a handful of sandwiches, cheese and meat plates, a couple of salads — nothing more complicated than that.
An ideal evening out might be drinks and snacks at Sketch, followed by wine, a bit of avocado and some brilliant desserts at D Bar. Like some kind of culinary Voltron, both places would be stronger if somehow they could join forces.
And if they were both robots shaped like lions.
I'm not saying it's a perfect plan, but still...