A SLEEK SPACE KitchenBar's dining room.
Bars are where many restaurants make most of their money, so a lot of places would rather impress you with their cosmopolitans than their cacciatores. KitchenBar — which calls its fare “Contemporary Comfort Cuisine” — reverses the emphasis right up front, declaring in their name that you’re up for more than Buffalo wings and nachos.
Not that the bar you belly up to doesn’t dominate the space, surrounded by tables with place settings and cards listing plenty of wine choices, foreign and domestic. Paper placements but cloth napkins. Beers aren’t neglected, with 10 on tap and two dozen in bottles. There’s open shelving between the bar and the back dining area, the wine and liquor bottles glowing down at us, so if you find yourself unaccountably thirsty, it’s probably this subliminal source. Clever.
Dinnertime appetizers sound especially appealing, with such choices as cider-braised pork belly ($11) with grilled radicchio and pumpkin seed pesto, or black-pepper gnocchi ($11) served with baby French horn mushrooms, peas, and chicken confit. The dozen entrées include similarly imaginative preparations. Take two dishes that can be found anywhere: braised beef short ribs ($21) and roasted half chicken ($19). The first comes under a port wine blackberry sauce and served with cauliflower gratin and fried Tuscan kale; the latter is brined in buttermilk. All the fancy-schmancy is there to please, not intimidate you — the list of entrées ends with a couple of Hereford chuck burgers, so feel free. (OK, they are served on pain de mie, an especially tasty French sandwich bread. But the menu considerately takes the edge off the fancy with a typo, calling pain “pan.”)
Both lunch and dinner can start with fried calamari finished with lemon-caper aioli ($10), grilled petite New Zealand lamb chops ($11/$12), or a “Mediterranean antipasti” ($11/$12) that should more accurately be called Middle Eastern. I came midday and started with that last choice. What a generous and varied selection of items: hummus, tabbouleh, and that grilled eggplant apotheosis, babaganoush — but not smoky, as it deserves to be. There were nine items, including an apricot relish accented with charred onion.
Roasted cauliflower soup ($9) is served at dinner, but I can’t imagine it’s better than the roasted tomato and fennel soup ($6) I had at lunch. Spicy hot, the purée is topped with goodly amounts of both crème fraîche and green herb oil.
There are only three main dishes available midday: steak frites ($12), salmon ($11), and eggplant rollatini ($13). I chose the fish, a square piece of fillet nicely charred from grilling but thick enough to not be overcooked if ordered medium rare. It was served under a huge tangle of tartly dressed frisee and shaved black radish, and over a large potato cake, crisp but moist inside. Well enjoyed. If the kitchen does as well with the Arctic char ($21) available in the evening, diners are well served.
I also sampled the eggplant rollatini, served with penne, which is also available for dinner. Neither it nor the tomato sauce was anything special, needing to contain more ricotta to go with the load of spinach, but they were supplemented by roasted red peppers.