Barlow’s Restaurant

When in doubt, ask for a second opinion
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  March 31, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

Glazed salmon ($18) was a little rare at the center (which I approve of), with well-made brown rice and Asian greens, apparently mostly U-choy with scallions. From a restaurant group that has given us Devlin’s, taken over the Warren Tavern, and also runs Orleans and Porter Belly’s, this is heady stuff.

The wine list gives no years, and ordering by the glass is somewhat expensive and risky. I won big with a fresh glass of Whitehaven sauvignon blanc ($10/glass; $40/bottle), full of all the famous tropical fruit aromas of the New Zealand version of this grape, especially pineapple. Blackstone Grand Reserve merlot ($10; $38) had some sweet fruit in the flavor, but no structure. And an old friend, Gascón malbec ($8; $30), was all nose, halfway between an American cabernet and an Australian shiraz, which isn’t a bad neighborhood if the flavor followed through. Decaf ($2) was freshly made; tea ($2) was too much so — the old “cup of hot water, scramble with the bag selection” routine.

Desserts are minimal but effective. Milk chocolate crème brûlée ($6) has no subtlety — it was just chocolate pudding with burnt sugar on top and some butter cookies on the sides. I had no problem with that. Warm spiced apple bread pudding ($6) was actually warmed caramel bread pudding with a few apples, but again was delectable comfort food. I liked the old bread pudding with the custard between the bread chunks, but give me sugar and I’m a happy chomper. Sorbets ($6) were lemon or strawberry. We had lemon, which wasn’t very distinctive.

The room, aside from being loud, is a nice rehab of an old warehouse that may once have been an old mill, as the signage proclaims. The floor is allegedly mostly original oak, with some seamless filling-in. The bar is made of milled pieces of giant beams from a nearby building of similar vintage. They just don’t grow trees like that anymore. Curtains and rugs would damp the noise, if anyone cared to. But since the crowds arrive by 7:30 or 8, the noise level won’t be fixed until they don’t.

The Globe’s knocks on the food didn’t harm the business on my next visit, just as my beef about the din probably won’t change anything, either. I don’t think of the middle of A Street as being a great restaurant location, but these experienced operators did, and seem to have nailed their intended demographic, as well. Good for them: Barlow’s is a happening place where you can get a pretty fine meal, too.

Robert Nadeau can be reached at robtnadeau@aol.com.

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