I can admit when I’m wrong. Choosing to review Bar Ivy in the winter may have been a disservice. “I’m definitely over root vegetables for now,” partner and culinary director Nathan Beauchamp recently told me via phone. “Ramps are right around the corner. There’s some spring garlic coming around,” he added.
Beauchamp runs the kitchen alongside executive chef Jonathan Till, a skilled forager who graduated from Vermont’s New England Culinary Institute. As a formerly Vermont-based critic, this makes perfect sense to me. Beauchamp and Bar Ivy owner Greg Algie previously plied their trades in California and call their light, innovative food “California cuisine.” But the emphasis on regional, of-the-moment ingredients would be an easy fit in the Green Mountains, too.
I first noted this when I tasted the wagyu pot roast. The wintry braise was not only ideally seasoned, it melted just as the intricately marbled beef should, with petite potatoes and a single tender cipollini onion. A bed of grated carrot beneath seemed like an odd pairing, but contributed a satisfying textural counterpoint to the softer meat and starches. It reminded me of Vermont in the best possible way.
The burger, often a throwaway on a menu that veers into finer dining, is another big, meaty hit. Paired with habit-forming crispy fries, it features a substantial patty of dry-aged beef blanketed in an oily layer of Emmenthal cheese. The thick-cut rashers of bacon that repose on top of that are just as hulking, though. The salty, porky element doesn’t compete with the beef — it just makes the round, fatty flavors stronger. Tomato jam cuts through that a bit, but it’s unapologetically robust — and vast miles from the airy eats of typical California cuisine.
Another rib-sticking hit is the bone-in pork schnitzel. Though noticeably underseasoned when I tried it, it nearly overcame that issue thanks to a crispy, well-cooked chop served over a mouth-pleasing pile of mustardy spaetzle. Something green might have perfected the plate, but I was more than satisfied with the shareable portion, paired with a small pitcher of lemon butter.
Hunks of flesh with little or no vegetal matter? Far from what I was expecting, but winter isn’t typically a factor in the West Coast eats I had anticipated.
The golden beet hummus, however, was exactly what I’d envisioned. Lightly flavored with garam masala, the cumin-laden spice mix that gives many Indian dishes their unique personality, the mighty portion of turmeric-colored puree tastes so fresh it practically effervesces. A few leaves of cilantro further brighten up the proceedings, and pine nuts add crunch. But oversize sesame crackers that rise from the bowl might be the main event, both vessel and centerpiece.
The other highlight among the starters I tried was the fritters of brandade, a whip of salt cod and potatoes. In summer, dandelion greens factor into the crisp orbs. But I was perfectly pleased with the snackable pile sunken into a likably funky black garlic remoulade.
The toast topped with mushroom cream is aptly titled simply “toast;” it is mostly a showcase of a chewy, crusty avatar thereof. The mushrooms are distributed to one corner of the bread, creamy, lightly truffled, and layered with salty pecorino cheese.
The Brussels sprouts sounded particularly promising. They’re crunchy with both cashews and crisped duck prosciutto, but the little brassicas were drowned in a pool of oil. I was similarly unimpressed with my order of scallops. The $36 trio of New Jersey-caught bivalves was lacking any significant sear. They’re served surrounded by a pool of grapefruit reduction that’s unapologetically bitter — too much so for me. With just three scallops, I relied on the celeriac puree and haystack of shaved apple and onion to fill up, which didn’t completely work.
Leave that task to dessert. Algie and Beauchamp admit that the kitchen is currently understaffed and is lacking the pastry chef with which they opened. That means that there are only two desserts available, both tarts. The Key lime one is pretty standard, if a little bit crustier than I might prefer. The cherry cordial one is perhaps more polarizing: My dining companion grimaced at its combination of intense chocolate and boozy cherries, but I enjoyed it.
The truth is, I might not have been so wrong to try Bar Ivy in the winter after all. When a chill sets in, it is a different restaurant. But that restaurant, even without a vegetable-forward menu of foraged foods or a busy patio, is one to which I would happily return.
Wine socials will soon take over the garden area, an excellent showcase for the restaurant’s low-intervention wines, but also cocktails like the Bark & Bite, which combines Manzanilla sherry with housemade root beer. I look forward to enjoying another meal there when the menu changes late next month.
See This: Green and white touches hint at the restaurant’s roster of foraged ingredients. Grab a seat at one of the booths, which resemble comfy porch swings, or outside on the 127-seat patio.
Eat This: Golden beet hummus, burger, wagyu pot roast
Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday; lunch Thursday and Friday; brunch Saturday and Sunday
3033 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
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