Can food imitate art? It can when it’s cooked with the creativity and technical dexterity of Markus Glocker, whose modern European dishes at Bâtard offer a conceptual freshness and energy rarely found in a meal.
When I look at piece of truly compelling art, like a Pollock, or a Rauschenberg, or even a Koons, I’m struck not just by the beauty of the piece, but also by a greater sense of the vision of a pioneer adding to the discipline. To then find this instinct at a restaurant in Manhattan, well, that’s when I knew something extraordinary was happening at Bâtard.
For Bâtard is simultaneously changing the definition of northern European cuisine with ferocity and clarity, and then presenting this cooking in a warm, relaxed setting that prioritizes comfort and pleasure over sterility and politeness. The Octopus "Pastrami," a beautifully composed, contemporary collage of small circles of octopus leg pressed together like found object sculpture, best illustrates what dining at Bâtard means. Meaty, smoky spices are woven throughout, with rich, pommery mustard, braised ham hock, and new potatoes rounding out the plate. Each bite explores a new balance of texture and flavor, providing a tour from dense sumptuousness to crispy lightness with a powerful clarity that never falters.
Indeed, like a deeply complex Kandinsky, Mr. Glocker’s food expresses volumes about his sophisticated culinary vocabulary without becoming muddled.
The Wild Mushroom Tart deconstructs and abstracts what we know about the dish into an elaborate plate with bits of walnut crust and celery root that frame the tender, herbaceous bites of mushroom, while the Black Pepper Cavatelli synthesizes oxtail, green olives, and mint into a dish that marries sweet, earthy freshness with a hearty, salty jus.
The Duck Breast is then more about thematic consistency. Even the color of the perfectly cooked, supple duck whose expertly rendered fat seems to melt into the pink meat below a skin that suggests crispiness without shouting it, mimics its foil of pink shallots across the plate. The sweetness of the forelle pear then complements the richness of the duck liver mousse and mushroom crepe in a surprisingly innovative and elegant combination. It is a dish balanced by a chef who is also an artist, or perhaps an artist who also happens to be a chef.
Fortunately (and refreshingly), the food at Bâtard is not matched by gallery prices. Two courses from the fixed price, a la carte menu will run for $55, while those who want to try a dessert like Mr. Glocker’s own Caramelized Milk Bread with blueberries and brown butter ice cream, or perhaps even another smaller plate, can expect to pay $69 or $79 for three or four courses, respectively.
With the vision of Markus Glocker and the hospitality of Drew Nieporent and Myriad Restaurant Group, Bâtard is surely one of New York’s best new restaurants of the past year. Yet the manner in which Bâtard innovates and evolves cuisine with stunning beauty while making it accessible to far more than just a few privileged patrons of the art is truly timeless.