Banzarbar is a tiny speakeasy on the second floor of Freeman’s.
Behind a sliding wood door lives a dark, cozy bar with a handful of small tables. The food menu is slim. A handful of apps, an entrée or two, and a small tasting menu. The specialty cocktails are truly special. My wife and I tried three:
Shackleton’s Urn: old tom gin, navy strength gin, Jamaican rum, green chili, aperol, passion fruit, cinnamon, peach and lime. This one comes to the table on fire.
Arctic Willow: whiskey, tangerine-hibiscus tea, oloroso sherry, cherry, almond, ginger and lemon.
Tour Through Khari: tequila, mescal, vermouth, turmeric, curry leaves, ginger and lemon. This one is dusted with flammable spices and ignited before your eyes at the table.
All were excellent, really well balanced and both beautifully and uniquely presented.
We decided to forego the tasting menu. We ordered four appetizers:
A half dozen oysters, braised pork belly, baby street corn and 40-day dry-aged beef. As you can see from the photo, the beef app is a bit pathetic for the $22 price tag. Four measly slices. While it was tasty, I liked the pork belly the best, and felt that it was a much fairer value at $15. The oysters and corn were both delicious despite being a bit overpriced as well.
We had The Kraken for our meal. This is a whole tempura fried octopus, accompanied by a yogurt sauce, roasted potatoes, pickled and pickled red onion.
This is easily one of the best dishes I’ve had all year. This joint is owned by the same folks as Le Turtle, just around the corner. They, too, have an incredible octopus dish, so it’s no surprise that they nailed it here as well.
The flesh was tender but meaty. The batter was crisp and well-seasoned. It was truly amazing. I highly recommend this dish, but a pro tip: make an early reservation if you plan to order this. There are only a few available each night, and they sell out very fast.
The staff was really kind. They brought us out two complimentary small drinks, and a plate of three dessert chocolate bon bons as well.
My wife and I plan to go back to try the tasting menu soon, so stay tuned for more on this spot.
New York, NY 10002