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SAME SEX AND THE CITY

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Pretend that this is the script for a television show: .

Scene I: A gathering of four Manhattan-based, single, successful, hyper-groomed yet lovable girlfriends. They decide - as they do every weekend - to check out the action at a new bar. (The bar is in an outer borough, which makes the trip a novelty.)

Diaphanous slip-dresses clinging, hair tumbling, Manolo Blahnik’s firmly tied around their ankles, our quartet enters THAT Bar (that is the real name of the bar restaurant) with one objective: let’s get lucky tonight!

Seconds elapse as our pals scan the room. (The camera pans over groups of successful, hyper-groomed and lovable men.) Then there’s a collective "OH!" from our girlfriends as they imagine the possibilities, followed by a quieter "oh."

Our gals our going home alone tonight.

Scene II: Making the best of the situation Samantha yucks it up with a group of gorgeous gay men; Carrie downs Mojitos at the bar; and Miranda and Charlotte join a table of gay, lesbian and hetero men and women eating and drinking in the back garden. Sounds like "Sex and the City" meets "Queer as Folk."

THAT Bar, opened in May on the ever-burgeoning Smith Street in Boerum Hill, is, according to Steven Hall, one of the bar-restaurant’s three owners, "gay oriented and straight friendly." His depiction is apt. Gay couples, groups of men, groups of women, the occasional straight couple, people of all sexual persuasions enjoy what THAT Bar provides - great drinks, an evolving menu and one hell of a good time.

On bistro-heavy Smith Street, a casual bar serving brunch all day is a welcome addition. (Who wouldn’t love good scrambled eggs and a Bloody Mary at midnight?) Few of the "eggie" dishes remain from THAT Bar’s opening menu. Brunch all day is still served ("all day" at THAT Bar lasts until 11 pm on most evenings), but breakfast offerings have been scaled down to accommodate diners hungry for a real meal. You can still get the truffled one-eyed Susan (a poached egg in the center of challah toast) and a tortilla hash with scrambled eggs and black beans. For breakfast all-day eaters, there are brunch staples like pancakes, French toast and a box of cereal and milk, although the room spins when I think of Rice Krispies and milk with a Wet ’n’ Tan chaser (described as a bronze god, a gin martini with bitters).

THAT Bar is a single, not-too-large room furnished in modern woods and steel. The bar travels the length of the wall along one side with a few tables scattered throughout the room. Spill-off from the front room ends up eating and drinking under umbrella-covered tables on the rear patio.

Imaginative specialty drinks leave little to the imagination: there’s a Golden Shower (a gold tequila margarita rimmed with golden salt); the Navy Seal (rum, Southern Comfort and fruit juices); Get in the Sling (Kick up those heels! This one’s famous in Singapore); and my favorite, the Double Orgasm (you never know, but it’s always a surprise).

I tried a Mojito (no cute description: rum, sugar syrup, club soda and mint liqueur, served with muddled mint leaves). While not a Double Orgasm, the Mojito is the perfect drink for a summer evening.

What chef Kristyn LaPlante, formerly of New Leaf Cafe, Bette Midler’s Fort Tryon Park restaurant in Manhattan, has added to the brunch and pressed sandwiches (PB&J, grilled cheese and egg salad with smoked salmon and caviar) are "More Than THAT" entrees. LaPlante has a light touch, favoring seasonal ingredients and a heavy dose of fresh herbs - julienne basil and mint appear in many of her dishes. Hers is a sensible approach - appealing food to go with drinks. Nothing too heavy, nothing overly spiced.

We asked our adorable waiter (they’re all adorable at THAT Bar) to help us select appetizers.

"Well," he said, "the potato fritters are AWESOME! The tomato soup is, um, AWESOME! And the curried chicken salad is [he searched for a new word] um, AWESOME, TOO!"

We tried the potato fritters, sweet-potato pancakes that were crisp on the outside and creamy inside. The fritters, served with caramelized onions in a tart balsamic vinegar reduction, were appealing but not AWESOME!

The tomato soup was lackluster and the olive tapanade, on slices of good toasted Italian bread, was over salted. Curried chicken salad, found in salad bars from coast to coast, was light on the curry and dressed with just a touch of mayonnaise. Dried cranberries replaced the salad’s usual raisins and adding walnuts lent the dish a satisfying crunch. Served over baby greens the dish is a pleasant way to begin a meal, but not an especially memorable one.

Three More Than THAT entrees and a couple of specials are served each evening. Chicken breast over a scallion pancake features just that - slices of tender white chicken meat fanned over a truly AWESOME scallion pancake. That pancake, crisp edged, full of spicy chopped scallions and light as air, was unfortunately undone by a ladle-full of candy-sweet Hunan-style barbecue sauce.

The special pasta, ziti with an abundance of crisply cooked asparagus and lots of fresh basil leaves in a light tomato sauce, was banal at best.

Two desserts on the "THAT’s All Folks" dessert list are geared to satisfy the inner child. Rice Krispie treats (theirs are a little fruity, according to the menu) and the Pop Tart ice cream sandwich provide a sweet romp down memory lane.

More grownup cravings can be satisfied with a delicate, chilled strawberry-apricot mousse topped with slivers of basil. Less of a mousse than an airy pudding, the dessert had a refreshing tartness.

Described as rainbow sherbet, fresh fruit and POP! the Gay Pride Float is a stylish take on the traditional ice cream parlor floats. Served in a tall, frosty glass filled with pastel-colored fresh fruits and high-quality sherbets, the POP is a small bottle of Moet champagne, opened tableside, then poured into the glass. It’s as pretty as a flower-decked float - all pinks and peaches with touches of apple green mint leaves and as delightful to drink as the icy cold floats you remember as a kid. This is the adult version of that nostalgia trip - frosty and sweet, dry and bubbly.

A late-evening brunch - why not? It could be AWESOME!

 

THAT Bar (116 Smith St. between Pacific and Dean streets) accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Light sandwich and salad entrees are $5-$10, More Than THAT! entrees are $13-$16. For further information, call (718) 260-8900.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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