Last night saw the long awaited debut of The Tar Pit, a new Art Moderne restaurant and bar from Campanile chef Mark Peel, Campanile GM Jay Perrin, noted bartenders Chad Solomon and Christy Pope and Manhattan cocktail impresario Audrey Saunders from Pegu Club. The owners hosted a media preview with cocktails and passed appetizers before opening the doors to the public at 9:15.
Tracy Beckmann designed the space, which Perrin described as “1940s Art Moderne.” At an establishment with a cocktail focus, it was no surprise that the bar stood out. It’s 42 feet long and crafted from marble.
David Silverman developed tar pit-themed caricatures of a saber tooth holding a knife and fork and a mammoth trapped in tar, holding a cocktail glass with its trunk. The images appear on the menus, coasters and napkins. The Tar Pit is using the Page Museum as a resource and will add a resin sabre tooth, to name just one additional design element.
Saunders, Pope and Solomon oversaw the Specialty Cocktail menu, which is divided into three categories: Neo Classical, Tributes and Champagne Opportunities. Every cocktail costs $11 unless it contains Champagne, in which case it’s $16. Peel said that aside from head bartender Marcos Tello, Saunders didn’t want to hire any seasoned bartenders, since they weren’t looking for people set in their ways (or recipes). Instead, they hunted for intelligence and “manual dexterity.”
Six smaller versions of The Tar Pit cocktails were available throughout the night, including a variation on a Dark and Stormy called the Jamaican Firefly. This cocktail combines Goslings dark rum, house made ginger beer, lime and sugar. The drink is garnished with a lime slice and a cut of candied ginger.
If cocktails aren’t for you, Perrin and Campanile Wine Director Taylor Parsons have assembled a list of 27 glasses of wine.
Throughout the menu, Mark Peel is featuring “riffs on the classics” including Steak Diane, thin-shaved escargots simmered with crisp garlic, parsley, butter and olive oil and paired with gnocchi, and shrimp cocktail macerated in saffron overnight so it appears yellow. Jars of pickled eggs used to appear on bars, so Peel decided to turn them into deviled eggs and shave on Smithfield Ham.
Peel said he wasn’t sure how often the menu would change, but it will be seasonally, at the least. He said the menu will soon offer more seafood, but like everybody else, fishermen are taking time off for the holidays.
Waitstaff circulated several small plates from the Bar Menu throughout the night, including Crab Cakes in Butter with preserved lemon remoulade and celery root coleslaw; Tuna Tartare on sliced cucumber with young ginger, mustard seed, mustard oil, cilantro, scallion, plum leaf and plum brandy; Artichoke Trastevere with cynar aioli and deep-fried lemon; and Fried oysters – currently Hama Hama and Fanny Bay – served on the half shell with crisp ginger remoulade. The menu designated the Bar Menu as “the area of the menu where food and beverages get to play in the sandbox together.” A cocktail is designed to complement each dish on the Bar Menu. Other options include Duck Sliders with orange gastrique and Clams Casino broiled with herbs, butter and bacon. The Bar Menu tops out at $12 for a seared pave of salmon with a pepper, fennel seed and coriander crust.
A Dining Room menu features 18 options, including Lobster & Scallop Newberg ($17) with potatoes, carrots, cream, butter, egg yolks and Sherry; Braised Pork Cheeks & Ears ($14) with orecchiette pasta, salsa verde, braised beet greens and dandelion greens; and Wild Boar Meatballs ($14) with spatzle, tomato ragu and shaved Parmesan.
The “Post-Prandial” Desserts are limited to three options, which cost $9 apiece. Expect a daily Cookie Plate, a baked-to-order Fresh Apple Tart with spiced ice cream and Profiteroles with espresso ice cream and nocino chocolate sauce.
From 5 PM – 7 PM, it’s the Gilded Hour, The Tar Pit’s version of happy hour, with a limited menu.
Update: The Tar Pit is now CLOSED.