May 22, 2006 | Insatiable Critic

        With Linda Japngie, its fourth chef in just eighteen months, in situ, the quirky little bistro Barmarché picks up the quickening pulse of this neighborhood just east of Soho. This patchwork of country furniture, whimsical art, and plastic-cube-enclosed crystal chandeliers took a while to settle down. But Japngie (whose food I praised at the late Jimmy’s Uptown and Downtown) manages somehow to dispense rarish yucca-crusted monkfish and perfect shrimp in a super-creamy killer risotto from the pocket-size kitchen. The house burger is a juicy triumph. Her duck-confit-and-frisée salad tumbled with banana may sound bizarre, but it tastes just right. There’s just enough vinaigrette tang to offset the sweetness of goat-cheese brûlée with roasted beets and blueberries, though our foursome would prefer toasted rather than candied walnuts in the pear-and-frisée salad with Danish blue cheese. I don’t often encounter a seviche too acidy for me, but tonight’s red snapper in mango-citrus broth has overwhelming pucker. The lush caramelized-onion-olive-caper pizzetta-of-the-day sits on a toughened crust. And the shortcake makes me long for James Beard’s classic biscuit and more berries. But sugar churros to dip into caramel sauce is a finale to share. The sound system escalates at about ten—night-is-beginning sounds for the youngish crowd. Sunday night brings live jazz. Not worth a long trip perhaps, but in tune with the hood.

14 Spring St. at Elizabeth 212 219 2399

Patina Restaurant Group