Bar Henry opened about four months ago in a dark, subterranean space on Houston. The wine bar and restaurant is from the same owners as Cafe Henri; the establishments share a mascot, a drunken Maltese dog. With its red brick walls, copper bar, checked tile floor, and low ceilings, Bar Henry feels antique and guileless. And although the main dishes are rather expensive, the extensive wine list offers some good values, and the bar snacks are just what you want with a glass.
Cool, creamy deviled eggs ($5) are hardly a difficult trick, but they’re awfully tasty, especially zested with smoked paprika and mustard. And the kitchen is smart enough to get out of the way of the tart white Spanish anchovies called boquerones ($7), simply laying out a generous number of them with a lemon quarter.
The wine list, compiled by wine consultant John Slover, has two distinguishing features: Its “market list” and its selection of natural wines.
The former offers over a hundred bottles that can be opened for you if you’ll commit to buying two glasses, large enough to constitute half the bottle. In other words, instead of buying the whole bottle of 2006 Natter Sancerre for $57, you can have half the bottle for $29. Or drink a half bottle of Galician Albarino for $18 instead of $36 for the whole.
It’s a generous way to let budget drinkers try more expensive wines that might not otherwise be offered by the glass. On the other hand, one wonders what becomes of the other half of the bottle if no one buys it within a day or so.
Natural wines, those made with wild yeast, no added sugar or acid and no filtration, are increasingly popular. Bar Henry has a short list of them by the glass or bottle, including a Chablis ($12/glass) that the server described as very austere: “acid water with a backbone.” Whoa. And it is very, very zippy and light bodied, straw-colored and lemony bright. It would be really good with oysters, which can be had for the depressing price of $2.50 each, or for the happy price of $1 during the bar’s oyster hours, which are held Monday through Saturday from 5:30-7 p.m, late night 11 p.m. to close Monday through Thursday nights, and on Sunday from 3:30-7 p.m.
90 West Houston Street