Panya, the East Village Japanese bakery and eatery, peddles tasty to-go bento boxes, onigiri, Japanese set breakfasts, and noodle bowls. So when the owners opened The Barrel, a pan-European tapas and sandwich joint next door, we gave it the benefit of the doubt.
The lunch menu lists several salads (Greek, Ceasar, beet), sandwiches (burger, smoked salmon), and “tapas,” based on meat, vegetables, and seafood. Prices are fair, hovering around $8 for a sandwich, $6 to $8 for the smaller plates.
But the food, while not inedible, is not very good, in an odd sort of way. It’s almost as though it was prepared by people who know how to cook, but don’t know how to make this food, which is probably the truth.
The restaurant is attractive, constructed to look like the domed interior of a barrel made of lacquered wood. Sarah Mclaughlin and other Lilith Fair favorites emote over the sound system.
Flatbread ($8) topped with grilled red peppers, zucchini, onions, and anchovies was fine, except that the bread lacked character, tasting almost mass-produced, like the best bit of food you might manage to pick up in an airport.
Baby octopus ($8) was tough, and although it’s advertised as cooked with paprika, the spice was not discernible, drowned out by a ratatouille-like mash of more peppers and onions. The dish is actually titled “octopus with potatoes and paprika,” putting you in mind of the classic Galician dish, which it turns out not to resemble.
We’ll stick with Panya.
10 Stuyvesant Street