Zagat's James Mulcahy headed over to the West Village to take a look at a brand-new bar doing interesting things with cheese pairings.
Murray's Cheese Bar is an offshoot of the popular Murray's Cheese Shop, which is located a few doors down on Bleecker Street. The casual new restaurant offers 40 types of cheese curated by chef fromager Tia Keenan, along with a wide variety of beer and wine to pair with the signature dish.
Keenan thinks the concept takes the Murray's brand a new level, saying, "When you go into the store, you buy the product and you take it home and enjoy it on your own. The cheese bar is a place where we can show you how we imagine the enjoyment of the products we sell at our retail store."
The bar keeps things interesting with the flavor combinations. Keenan plates each cheese with a condiment, or a small nibble that is meant to compliment the flavor. Then it's time for the beverages.
This pairing is more of an art than a science, says Keenan.
"Sometimes I'll taste a cheese and I'll pick up a note on that cheese and I'll think 'Oh, this cheese has a really great truffle note,' so I'll want to do a condiment with truffles. But sometimes I find a really great condiment that I love and then I think, 'I love this condiment, what cheese do I think is going to pair well with it?'" she says.
The results are unique flavorful and unexpected, like a funky goat cheese paired with kimchi and alcoholic kombuchea tea.
"There's a theme here of fermentation," Keenan says about the combination. "The kimchi and the chevre go really well together because you have the smokiness of the chevre and then the spiciness and fermented flavor of the kimchi."
Whether you selecting pairings on your visit or let the servers guide you, keep in mind error and experimentation are part of the process. If you don't love on your plate, don't worry — there is always another cheese to try.
Keenan says that risk-taking is the name of the game: "Really we want our customer to approach pairing with spirit of exploration. What we want to give to our customer is the knowledge and the courage to try different things."
For more information about Murray's Cheese Bar and other new restaurants, visit blog.zagat.com.