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March 17, 2014

Whitman & Bloom: An Elevated Irish Restaurant and Bar

By Frank Vizard | Restaurants

If you’re in New York for St. Patrick’s Day, or any other day for that matter, you can generally spot an Irish bar and restaurant by the Hibernian name over the door. These days, however, you might need a degree in Irish history to identify a new class of more sophisticated establishments with Gaelic roots.

Like The Dead Rabbit in the Financial District, which pays homage to a 19th-century Irish-American street gang, Whitman & Bloom, opened last October in Manhattan’s Kips Bay, takes its name from not-so-obvious Irish influences. George Whitman was the owner of a Parisian bookstore and the literary heir of Sylvia Beach, publisher of renowned Irish writer James Joyce; Molly Bloom is a character in Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses.

Joyce would feel at home here. Glass partitions suggest the privacy snugs found in old pubs in Ireland, but light-colored wood on the walls gives the interior an airier, more modern sense of space. Books are the decor items of choice; TVs are cleverly hidden by panels behind the bar. A separate basement speakeasy features a piano.

That’s all well and good, a Dubliner might say, but can the place pull a pint of Guinness? Indeed, but it’s not the main event. There’s a curragh of specialty cocktails, a worldly wine list and a selection of beers with an emphasis on local microbrews.

Likewise, the delicious grilled salmon (served with celery root purée, red mustard greens and charred lemon) might make an Irishman think of the Emerald Isle, but the food is more rustic-American in overall tone. There is something for every palate, including cheese and charcuterie that can be shared and a burger with hand-cut fries. We didn’t try everything on the menu, but we can swear by the chicken-liver pâté, the flatbreads (options include charred Brussels sprouts with bacon, Gouda and red onion), the pan-seared skate (with sweet potato, caramelized fennel and tarragon brown butter) and the homemade ice cream.

If Joyce had had a place like this in Dublin, he might never have left for Trieste. 384 Third Ave.; 212-725-4110; whitmanandbloom.com.