Great night at Babbo - my review (long) and thanks to other 'hounds
Just wanted to thank those who offered their support of Babbo in my Babbo, Bouley or Cru post a few weeks ago. We ended up in the upstairs room at Babbo and while I would agree with some posters who've said part of what makes the experience so great is the "I'm finally here" feeling, I would say the food and overall experience definitely lived up to the hype.
We were seated right on time, but since all the bar stools are occupied by people dining at the bar and they don't seat incomplete parties, I imagine it could be an irritating place to wait for a dining companion to arrive or a table to open up. The upstairs and downstairs have two completely different feels to them and I'm really glad we were seated upstairs. The tables downstairs seemed crowded and the music was much louder there.
Service was helpful, upbeat and friendly. I thought it was a little odd that our waiter took the time to go over the menu with us but made no mention of the two tasting options. I guess this may have had something to do w/the time of our reservation (10 pm) but then he suggested that we split all the things we wanted to try, which made the meal last longer since it had more courses, so I don't know.
Started with the proscuitto San Daniele, which was served with micro greens and was sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. It was a little on the fatty side, but really good. We then had the mint love letters, which were like a spicy merguez paired with leafy mint and enveloped by perfectly al dente pasta. This dish was so good it's inspiring me to do some experimenting at home to try to recreate it....
Next came the beef cheek ravioli. The sauce was rich, again the pasta was cooked perfectly and the portion (even when split) was generous. I think the squab liver added to the richness. It was as though I was eating little truffled pierogies of beef with foie gras or something. Again, very good.
Secondi was the duck, which the waiter said was his favorite. I think the kitchen's timing was off, as it was definitely not quite warm enough when it was served. But apart from the temperature issue, I think the duck was tasty enough that at any other place, it probably would have been my favorite part of the meal. It's just that at Babbo the pastas are so insanely good that no matter how good your entree is, the pastas are probably destined to be the most memorable part of the meal for most people. We ended with the chocolate pistachio semifreddo and after dinner drinks that the waiter paired for us, which was the perfect end to a perfect meal.
If our reservation had been earlier, we probably would have eaten more, but I thought this was the perfect amount of food to share in order to leave full but not stuffed. I was pleasantly surprised all around at Babbo - not just by the food and ambiance, but by how helpful the sommelier and waiter were in paring the wines, how they encouraged us to sample wines they suggested and then order quartinos to share so that we had the perfect wine for each course, by the waiter's suggestion to split courses so that we could sample more and eat at a more leisurely pace, and by what I considered to be a very reasonable price tag in the end for what we'd had.
I think we got the "best of Babbo" introductory tour and can't wait to return!
We didn't request a table upstairs in advance but when we arrived we asked if it was possible to be seated upstairs and the bald maitre-d (presumably John?) said it was no problem and gave us a fabulous table. I get the impression there are plenty of people who prefer the downstairs scene so it's probably not that hard to be seated upstairs.
As for eating at the bar, I think it would be a really enjoyable experience if you were seated at one of the two window tables at the front or at the bar itself, but there are two other tables in the entryway that didn't look so hot.
Wingman, I think the sommelier you mention was working downstairs the night we went because I did see him when I came in, but our guy was nice too.
Ate there last night, and we had an awesome experience.
(Stars by my favorites)
**Grilled Octopus with limoncello vinaigrette
--tender, well-charred, perfectly balanced by the dressing
**Autumn Vegetable Salad
Prosciutto San Daniele
**Black Spaghetti with rock shrimp, spicy salami, and green chiles (amazing, but gigantic portion)
Pappardelle Bolognese (good but not outstanding)
**Beef Cheek Ravioli with squab liver and black truffles (incredible!)
Bucatiniall'Amatriciana with guanciale hot pepper and pecorino
**Duck with cabbage and pancetta (tender, perfectly cooked, perfectly flavored)
**Milk-braised Pork special
Braised Beef with Porcini mushrooms
**Barbecued Skirt Steak with endive and salsa verde (absolutely amazing)
Plus, we asked the sommelier for wine recs under $100 (a boad window) and he brought out a delicious nebbiolo blend for just $45. It's nice when they don't ty to oversell.
I really want to go here when i am in town from 12/24-1/3 but when i called the only reservation i could get was 1/2 at 11pm. the hostess suggested walking in and sitting at the bar. would you recommend this? i like to be comfortable and some bar eating experiences are better than others. I am also looking at Scallini Fedilli, Il Giglio and Valbella - any thoughts?
You get a table upstairs by asking. Call ahead and tell them to put it on your reservation. Show up 10-15 minutes early and tell them again that you want a table upstairs. A palmed $20 to John (bald maitre' de) might help....upstairs tables are lightyears better than downstairs tables...