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Babbo (Long Report)

Hungryfina Feb 21, 2007 07:23 PM

Quickly:
Must Order - Octopus Salad and Maple Custard
Didn't like - NOTHING! - but I wasn't as madly in love with the Saffron Panna Cotta, and I would like to try different pastas and secondi next time just to mix it up
Overall - A+ - the food, the service, the atmosphere - everything made me feel warm and fuzzy, this is definitely one of my new all time favorites

Full Review:
Every once in a while I have a meal, or take a cooking class, or visit a farmers’ market that reminds me of why I am so obsessed with food. Babbo was one of those experiences. I knew I was going to like Babbo from the second I walked in the door. We were a few minutes early, so we ordered champagne at the bar, and waited for our table to be ready. The atmosphere was lively, the music was loud, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. When we were lead to our table upstairs, my dining companion was at first disappointed to be leaving the party. However, as soon as we were seated and debating over menu items, we agreed that we were happy to be somewhere a little quieter where we could easily hear each other and really focus on the food. I would definitely recommend arriving early though – just so you get to experience the downstairs scene.

Our waiter and the sommelier were both extremely friendly and helped us to choose a spectacular menu and a Sicilian wine that would not leave us overly stuffed or completely broke. We started with the Babbo Salumi and the Grilled Octopus. The Salumi was a nice light starter and was far more interesting and flavorful than I ever imagined a plate of chacutrie could be. My favorite was the tongue which (despite being a less common cut) did not have a weird texture or taste in the slightest. However, the Grilled Octopus easily stole the show. The octopus was, in my opinion, the best savory dish of the night. It was perfectly grilled, and lightly dressed in a zesty, spicy Limoncello sauce. I could eat this salad every day for lunch and it would probably take me years to get tired of it.

The antipasti were followed by the infamous pastas. I loved that they split the pastas onto separate plates to make sharing them easier and so we enjoy the pastas one at a time. First we had the Black Spaghetti with Shrimp and Chorizo. My dinner companion thought that this pasta was the best course of the night. I was surprised that the chorizo was crumbled instead of sliced like I was expecting, but I loved the spicy, full flavors and the incredibly juicy shrimp. Even though I loved the spaghetti, I did not finish a substantial amount of my portion because I was trying to save room. The extremely perceptive wait staff must have noticed the left over pasta and communicated it to the kitchen, because for our next course I was given a smaller portion than my dinner companion. Coming from the perspective of someone who has worked in a busy kitchen, I was extremely impressed by their perceptiveness and coordination. The Beef Cheek Ravioli were well sized and not over-filled with the slow cooked beef cheek or over-powered by the liver in the sauce. Perfectly done, and yet not quite as mind blowing as I was expecting. Still, I'm not complaining - I would be more than happy to eat this dish again (and again).

We finished out the savory part of our meal with two secondi – the Duck and the Brasato al Barolo. The slices of duck breast were very moist, well seasoned, cooked to exactly medium rare, and served with an amazing side of greens. Since my dinner companion is not a fan of braised meat, I probably should not have ordered the Brasato al Barolo. However, the selfish side of me had to try it and was so happy I did. The top of the cut was slightly fatty but the middle had that wonderful braised texture and tasted amazing when combined with the freshly grated horseradish (the best addition!). The thin coating of polenta on the bottom of the plate also added an indulgent bit of creaminess to the dish that pulled it all together.

Although our dinner had been nothing short of amazing, our desserts refused to pale in comparison. We had the signature Saffron Panna Cotta which was light and refreshing and well paired with slices of citrus fruit. Although I am a panna cotta devote, it was the Maple Custard with Bombinios that was out of sight. I usually do not like custard because the full fat milk leaves a film on the roof of my mouth and I often find that maple desserts are overly sweet. This maple custard did not have either of those downfalls, and I was quite annoyed that I had to share it! Of course the warm, beniet like bombinos helped to make the dish that much more heavenly. Our meal ended on the perfect note with coffee and lovely tray of petit fours that disappeared in a flash. I left Babbo happy, excited, eager to return, and feeling much better than I had in a long, long time.

For Pictures - http://savorymorsels.blogspot.com/200...

  1. j
    JeremyEG Feb 23, 2007 07:11 PM

    I'm not sure about the tasting menu policy. I have never been to a restaurant that will serve a tasting menu to only one member of a party. I think most restaurants have the same policy.

    Babbo is not worth the hassle for a lot of people. There are plenty of other options. It is worth it for me however so I'll continue to jump through hoops. : )

    Sorry you didn't have a good experience.
    Jeremy

    1. a
      antonys1 Feb 22, 2007 08:06 AM

      Am I the only one who wasn't that thrilled with Babbo's? Don't get me wrong-the food was good, but it definitely was not a bowl-me-over experience. And some of the dishes were downright awful like the Tripe alla Parmigiana-it tasted as if the tripe had not been cleaned well. After waiting for a month to get a table here, I was definitely disappointed...

      1 Reply
      1. re: antonys1
        c
        chalz Feb 22, 2007 09:41 AM

        Your not the only one. I think people go here because they WANT to have a good experience...don't we all when we dine out. But I think this place gets high marks when in reality they are not that high. When you factor other things in like a very inflexible tasting menu policy. Everyone or no one gets the tasting menu at the table. I think thats amateurish policy from pros in the food business but it's typicasl Batali/Bastianich...its that way at all their places.

        Maybe it was me but just about everything I orderd was spicey hot. I don't like food that bites me back and when I asked the server why the menu did not mention the heat the answer was "everything has heat" I'm not sure that is totally true but for me Babbo is not the best Italian and not the best overall foodie experience plus who needs to jump through hoops to get a reservation or sit at a cramped bar with your tongue hanging out for an open table.

      2. e
        eve Feb 22, 2007 06:00 AM

        fyi-I think it was yesterday's NYTimes that had a recipe for the Maple dessert (or something like it)

        1. NiKoLe1625 Feb 22, 2007 04:42 AM

          glad to hear that you had such a great experience! Babbo is truly one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan ! I go there a lot and have NEVER had a bad meal!

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