BABBO review - please comment
my brooklyn pal, a real foodie, went w/ his girlfriend for her bday last night and emailed me his review this am, which i have permission to share. i thought you all would find it amusing and grist for discussion. i havent been in awhile, what are your reactions to this screed?
my take is babbo's a bit of a hoax. all perfectly acceptable but . . .
something a little off, details are ill-considered, and left feeling a
little shookied. highly overrated.
that downstairs bar and holding pen area is ghastly. overheated and
crowded. almost fainted waiting for jen to arrive.
the upstairs room is nice but for some reason noticed the tacky suburban
paella windows with the handcranks. very weird. matched the cleintele
in a nice waym, though.
our waiter was a super guy but the rest of the staff was really
annoying. couldn't wait to snatch the empty plates, clanking sh*t on
placing it, really kind of appalling. that theatrical effect of having
more staff on the floor than diners in the place is really terrible.
everyting in constant motion, made me a little nauseous, like eating in
a speeding car. unneccessary and obtrusive.
in retrospect always wish we'd ordered four apps, cheese, and three
desserts in these kinds of situations. the mains were dull and
unfocussed. there were like three steaks on the menu, plus a pork chop,
and too much fish. dullsville.
lamb's tongue with poached quail egg is a great dish. the grilled
octopus was fantastic. top shelf.
bannana cake and gelato was good. dude-- ordered this west indies rum
called pyrat. holy cow. so much for the whisky and tequila fetish.
this is the real deal.
give me a buzz later so i can kevtch some more.
the lobster pasta at Esca blows away the similiar dish a Babbo...The Esca version is my top 3 dishes in the city. The lobster pasta at Babbo is particularly weak, as is the bolognese. Also Lupa's bucatini amatriciana is clearly superior to the version at babbo. All that being said there is no restautant in this country that day in and day out does pasta better than Babbo...
Even though I've only been to Babbo once, I have to agree with most of what your "Brooklyn pal" reported. I had the duck liver ravioli and my wife had the spaghetti with the 1lb. lobster. The ravioli were very good, but did not blow my mind away. They actually were a little greasy. Having enjoyed the spaghetti with lobster at Esca previously, we were a little disappointed with the version sent out by Babbo. It had too much tomato sauce and reminded me of a fra diavolo that one can get at any Italian restaurant. I also had the sweetbreads which were admittedly delicious. However, nothing that I ate satisfied me the way I feel after a meal at Lupa, which is my favorite.
If by "hoax" he means overrated, then by all means this is a grand one. Although I've been only once, it was enough to confirm what I believed going in: that Babbo is two parts celebrity chef-driven hype and one part decent to good food. And the place IS claustrophobic, clamorous and clanking. I think that all adds up to nauseating.
i highly doubt that the person who wrote this email is a true "foodie." if they were, they would have had the pasta...clearly Babbo's best course. also, all of the things they complained about were a bit ridiculous. i would hope that this review would not turn ANYONE off from Babbo. Its truly an amazing culinary experience. Take it with a grain of salt!
re: steve h.
this is why i love the 'hound. you guys are all a hoot -- nice laser focused rebuttals -- thx.
steve i'd say you nailed it best. my pal is a wonderful home chef and he was underwhelmed by the mains and the racket. we chatted later about it, i will pass this along perhaps he will reply. ps - he said the love letters app was not available that night -- weird, i though they were a signature menu item.
It does seem a waste to visit Babbo without trying the pastas, which blew my mind. SO and I did our research before going, and, after scanning the menu for weeks and salivating, we got exactly what we expected--stellar pastas. I do agree with one point though; although I know the bar area allows those without reservations to get a meal, it was irritating to wait for our table in such a crowded and cramped area. Even getting a drink was tough, since we had to reach across diners to get the bartender's attention. But, hey, if that's the only downside to our experience, so be it.
who goes to babbo and doesn't eat the pastas? i nearly cried last week when my love letters were all gone. and, when my papardelle was all gone. and, when my perfectly grilled branzino was all gone. and, when my sicilian lifeguard calamari was all gone. and, when my lamb's tongue was all gone. and, especially, when my saffron panna cotta was all gone.
but, that's just me ... who cares about the windows when you're licking your plate?
Yeah, no clue what his complaint is either - no one ever said the mains are fantastic - although I think the Quail is excellent. They have a great wine list and the lambs tounge dish is out of this world - plus he found a new favorite digestif - sorry they don't use Anderson Windows man.
What exactly does he think the "hoax" is?
It's not a terribly expensive restaurant (in fact, the pasta tasting menu is very fairly priced as are some of the a la carte dishes), the service, for the most part is usually very good, an excellent and reasonably priced wine list.
The front/bar room is always crowded - no surprise there - and it should be...It's an 18' (+/-)wide townhouse, not one of these MePa monstrosities.
Babbo has made a name for itself because the food (especially the pastas) are often very good and sometimes fantastic, the atmosphere is fun (loud but good music in a semi-formal setting seems like the best of both worlds to me), the prices aren't complete rip offs and the people that get a table give off a vibe of being happy to be there. If you are paying too close attention to the fact it has pella windows, you are missing the point.
I gotta mostly agree with dkstar on this one. It's not that mrnyc's friend said anything inaccurate ( I too am annoyed by the overcrowding). It's just that Babbo doesn't present itself as anything but loud, crowded, and casual. It's absurd to suggest this is a hoax. That said, I do wonder if the Michelin star creates some sort of false expectation about atmosphere and/or level of service.
expense is relative, though. pastas are $20-25 and entrees $20-30, and while that's "normal" for nyc it still constitutes a pricey night out for me - especially with wine added. i enjoyed the couple of business dinners that i had there, but if i'm going to spend what for me is quite a bit then i would prefer somewhere less loud, less rushed, and with more even service. i can kind of understand mr.nyc's friend's complaints, even if they're a bit unfocused.