Bar La Grassa:6 Days in, pretty smooth, greatness potential definitely there. [msp]
1st venture last night to the newly reconcepted Babalu space on Washington ave, the Isaac Becker/Josh Thoma etc etc project. If it were a band, it would be a supergroup.
It was definitely exciting and I am predicting that it will become a tough place just to walk into, which is unfortunate because it has the casual air of a place to just drop by. They did a great renovation, utilizing a lot of the open space that the previous tenant had in the lounge/dance area, by adding a raised dining area with mainly booths. Reclaimed timber and black leather are the dominant decor here.
I was a little early for my group, so I decided to sit at the bar. 8 minutes and no service, so i just got up and explored a little. It looked like there were maybe 3 bartenders? To their defense, they were taking tables and talking food shop to guest ordering or having just recieved food.
Cocktail menu was pretty concise, some new school old classics(think negroni, manhattan) and the wine program is pretty wide ranging, and has a nice balance between old/new world styles and prices went from $6(btg) and around $24 by the bottle and up.
As for the food: The menu is broken down into 5 sections, Antipasto, Bruschetta, Dry pasta, Fresh pasta and Secondi, with a small dessert section as well. Pricing was pretty approachable in the 112 eatery mentality.
At the table there is a home-made giardineira style plate, some small pieces of cheese and marinated veg, mainly cauliflower, some beans, celery and red pepper, in olive oil. I would have guessed the cheese in the mix was either and aged provolone or fontinella, but I didn't ask. The bread service was a fried bread(think pizza fries?!!) with a nice salt, served warm. Great to dip in the veg mix.
From the Antipasto we had Sea Scallops with what seemed like a salty braised pork belly. Great hard sear on the scallop, great texture on the pork, and an aggressive salt to it as well. I think this would come off too salty for some, but it walked a fine line well for me. Nice dish, good balance. We also had the chicken and foie gras polpettone. This was a pretty rustic style pate that was a little to hardcore for some of the group. I liked it, good texture, but the chicken liver was dominant, the creamy sweetness of the Foie was lost to me.
For bruschetta we had the goat cheese and olivada, which was basic, rustic and solid. Bread not too hard, nice chew in the center, and a good goat cheese bite, as well as the braised pork shoulder, which was probably the most flat dish of the night. It was served cold, with a bit of a mostarda, which was pretty mild. Everything else was very spiced so there could be some subtle notes that I missed there.
For pasta we had all fresh: Gnocchi, great texture, bit to much orange rind for the cauliflower but the red pepper flake off set the citrus pretty well.
Tagliatelle w/ braised Calamari: Note here, this is a squid ink tagliatelle, which we were not told about, so the seawater aspect of the dish was pretty apparent.
Crab ravioli: Nice, obviously a high quality crab(i.e king) good texture and density to the pasta.
Orecchiette: Nice, rabbit ragu could have used something to pop it, i.e. parm reggiano or romano.
We also had a fennel crusted grilled pork tenderloin to split that was cooked perfectly, really nice char and a good salty broth. I would definitely get it again.
The highlight of my night, and it was the most simple dish of the night, was the Pappardelle with Veal Ragu. It was so well balanced, the textures were perfect, pasta perfect. It's rave worthy.
All in all, I will be there, regularly. If i can get in....
Bar la grassa
We dined on a Sunday after the restaurant had been open for 2 weeks.
The decor was great. Comfortable spot to sit and talk.
The staff was very helpful. We had received advice to ask about descriptions of the dishes since the menu was short on detail. Our waiter was happy to give us the information and advice. The staff outnumbered the diners so we had plenty of attention. Kind of a wait for the food but they may be working things out.
Some of the food was great, some not so. The scallops and the lobster and egg bruschetta were both wonderful! The gnocchi with cauliflower was also great. The tortellini in broth was tasteless and consisted of 5 tortellini. A pesto dish with lasagna shaped noodles was nothing special.
Next time we will go for Primi but skip the pasta
For 2 appetizers and 3 pasta half-dishes, no drinks bill was $85.
We've been twice now, once for dinner, once for drinks and small plates.
All of our antipasti and bruschetta have been very good. So far this includes the beet salad (hard to get wrong), halibut crudo, anchovy with avocado, taleggio bignet, prosciutto, and sea scallops. For me the standouts were the bignets which were reminiscent of apple pie with cheese, the scallops (whatever the red wine and onion thing they sit upon is, it is delicious) and the halibut (good spice, not too much citrus, good texture of fish which you can still taste). Several of these you may have already had at 112, and they are still delicious.
They make a perfect negroni. I love this. It's not as easy as it seams and two different bartenders nailed it. I just wish they'd stop serving it in a martini glass. A concise winelist from which the reds by the glass have been excellent (especially the dulcetto) is expected from this team.
The only miss so far have been the silk handkerchiefs with pesto. The pesto is good, if exactly what you would expect, however the nature of the pasta lends itself to giving up it's heat rather quickly. I had ordered the smaller portion, and by the time I was half-way though, there were cold spots. That isn't to say it arrived cold, it arrived quite hot actually, however having it spread out on a plate made it cool quickly and pesto is not good cold.
The room and service are both terrific. They've done an admirable job of making it new (it is disorienting to try and figure out how the map had looked at Babalu) and there are many veteran faces in the dining room and behind the bar you will likely recognize from elsewhere.
We went this weekend - outstanding food and service. Take a look at the limited menu for bottles of wine - lots of unique items.
Pappardelle was the highlight for me - I can't wait to have it again. Chowhubby who dislikes cauliflower enjoyed every bit of the gnocci with cauliflower.
The other highlights were the lobster and egg starter and the apple slaw.
Can't wait to return.