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Bar Room, Scarpetta, Locanda Verde, Babbo, EMP, Momofuku Noodle - what to order

I have two sets of friends visiting the next two weekends. Based on 9 months of reading chowhound, I've compiled this list of restaurants to try and I think I have an idea of what to order at most restaurants. But since it'll be the one and only time I'm likely to go, I want to make sure I order well. That's where I need some input; here are my initial thoughts:

(btw: about self: consider myself adventurous, but never had anything like foie gras/sea urchin/sweetbreads; dietary restrictions are pork and alcohol)

Bar Room (pre-theater): Egg in a Jar and the Colorado Lamb Saddle (mostly because of the lamb pancetta). The Pistachio Chocolate Dome no longer appears on the menu, should I go with the Beignets? I know Bar Room is small plates, so is this enough or too much food?

Scarpetta (dinner): If we don't plan to sit at the bar, can we sneak some potato chips? Excited about the bread basket. Plan to order the Spaghetti (or should I convince one of my friends to split an order so we can also get the Polenta app? or just do both?) Thinking of skipping dessert and hunting down Wafles and Dinges.

Locanda Verde (brunch): Thought about skipping the sheep's milk ricotta, but due to consistently rave reviews, I think I'll get it to split with the group. I plan to get the lemon ricotta pancakes for myself. Is that too much ricotta? Will probably pick up bakery to go items?

Babbo (Dinner): Really want to do the tasting, but not sure if my friends will be up for it. If not, I was thinking of ordering two pasta dishes, because one doesn't seem like enough food. Based on posts, I was thinking the Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati and Goat Cheese Tortelloni.

EMP (Lunch): Haven't decided whether to do the 3 or 4 course. If Foie Gras is on that day's menu, I think EMP would be a good place for my first time for foie gras. From a CH post, I've learned to ask a lot of questions about each dish so I don't get something I won't like. Any other words of wisdom?

Momofuku Noodle Bar (Dinner): With the exception of Milk Bar, this will be my first Momofuku experience. Thinking about the Prix Fixe for myself if it's mostly pork free. Will definitely recommend the pork buns to my friends who don't have my dietary restrictions.

Convivio: I'll probably go with the four course as it's a great deal. I would've gone with the Fusilli, but it's make with pork ragu; any thoughts on a good substitute? Would have done the Malloreddus as a way to try sea urchin, but reviews consistently indicated lack of sea urchin. Dessert - hard to choose between Tartaletta di Caramelle and the Affogato.

So is my ordering on the right track? Any additions/changes/deletions?

Here are some threads I read as part of my research:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/721026
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7145...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7031...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6514...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6884...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6803...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6894...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7377...

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Babbo
110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

Scarpetta
355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

Convivio
45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. If you don't already have reservations for some of these, you will probably have a hard time getting in if it's for the next couple of weeks...EMP, Ko, Babbo...

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    Babbo
    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

    2 Replies
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Thanks but I have reservations at all except Noodle Bar (of course) and Convivio (I'm going on a Sunday night and based on posts, I'll only need to call a few days in advance).

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      Convivio
      45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017

      1. re: sumaya99

        At the Bar Room, I would recommend the Hinny Kick as a cocktail, and the steak tartare, the egg in a jar (which is fantastic) and the beignets (I had it with vanilla ice cream instead of the maple, and I was very happy with this substitution).

    2. I went to Convivio two Fridays ago with a friend and found it a bit disappointing. We've ordered the 4-course prix fixe and thought it was a good deal. The appetizers were phenomenal (I had the roasted quail legs and my friend had roasted veal tongue), then it slowly went downhill.

      The pastas were good but not amazing as we tried at Marea; I had the Malloreddus and it did lack uni and my friend had the Cicatelli al forno (oven baked pasta with rabbit and smoked burrata).

      The entrees were lackluster. My scallops were the most uninspired dish I had that evening as bell peppers dominated that dish (at least the scallops were cooked to a perfect medium rare). My friend's duck breast was half good (duck breast) and half bad (duck sausage was rare and the waitress said it's how the chef envisioned this dish to be cooked as, though my dining companion and I thought the sausage would benefit to be cooked through).

      As for dessert, I had the zabaglione semifreddo topped with fresh figs with a quenelle of brandy spiced ice cream (good but I thought it was ice cream overkill) and my friend had the cheese plate (decent selection that evening).

      My blog post (with photos) on Convivio: http://thewanderingeater.com/2010/10/...

      Frankly, if you want to try uni (and not shy of its creamy, sweet flavor), I suggest Tocqueville's version.

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      Convivio
      45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017

      Marea
      240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

      5 Replies
      1. re: chocokitty

        Funny -- I was at Convivio with a party of 4 the same night (I think) and had a very similar experience. For primi, I had the cicatelli al forno, which was just ok, a little too smokey but the waiter specifically warned me that it was when I ordered, so I can't hold that against them. In general, the pasta was fine but not special. The fusilli was the best out of the four we had. Malloreddus was fine, the uni was definitely there, but certainly not a generous amount.

        For my scondi, I had the duck, and had the exact same experience as you -- the breast was good but the sausage was very rare, pretty much raw in the middle. I asked a passing captain if it was meant to be that way, and she said yes, but offered to have it cooked more if the texture bothered me. I declined, figuring it just wasn't to my taste, but now that you say the same thing, I feel better about my opinion. Pink duck breast is one thing, but raw ground spiced duck -- blech. The spicing made it taste more or less like pork sausage, which may have contributed to my discomfort, since raw pork creeps me out even more than raw poultry.

        The one outstanding dish was the chicken liver crostini appetizer -- a real oh my god dish. I took one bite of my companion's and spent the rest of the meal wishing I had chosen it for my own appetizer. My affogato was very tasty as well, so I would recommend that if the OP goes.

        Service-wise, our waiter was very gracious and dealt well with the two difficult older ladies in my party, but we felt rushed by the busboys and the kitchen -- they tried to pick up our plates every time we put our utensils down, even when we obviously weren't finished, and the next course rushed out as soon as the previous plates had been cleared. We complained about it to the server and he spoke to the kitchen, but it didn't make much difference. The place was packed and I'm sure the kitchen was slammed, but -- it was Friday night, at a michelin star restaurant, they should know how to deal with a full house.

        Anyway -- I wouldn't recommend the restaurant based on one visit. But since you and I were there the same night, maybe it really was the proverbial off night...

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        Convivio
        45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017

        1. re: noob

          Noon/chocokitty - any replacement suggestions at same price that I might still be able to get reservations next weekend (not this weekend )

          1. re: sumaya99

            As I've stated earlier, if you want to get your uni (sea urchin) fix, go to Tocqueville and have their uni rich pasta. Their food is splendid and service is cordial and professional. I like their dining room too. They do have a year-round lunch prix fixe. The uni pasta is an a la carte ($21 as an appetizer option for both lunch and dinner).

            Photos of Tocqueville lunch: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hellokit...

            If you are going to Marea, try their Ricci (it's a crostini with an uni tongue draped with lardo). It's very rich.

            If Tocqueville isn't what you want, what do you have in mind in regards to cuisine, location, and budget?

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            Marea
            240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

            1. re: chocokitty

              well i think you have me sold on tocqueville for that uni pasta. thanks!

            2. re: sumaya99

              Looks like Maialino has 5:30 and 9:30 on Opentable for that Sunday, but maybe if you called they'd have something better?

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              Maialino
              2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

        2. Bar Room: Egg in a Jar and the Colorado Lamb Saddle and Beignets is a good meal, but probably on the lighter size of things. I don't recall the "egg in a jar" being particularly filling and the lamb saddle is not a huge portion either. Beignets are awesome. I actually LOVE the maple ice cream it comes with.

          Scarpetta: Arrive early before your reservation, have you friends order drinks while you wait, and you can ask for the potato chips. I would share a few appetizers with your friends and then get the spaghetti and dessert at Scarpetta. You can get to the Wafels & Dinges truck at any time -- they are more flexible, whereas Scarpetta is only open for dinner and is not street food. Also I'd say you don't really get a good feel for what Scarpetta is about just from the spaghetti.

          Locanda Verde: the sheep's milk ricotta is one of the best dishes on the brunch menu, DO NOT SKIP. The ricotta is folded into the pancake batter so it just makes the pancakes creamy. It's good but I think there are better versions around town (Sarabeth's?). It could just be that I don't love the lemon curd it comes with. I think their egg dishes are really great and unusual, and very few restaurants are doing what they do with eggs.

          Babbo: Getting two pastas just for yourself? Or to share? You're missing out if you don't get a starter or entree at Babbo as those are some of my favorite dishes. The lamb's tongue salad with a three minute egg isn't very "tongue"-y if you have had a bad experience with tongue, FWIW. What about the tripe? Might be a good place to try it for the first time. Also their sweetbreads are excellent -- another good place to try them for the first time, and maybe share with a friend.

          Momofuku Noodle Bar (Dinner): the prix fixe menu changes daily, no guarantee that there won't be pork in the prix fixe that day. I would have a backup plan or at the very least be flexible. This is a pretty pork and pork fat heavy restaurant (they cook lots of things in bacon fat). Also they don't do substitutions or sauces on the side or removal of a single component of dishes. And since you don't eat pork, you probably can't have any of the ramen, either, right? How about the slow roasted beef brisket?

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          Babbo
          110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

          Momofuku Noodle Bar
          171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

          Scarpetta
          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          Locanda Verde
          377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

          3 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Thanks Kathryn. I'll definitely look into the egg dishes at Locanda. At Babbo I was planning on getting the two pastas for myself. I really should work myself up to trying either the tongue, tripe, or sweetbreads; just a little nervous, but you're right, Babbo would be the place to give them a try. I'll definitely keep your suggestion of having a backup in mind for the Noodle Bar; thanks for the heads up.

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            Babbo
            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            1. re: kathryn

              My husband loved the maple ice cream as well, and was glad he did not switch, like me. However, that was the best vanilla ice cream I have had since this summer in Paris, where I had some excellent examples.

              1. re: kathryn

                Love Babbo's sweetbreads.

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                Babbo
                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

              2. Hi sumaya

                BAR ROOM: My sister loved the egg in a jar. We both loved the Roasted Duck Breast with peppercorn-crusted apples and toasted pistachio-truffle dipping sauce - it was probably our favorite order both times we were there. The portion size is three slices of duck breast, so it's a bit small, but it is more than made up for in flavor and deliciousness. My sister also enjoyed the Beer-Braised Pork Belly (it is sized larger than the duck breast). I've heard good things about the Modern Liverwurst. I have tried the salmon and the upside down tuna tarte - while both were good, they are probably not things I would order again. As far as desserts, the beignets are fantastic. Very light and airy, with a great, crisp crust. We have also enjoyed the Modern Cheesecake. The fromage blanc sorbet (it is creamy, very un-sorbet-like) that comes with it is particularly delicious! I am dying to try the stone fruit crumble with pain d'epices ice cream though!

                SCARPETTA
                The squid ink pasta with the sea urchin, seafood, and minted breadcrumbs is probably my favorite pasta on the menu. This may be an excellent introduction to sea urchin - it's divine. I've also tried the spaghetti (which was, don't get me wrong, really excellent - I don't think you will be disappointed) and the duck and foie gras ravioli. The polenta is my favorite appetizer (the short ribs are good, but IMHO, the polenta edges them out).

                LOCANDA VERDE
                I would steer you away from the lemon ricotta pancakes. As kathryn said, the ricotta is used within the batter and I was left largely unimpressed and a bit disappointed by the pancakes. That being said, I would not miss the donuts - they are absolutely fantastic. You can order them as part of the pastry mista or better yet (as the donuts were my favorites of the mista by far), by the piece from the bakery counter (can order them from a table too). I liked the cinnamon-sugar best if they have them, but the apple cider one was also great. If you like tripe (I know it's not for everyone!), I would also recommend the 8 hour tripe with fried eggs.

                Have a wonderful time!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: j.jessica.lee

                  Thanks Jessica! I'll definitely pick up some donuts on my way out of LV and look into the egg dishes a bit more as a substitute for the pancakes.

                2. momofuku: fried sweetbreads. raw oysters w/ kimchee puree. it's been awhile since i've gone though.

                  EMP: they've changed their approach since i went this past summer so i can't recommend anything.

                  locanda verde: i wasn't really too blown away by anything i had here.

                  if you can go to marea, please get the spaghetti w/ sea urchin & crab. it changed my life. also amazing is the astice (lobster w/ burrata), and the ricci (sea urchin and lardo on top of crostini). it's my favorite restaurant in NYC and i try to go at least once or twice a month.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: selenster

                    Noodle Bar got rid of the fried sweetbreads some time ago. The oysters with kimchee were at Ssam Bar, and they are no longer with kimchee, but wild kiwi right now.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      wow, it's really been ages since i've been to momofuku. honestly, the last time i went was when it was the only one, in the space where ko is now. i'm really bad about getting to the e. village. haha thanks for clearing that up!

                    2. re: selenster

                      When I was at Marea, I was not impressed with the sea urchin spaghetti, but that's just my personal feeling. However, I adored the red wine braised octopus fusilli with bone marrow and the astice. Everything else there, again IMHO, is not worth paying the money for.

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                      Marea
                      240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                      1. re: j.jessica.lee

                        i also had the octopus fusilli and it was good but so...heavy. it reminded me of alto's oxtail pappardelle, which i enjoyed greatly, but there was something just too rich/earthy about it. then again, alto's braised veal & truffle ravioli in taleggio fonduta is one of my all-time favorite bites.

                        for my personal taste, it was the springiness of the spaghetti, the rich/briney flavor of the sea urchin, the crunch of the toasted bread crumbs, the slight spice of the pepper, the bursting sweetness of the grape tomatoes and of course, the luxuriant crab that combined into heaven on a plate for me. i would give up sex for that dish.

                        well, maybe not. :)