Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Babbo - New York
In light of all the speculation surrounding Italian celebrity chef Mario Batali and his (non-renewed?) contract with the Food Network , I feel it apt to post about Babbo, Batali's flagship restaurant and one of the hardest to book restaurants in New York.

I was quite prepared to battle it out for a table, having gone through a similar ordeal at Quince for, coincidentally, a meal of pasta. Surprisingly though, I called in, got through right away, and secured a reservation for a Tuesday night.

I was starving by the time 6 came around, and I became increasingly excited for a taste of Batali's pastas. The restaurant was already quite full when we arrived; we approached the maître d, a scholarly man who gave me vibes of a dusty library. We were escorted to the upstairs dining room, a well-lit room with a dozen servers hovering around the wine bottles, ready to pour whenever someone took a sip. We proceeded to order the pasta tasting menu.

Chickpea bruschetta

Black Tagliatelle with Peas and Pecorino

The first course, a black tagliatelle was excellent. The pasta was perfectly al dente with a hearty, semi-rough texture, complimented by fresh spring sweet peas. It was topped off with shavings of pecorino, a sharp but unoffensive sheep's cheese that further brought out the sweetness of the peas.

Asparagus and Ricotta "Mezzalune" with Spring Onion Butter

These stuffed halfmoon-shaped pastas were good, but nothing too outstanding. The al dente pasta was once again a nice texture, but I found the mezzalune a bit bland. They were stuffed with ricotta but merely accented with asparagus and basil. The dish quickly got repetitive; it became just another pasta and cheese dish.

Garganelli with "Funghi Trifolati"

I got very excited when I saw Funghi on the menu, and even more so when I found out "trifolati" meant "truffled." However, I was probably more disappointed with this pasta than the others. The tubular pasta was inconsistent; some pieces were way undercooked, and extremely starchy. The mushrooms were fresh and a great flavor, but too salty, even when paired with the plain pasta.

Domingo's Pyramids with Passato di Pomodoro

I'm not quite sure who Domingo is, but he makes a mean tomato sauce. The braised-beef in the stuffed pyramids, was a bit drier than I preferred; the real highlight of the dish, however, was the tomato reduction that was heavily comprised of the juice from a ripe summer tomato. A plain pasta with the passato would have been just perfect.

Pappardelle Bolognese

The final pasta was a pappardelle with a rich meat sauce. The pasta was a good texture, and the hearty sauce was juicy with an abundance of minced meat, aromatically spiced with basil and parsley. However, it was a bit too rich, having just finished the meaty pyramids. We were all just too full at this point for this entree-sized course, and it too became repetitive.

"Fritelle di Caciotta" with Figs and Honey

Surprisingly, Babbo's desserts fared much better than the entrees. These delicate fried balls of dough and cheese were delicious, and surprisingly light.

"Fiore di Latte" with Raspberry Vincotto

This was an interesting taste, with the milk custard perfectly balanced by the refreshing acidity of the aged balsamic.

Chocolate Polenta Cake with Espresso Gelato

I'm usually weary of chocolate desserts, but this one was standout. The cake had a very textured crust supporting an airy, ethereal molten chocolate center. The espresso gelato was excellent: strong and bitter, with an abundance of ground coffee bean bits sprinkled throughout.

Lemon cake with basil gelato

The basil gelato was surprisingly subdued - it tasted like a rich vanilla ice cream, minus the vanilla.

Blueberry crumble tart with olive oil gelato

Once again, the gelato was the standout here - smooth and creamy, with a slight hint of gassiness.

Biscotti, meringue, and biscuits

Babbo was good, but not deserving of all the hype. Perhaps it was an off-night for the kitchen, but the pastas just missed the mark. The meal grew repetitive after a few courses, as the flavors from dish to dish were not distinctly different from each other. Service was friendly, but I couldn't get over the sense of being rushed, as they presented our next course immediately after they cleared our table. I'm not quite sure what draws so many people here, but there are less fussy places out there with better pasta.

110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're back!!!!!

come back to civilization soon and call me so we can go eat again :)

and let me know how things went... gluck!

9/08/2007 11:09 AM  
Blogger K and J said...

wow, I've never heard of a using chocolate and polenta together...looked fabulous!

9/16/2007 8:58 AM  
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