Savory Morsels

The Culinary Adventures of a California Girl

Saturday, February 17, 2007

***February 17, 2007: Babbo***

Babbo Ristorante
110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011
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 ravioli were well sized and not over-filled with the slow cooked beef cheek or over-powered by the liver in the sauce.

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.


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