Babbo ~ Orderinny

Saturday, August 04, 2007


There is a reason why people do not make late dinner plans on a Monday night, regardless of how hot the restaurant is and how perfect the food is. The thing is, after a long day easing into the workweek, especially when you have to wake up at 5am the next day to make it into the office come Tuesday, you really do not have the mood to eat multiple courses and enjoy yourself like you would on Friday night. So under that premise, I must say that my meal at Babbo was less than I expected.
Of all the restaurants I've ever visited, Babbo, by virtue of its innovative Italian menu, modest prices and the fame of its owner Mario Batali, is by far the most difficult to get into. To get a table, be prepared to call one month in advance, at the strike of 10am, and be prepared to press redial multiple times. Rosie was probably put on hold for about 30 mins before she scored a table for 4 on a Monday night for Yanru's belated birthday dinner. That evening, we met in the restaurant, and huddled in one corner of the extremely crowded bar area, cramped full with diners without reservations (another way to score a seat without having to go through the trouble of making the calls). We were dismayed to find ourselves having to wait an extra 15-20 mins for the table before us to clear out, given it was 915 pm, we've been up since 5am for some of us, and were starving. The hostess though, did try to offer some help by bringing glasses of water to us while we waited.
Once we were seated, things did improve. For one, the upper floor where we were seated was much mellower than the circus downstairs, and the townhouse setting was urbane and warm. Water glasses were filled and chewy Italian peasant bread brought to us while we contemplated the menu, finally settling for 2 appetizers to share and a pasta each. Appetizers came fairly swiftly, an artfully presented plate of fresh salted sardines served with a cool caramelized fennel salad that I could not get enough of, and an exotic sounding Lamb's Tongue Vinaigrette with morel mushrooms and a 3 minute egg that was more cooked than poached. Yanru swooned over the unique flavors of the dish, although the rest of us were slightly more ambivalent and lamb's tongue, well tastes like beef tongue but gamier, but nothing ventured, nothing gain!
The pastas took some time to arrive but when they did, they were very good. I really enjoyed my black tangle of squid ink spaghetti, cooked al dente and tossed with fresh rock shrimp and spicy pancetta. I loved that the pancetta did not overwhelm the more subtle sweetness of the shrimp and the slivers of green chile provided extra heat. Rosie's spaghetti with tomato sauce, lobster and chives took me by surprise. While my dining companions were not too impressed by the ordinariness of the tomato sauce, I loved the introduction of subtly garlicky chives- which I only associate with chinese pork dumplings- enhancing the natural sweetness of the lobster flesh. It would have been even better if the tomato sauce was less sweet and more acidic. I went home thinking about the dish and ways to recreate it, given its simplicity. Yanru's beef cheek ravioli is probably the most complicated, with the winy braised beef cheeks shredded and stuffed into large packets and served with trace amounts of truffle oil. Very tasty but more a fall dish than summer one. Fennie's orecchiette was perhaps the most disappointing as it was more chewy than the rest of the pastas and bordered on undercooked. The sausage and broccoli rabe combination also played with sweet, bitter and spicy flavors but seemed more traditional and thus less impressive.
We skipped dessert as it was 11pm by the time we finished our entrees, and no one (except me) was in the mood to linger over coffee and dessert. What a waste though, because the dessert menu and our neighbors' plates looked fantastic. Oh well, I'll just have to come back another time.
When friends asked me about my dinner at Babbo, I told them that the food was good, but maybe not worth the effort of making endless calls and taking ridiculous timeslots for a meal (915 was great compared to the 1030 or 11 pm times they've offered for weekends). However, despite all that, I may find myself calling one of these days, 30 days in advance of a weekend night and eat again, this time not having to fear missing my bedtime, for the desserts that I've missed and the great pasta that is to be eaten.

110 Waverly Place


aglassofwine said...

eh, if i visit you again this winter, could we go??? :)

orderin said...

why babbo and not some other place? but sure!