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Babbo


gmi3804
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I'd like those of you who feel the food isn't subtle enough at Babbo to please tell me whether you're referring to oversalting, because if that isn't the problem, I'll probably like the "excess" of taste. I certainly like Lupa! An excess of subtlety is more likely to annoy me than tastes that sock me right in the kisser, as long as those tastes are good.

The only dish I felt was oversalted was the beef cheek ravioli, but that might have been just that night (and it was a long time ago). Other than that, I really enjoyed the tastes at Babbo.

I do have a question, though. I haven't had the goose liver ravioli, but I was curious... is it made with foie gras (i.e. foie d'oie) or is it made with a basic unfattened liver? I wasn't sure if it was referred to simply as goose liver because it was not foie gras or because Babbo didn't want to use a french term on the menu.

Edited by mikeycook (log)

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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And I was waiting for you to make that last point.

The difference is that none of the restaurants you mention is a luxury place widely held to be at the top of its class.  They're either non-luxury places (Sripraphai) where you'd expect to have to pick and choose, or places that everyone knows are problematical in one way or another (BLT Fish and Cafe Gray).

Babbo is generally presented as "the best Italian restaurant in NYC" or "Mario Batali's flagship restaurant" or some such other.  Not as a "pasta place" where you have to order carefully and basically avoid all segundi.

(And again I apologize for sounding much more confrontational than I mean to.)

fair enough...though considering Cafe Gray's price point....

(btw, I don't mean that entrees at Babbo are bad..they're just not exceptional.)

I wonder if part of the issue is simply the nature of Italian cooking...with the possible exception of Esca (which is more nominally Italian)....has anyone really had a superlative Italian entree? at least in the U.S.? (I haven't really had great ones in Italy either.)

actually, on second thought, not everyone knows that BLT Fish and Cafe Gray require careful ordering...egullet readers, yes. but egullet readers also generally know that pasta is what should be ordered at Babbo.

I wrote about Babbo a ways up in this thread a little over a year ago. The meal wasn't swell overall - and people said - "what did you expect - didn't you know this is a pasta place"? And I objected to this line of reasoning. After all - this place has a traditional Italian menu - starters - first course - second - etc. And one is encouraged to order like one would order in a serious Italian restaurant. So I basically considered this restaurant a failure in terms of what it purported to be.

I have had excellent second courses in various Italian restaurant in the US - places like Casa Tua in Miami Beach - Quince in San Francisco - Cafe Spiaggia in Chicago - in the last few years. Also at Felidia's in New York - but that was years ago. I have also had excellent second courses in Italy - even in basic Michelin one knife and fork places (then again - I am very fond of things like roasted birds - which one finds on a lot of menus as a second course). So there's really no excuse for any restaurant which purports to offer a traditional Italian menu to treat the second course - which is the main course in an Italian meal - as an afterthought. Robyn

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I'd like those of you who feel the food isn't subtle enough at Babbo to please tell me whether you're referring to oversalting, because if that isn't the problem, I'll probably like the "excess" of taste. I certainly like Lupa! An excess of subtlety is more likely to annoy me than tastes that sock me right in the kisser, as long as those tastes are good.

The only dish I felt was oversalted was the beef cheek ravioli, but that might have been just that night (and it was a long time ago). Other than that, I really enjoyed the tastes at Babbo.

I do have a question, though. I haven't had the goose liver ravioli, but I was curious... is it made with foie gras (i.e. foie d'oie) or is it made with a basic unfattened liver? I wasn't sure if it was referred to simply as goose liver because it was not foie gras or because Babbo didn't want to use a french term on the menu.

My understanding - and perhaps I am wrong about this - is that Babbo doesn't use French ingredients. Which is why there's no champagne on the menu. So whatever the goose liver is - it is probably not foie gras from France. I suspect it is simply the liver of a regular (as opposed to a force-fed) goose that probably comes from the United States (even if there is such a thing in Italy - I doubt a fresh bird liver would travel very well and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of thinking they wouldn't use frozen livers). Robyn

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I may be mistaken but goose liver foie is not legal in the the US, only duck so I dont think it had anything to do with a French term vs. an Italian term

D'Artagnan sells goose foie gras - so I suspect it's legal. On the other hand - I don't think it's produced in the US. Robyn

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I may be mistaken but goose liver foie is not legal in the the US, only duck so I dont think it had anything to do with a French term vs. an Italian term

"Foie" is the French word for liver. I supsect we're talking about "goose liver" and "goose foie gras." I understand some people use "foie" to mean "foie gras," but I find that confusing although in Spain, it's the norm to refer to "foie gras" as "foie." I've never heard anything about goose foie gras being illegal in the US while duck foie gras was allowed, although from time to time there have been all sorts of restrictions on meat imports and I'm not aware of anyone raising goose foie gras in the US. I don't know for sure what the current situation is regarding restrictions, but I see that D'Artagnan lists only duck foie gras under fresh offerings. They do have goose foie gras in "bloc" form in tins. The Fresh duck foie gras is from both domestic and French sources. I could not find an origin specified for the goose foie gras. It may be hard to get fresh foie gras d'oie in the US, but apparently it isn't banned.

Edit: to say that I see Robyn responded while I was checking D'Artagnan's web site and attending to a minor emergency at home.

Edited by Bux (log)

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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. . . .

. . .  we've been frequenting Otto lately because it is so accessible to walk ins..

NY is a great dining town, but one thing sets it apart from what I've enjoyed about Europe, with the exception of ethnic restaurants, it seems harder to get a really good meal without reserving well in advance. Lupa is certainly not unique in this regard.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I'm inclined to support the general drift of sneakeater above.

Although I don't frequently eat in Italian restaurants in NY, I recall great roasted kid at L'Impero for a main course. I also had some excellent fish and meat courses in Italy that would have been excellent had they been served in France, Spain or the US. What is unusual, and definitely untraditional, is to offer a tasting menu of pasta. I can recall having both a pasta and rice dish in the same meal, but not two or more pasta dishes. The closest I can recall is a meal that included shrimp fried in noodles, cannellone made with phyllo dough not noodle dough, and risotto in a meal that also featured a main course of superb suckling pig at Calandre. Il Rigoletto was another Italian restaurant with a less decidedly avant garde approach, but one which featured exceptionally refined cooking without sacrificing earthy or robust flavors. Both of these restaurants have their fans and Calandre, is a three star Michelin restaurant, but I don't think we hit the absolute peak of Italian cooking. On the other hand, we also ate at Dal Pescatore, another more traditional three star restaurant and the pasta dish was the star of the meal.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux - I think the foie gras situation in the US varies almost day to day - city to city. There was an old ban (now lifted) on fresh imported livers (and other bird parts) that had to do with the prevention of Newcastle's disease. Then there have been bans from time to time based on sanitary conditions in packing plants overseas. Then there are all the animal rights controversies - and the "voluntary" refusals by particular restaurants to serve the stuff. I don't know why there are producers of fresh duck foie gras in the US - but not goose foie gras - except that the former is cheaper. Robyn

Edited by robyn (log)
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  • 1 month later...

After trying for a month to get reservations during my three day trip up to New York last week, I finally got reservations at Babbo 5 hours before my 10 pm reservation last Saturday night. Needless to say, I was excited.

I started out with the Babbo Salumi with “Cipolle Modenese” and Babbo Olives. It was certainly good but by no means great. My second and last course was Tagliatelle with radicchio castelfranco, pancetta and caprino. Perhaps it's because I'm not used to some of the ingredients, but I really didn't care for this dish very much. It was oily and downright bitter in parts. It seemed to vary in taste from bite to bite - some good, some bad. There were moments after bites when I wondered if I wanted to continue eating this dish. It got better, but not enough to make me take a chance with dessert.

Regrettably, I'd have to rate this as one of my least pleasurable high end dining experiences in some time. The atmosphere was cool and I loved the hostess, but the food clearly left me wanting. I'll chalk it up to ordering a dish that didn't gel with my palate because my two friends seemed to enjoy their dishes, but I must say that my experience at Babbo did not live up to the high expectations I had. Next time, I'll get the pasta tasting menu, which I was precluded from getting because not everyone at our table wished to have it.

Edited by Voodoo (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

please disregard my previous post. i had several gift certificates that i needed to use by june 8th, and wasn't sure if i'd be able to use them...so i was hoping that someone would buy them off of me who would be going anyway. i solved the problem by going to babbo this evening as a walk-in with my girlfriend. we both got the pasta tasting - which was excellent. if you do the tasting there - be ready to eat a lot.

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Yes, they do feed you well on that pasta tasting menu...I did it during my blog, and I had a dream that night that someone was force-feeding me pasta. I'm not kidding. :laugh:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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please disregard my previous post.  i had several gift certificates that i needed to use by june 8th, and wasn't sure if i'd be able to use them...so i was hoping that someone would buy them off of me who would be going anyway.  i solved the problem by going to babbo this evening as a walk-in with my girlfriend.  we both got the pasta tasting - which was excellent.  if you do the tasting there - be ready to eat a lot.

Can you talk more about the walk in.. Its my girls bday June 14th and I would take here there.. What was your experience like with no rezi..

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As far as my experience with walk-ins. We were told that the bar opens at 5pm, and that seating starts at 5:30pm. When we arrived, promptly at 5pm, there was already a line that had formed outside the restaurant! There were about 7 people in front of us - not a huge line, but still, a line. The doors opened up, and each party presented themselves to the host as walk-in groups. They took our names, and told us to have a seat at the bar while we wait for a table. There were 6 tables reserved for walk-ins. 4 of those could seat 2 people. 2 could seat 3/4. You can also eat at the bar, which 3 people were doing. If you arrive after 5:45 or so, you may have some difficulty as a walk-in. Many of the walk-in tables were doing the tasting menus, which means that those tables would be occupied for at least 2.5 hours.

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As far as my experience with walk-ins.  We were told that the bar opens at 5pm, and that seating starts at 5:30pm.  When we arrived, promptly at 5pm, there was already a line that had formed outside the restaurant!  There were about 7 people in front of us -  not a huge line, but still, a line.  The doors opened up, and each party presented themselves to the host as walk-in groups.  They took our names, and told us to have a seat at the bar while we wait for a table.  There were 6 tables reserved for walk-ins.  4 of those could seat 2 people.  2 could seat 3/4.  You can also eat at the bar, which 3 people were doing.  If you arrive after 5:45 or so, you may have some difficulty as a walk-in.  Many of the walk-in tables were doing the tasting menus, which means that those tables would be occupied for at least 2.5 hours.

I must say that I'm surprised how hard it is to get a reservation at this place. My personal experience there makes me wonder what the trouble is all about.

I planned a family trip to NYC last December, and I made the early decision that Babbo would be one of the places that we would dine at. I called a month to the day right after the reservation line opened. I called 150+ times for a Sunday res and never received anything more than a busy signal. I had a family member call American Express to get a table. A day later we had a table confirmed.

A month later we arrived for our dinner. I expected the place to be packed due to the trouble I had making a reservation. I was shocked to be seated upstairs and seeing many empty tables. At least 1 out of 3 tables were empty at 8 PM. Two hours later even more were vacant. I expected the place to be full when we arrived at prime time. When it wasn't full I figured they were about to turn the tables. They never turned them.

I'm not going to say that they intentionally limit reservations via phone, but I really must wonder if they're trying to be exclusive to build hype.

This all could be forgiven if the food was decent. It was sadly lacking. I'd say it was borderline bad. It was one of the most disappointing fine dining experiences that I've had. The lamb's tongue salad had a 'three minute egg' that was hard boiled. The beef cheek ravioli was served cold. The interior had the texture and taste of cold and poorly cooked beef brisket. The black truffles served with the dish were too chewy, without flavor, and had a terrible mouth feel. The saffron panna cotta is perhaps the most overrated dessert I've ever consumed.

The service was generally good. They had a great knowledge of the dishes and they knew their wine. They still made pedestrian mistakes. They poured wine from the wrong side. They cleared crumbs in an intrusive manner. All relatively minor. The worst mistake they made was serving my dessert wine five minutes after I finished the dessert. I should have refused it, but I'm too nice.

I did enjoy the atmosphere. It was very comfortable and inviting. Bruni's comments on the music being too loud were lost on me. The music that played while we ate was Bruce Springstein's Nebraska. Awesome album and a nice touch. If anything it was played too quietly. I love that record.

Still...very disappointing and very overrated. I had lunch at Cafe Boulud earlier that day. Now that was a great dining experience. Sure it took the server a minute to realize that he didn't give me the proper knife for my duck. But that duck..ohh...the duck...swoon. Brilliant.

Edited by stetson99 (log)
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Still...very disappointing and very overrated.  I had lunch at Cafe Boulud earlier that day.  Now that was a great dining experience.  Sure it took the server a minute to realize that he didn't give me the proper knife for my duck.  But that duck..ohh...the duck...swoon.  Brilliant.

Wow, what a disappointment! I'd have to say your experience was an anomaly, though. I've been there several times and literally never had a bad morsel. Plus it has been packed (upstairs and down) before, during and after my 2-hour meal, so I don't know what was up with the empty tables. How unfortunate to look forward to a dining experience and have that many missteps. :shock:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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please disregard my previous post.  i had several gift certificates that i needed to use by june 8th, and wasn't sure if i'd be able to use them...so i was hoping that someone would buy them off of me who would be going anyway.  i solved the problem by going to babbo this evening as a walk-in with my girlfriend.  we both got the pasta tasting - which was excellent.  if you do the tasting there - be ready to eat a lot.

Can you talk more about the walk in.. Its my girls bday June 14th and I would take here there.. What was your experience like with no rezi..

Last time I was in NYC my wife and I did the walk-in thing on a Sunday night. We got there relatively soon after opening and were told it would be about a 45 minute wait. Half-way through our first glass of wine at the bar, the offered us a table in return for a promise that we'd be out in 90 minutes, which we made.

I actually found the meal a little disappointing, but everything else was so wonderful that I am eager to give the place a second chance. Plus, my wife has a crush on Mario so I may have no choice. :biggrin:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I prefer to dine at the bar at Babbo and doing the walk-in thing is always a crap shoot no matter the time. I've arrived at 9pm on a Saturday evening and been seated in 5 minutes and I've arrived at 6:30 on a Sunday and waited an hour. Sometimes if the bartender just shakes his head, we'll just go with plan B and save Babbo for another evening.

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Plus, my wife has a crush on Mario so I may have no choice. :biggrin:

Babbo is far from a bad restaurant. But isn't it clear that it gets so much play because of the chef's celebrity, for reasons that have little to do with cooking?

(I HATE FOOD TV. IT MAY MAKE THINGS BETTER ELSEWHERE, BUT I HATE EVERY EFFECT IT'S HAD ON RESTAURANTS IN NEW YORK.)

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I prefer to dine at the bar at Babbo and doing the walk-in thing is always a crap shoot no matter the time.  I've arrived at 9pm on a Saturday evening and been seated in 5 minutes and I've arrived at 6:30 on a Sunday and waited an hour.  Sometimes if the bartender just shakes his head, we'll just go with plan B and save Babbo for another evening.

This is exactly my experience, BTW.

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Plus, my wife has a crush on Mario so I may have no choice. :biggrin:

Babbo is far from a bad restaurant. But isn't it clear that it gets so much play because of the chef's celebrity, for reasons that have little to do with cooking?

i'm sure they get their share of tourists and people there because Mario is one of the most recognizable entertainers in america, but, i'm pretty sure it would be filled up with people who love that food even if he weren't a star. i know i'd still go.

I'm not going to say that they intentionally limit reservations via phone, but I really must wonder if they're trying to be exclusive to build hype.

most restaurants at that level of popularity hold tables for VIPs. that's just the way it is. the VIPs are often the only ones not bothered by the practice.

Edited by tommy (log)
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