So, after a lovely walk around the West Village, we arrived at Babbo Ristorante, Mario Batali's restaurant that offers what they call simple, fantastic food. Well, it was pretty darned fantastic...I'm not so sure on the simple.
Although we were originally planning on enjoying the traditional tasting menu, the presence of our piscatorian otter caused our server to steer us towards developing our own tasting menu, and we agreed. While we munched an excellent little taste plate orf roasted chick peas in olive oil over crostini and thick Italian bread to dip in olive oil, we made our choices.
For appetizers, we ordered a plate of grilled vegetables with goat cheese on toast, lamb's tongue vinaigrette, and grilled octopus. All were quite nice, but the octopus was outstanding. It was more crunchy than chewy, and the flavor was incredible.
We were strongly steered towards the pastas, and we happily agreed. We had a black spaghetti, which had been colored with squid ink and covered in a sharp cheese. Then we followed with order of "mint love letters", which were a pillowy stuffed pasta with fresh mint and spicy lamb sausage. I thought this was outstanding, but it was too much mint for some of us. What do I know? I'm a bear; I chew mint right off the forest floor. ;) We also had a stuffed pasta called "Lune", which was filled with sweet potato. All in all, three fantastic offerings.
For the main course, we all chose individual items. I had veal with caper-berries and lemon, which was quite good, but pretty much like veal with capers and lemon I could've had anywhere. Our New York hosts enjoyed the braised beef, which was fantastically flavorful, and the rabbit, which was good, but a little plain. Our first-timer in New York ordered the Duck, which was al ittle dry, but quite flavorful. The otter ordered one of the specials - halibut in a rich broth, which he loved. My other half ordered the fennel dusted sweetbreads, which were completely outstanding.
For dessert, four of us tried the maple cheese cake, which was incredible and rich. My other half loves chocolate, so he chose the chocolate hazelnut cake, served with a canelle of hazelnut gelato and an orange sauce. One of our hosts had the chocolate and pistachio semifreddo. All of the desserts were really knock-outs, but that maple cheesecake. Yum.
All in all, a very good restaurant experience. Our server was very nice in helping us once it became clear that our original intentions weren't going to work. He also recommended wines for our various dishes, and his recommendations all seemed spot on, even when they initially sounded odd (such as a dry sherry to go with the sweetbreads).
If you're looking for excellent Italian cuisine made primarily with local ingrediants, you should give Babbo a try. Remember, though, that you need to make your arrangements well in advance. We called the day after reservations became available for our chosen date, and we were only able to get in at 10:30 PM.
- The Happpy Bear