eGustibus

A +/- Look at NYC Food

Babbo

It's Sarah the Wife's Birthday, and much to my surprise her choice for the special meal was Babbo.  Not surprising because of the type of food, she loves Italian food, but more because it's a Mario Batali restaurant.  See, Sarah the wife is not so much a Mario Batali fan.  I'd like to think it's because she's jealous of how much I love him (the cookbooks, the show, the desire to go to every one of his restaurants) but I know the real truth.  She doesn't trust an Italian with red hair.  Actually, come to think of it, she hates red hair on all men (Bobby Flay take notice)- so when she said Babbo, I was surprised, but excited that I wasn't going to have to wait until April to go to Babbo for my birthday dinner. 

We love Italian food, and I love Mario Batali, so I was pretty excited for this meal.  Too excited I think… and after only 3 months of eating out a nice NYC restaurants came face to face with my first disappointment.  Now I'm not going to blame it on Babbo… how could I?  It's the almighty Babbo!  4 Stars from Adam Platt, #6 on NY Magazine's 101 Best Restaurants in NYC, 1 star from Michelin, loved by everyone… well not exactly everyone.  There is a Mario Batali backlash that exists in this city- but those criticisms come from somewhere other then the food.  Too many people feel too strongly about this place being great for it to be bad.  You could have a bad experience, but it can't be a bad restaurant.  Can it?

And here's where it dawned in me.  Expectations and experience can end up being much more important then any dish you eat.  I can see why so many people in this city love Babbo.  See, Babbo is not an everyone kind of place.  Most places aren't.   It's a breath of fresh air.  After years and years of eating at the same boring Italian restaurants with the same dishes, Babbo must have been a windfall for this city.  I wasn't here for it… but it must have been super exciting.  Lamb's tongue in a salad?  Beef cheeks and squab liver is no chocolate and peanut butter (two great tastes that taste great together… anyone?).  Goose liver, lamb's brains, oxtails, sweetbreads… the list goes on and on.  I'm far from a chicken parm kind of guy, but Babbo is an offal bonanza like non I've ever seen.

Now for many, this list would be enough to keep you from going… but therein lies the genius of Babbo.  With every dish he makes you forget what it is you're eating.  I have to admit, we were not blown away by the dishes we ordered but it was a meal that made me change the way I think about eating.  And for that, I will go back, again and again.

What we ate, and the +/- after the jump… Continue reading

January 1, 2006 Posted by | Food: Italian, Location: Village, Price: Expensive, Price: Very Expensive | Leave a comment

Esca

If you are like me, then you have a Mario Batali restaurant checklist, and although it might be at the bottom of the list, Esca would be one of the places you had to go.  Esca happened to be on the top of my list… not so much because I wanted to eat there more then Babbo or Lupa, but because it’s 6 blocks away from my apartment.

Esca is Mario Batali’s seafood restaurant, where the specialty is the Crudo.  If you are in the dark as to the Crudo phenomenom (me, before eating at Esca), it’s basically Italian Sushi.  The restaurant is in Hell’s Kitchen, and is oftentimes referred to as a “pre-theater” destination.

Now if you’re like me, that is usually the kiss of death (pre-theater).  To me that means sub par food packaged in some sort of prix fixe deal to sucker tourists into spending too much because the place guarantees they won’t miss the first 20 minutes of Sweeny Todd because they showed up 30 seconds after the curtain.  There’s no denying the decor is the most “pre-theater’ish” of the Batali restaurants, but don’t let that discourage you, the food is excellent.

What we ate, and the +/- after the jump… Continue reading

November 5, 2005 Posted by | Food: Italian, Location: Hell's Kitchen, Price: Expensive | Leave a comment