Thursday, March 23, 2006
Our dinner at Babbo was probably the most highly-anticipated meal of the trip. My love for the Food Network is only surpassed by my adoration of eating thick, hearty food in cold weather. And New York in March is frosty cold. Frigid, in fact.
When Nicole and I arrived for our 9:15pm dinner reservation, we were hungry. I’d only had a bowl of soup and some water that day, and she’d had little more. We were cold and hungry, and when we still hadn’t been seated by 9:40pm, we became cranky. Luckily they were able to stop us from sending diners still savoring their desserts dirty looks by seating us.
Upon sitting, we were promptly brought a garbanzo bean and balsamic vinegar bruschetta starter. I don’t know what it tasted like, and at the time, I didn’t care. It was just enough nourishment to allow my eyes to refocus so I could read the menu and order some real food.
We decided to skip the antipasti course, in order to share one of the larger first-course plates. We briefly considered both the pasta and the more traditional (pasta & meat) tasting menus, but Nicole didn’t want dessert and I couldn’t eat any of the three desserts due to the presence of chocolate. (Days left in Lent: 19) Instead, we started with pappardelle in a wild boar ragu.
The pasta was perfectly al dente, and even divided in half the portion was more than I could eat as a starter. The sauce was also tasty, though the diced boar chunks were slightly bland. As Nicole and I were discussing the starter and commenting on the lack of seasoning, I noticed the background music for the first time that evening.
Prior to discussing how and why the background music was entirely inappropriate, I think it best that we all be aware of the restaurant’s appearance. Babbo is a small, “white tablecloth” Italian restaurant, in the moderate-to-expensive price range. It’s very cozy, with dark wood paneling encapsulating the bar and bench-seating along both walls. The waiters wear ties and replace your silverware between every course. Babbo is what most of us would call “a nice restaurant.” That’s why I was surprised that Led Zeppelin was the choice of the evening. Not that I don’t like Led Zeppelin, because I do, but I think there is a time and a place for the “Black Dog” album and it wasn’t a Tuesday night at Babbo.
Our main courses came out and they were huge. Nicole ordered the largest pork chop I’ve ever seen in my life – it must have been twice the size of the one I’d had previously at Cookshop. It was enormous, and topped with a small mountain of artichokes, mushrooms and tomatoes. Then the waiter ceremoniously poured an aged balsamic all over it. It was beautiful. Tasted good too. I’d ordered the lamb chops, and was shocked by how many I received. There were seven, three-quarter to half-inch chops. I don’t even purchase that many when I’m cooking for two. They were perfectly prepared, but tasted like lamb chops do. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t have made for myself at home. At least, that’s what I thought until I tried the meat with the accompanying yogurt sauce. It was lemony and minty, creamy without being thick, and completely transformed the lamb into something that I definitely couldn’t have made for myself at home.
Although every portion of the meal up until this point had been tasty, the true star of the meal was the side of fava bean bartolo, which translates into lima bean risotto. It must have had a half pound of parmesan cheese in it, and at least as much butter and cream. It was divine. I would return to the restaurant for that side dish alone.
Total Price? $144, but it left Nicole with enough meat for at least 2 additional meals, so it was worth it.