Babbo, an Exercise in Escapism

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A brilliant and rare combination of factors resulted in my dining at Babbo Wednesday night.  First, I had two gift certificates (thank you again…you know who you are).  Second, I called the restaurant on a whim Tuesday and was shocked when the hostess gave me three reservation times for the NEXT DAY, one of them being a prime 8:15PM table (a sign of the times, I suppose).  Third, two of my best friends happened to be completely available to join me.  

So, we put on our high heels and headed over to that cozy, sophisticated townhouse on Waverly Place, where the bar is always full, the music thumps (Vampire Weekend played), there seem to be not a care in the world, no real worries about anything except taking the most beautiful ingredients and bringing them to you in unexpected and often extraordinary ways.

There are two floors, the downstairs being a bit more boisterous due to the bar, and the upstairs just slightly more chill.  The service was  exceedingly professional without being stuffy, attentive without being creepy and most importantly, smart.

We tried:

braised fennel salad, where fennel had been braised so long it became sweet like caramelized onions, served with gorgonzola toast and fresh greens.

black spaghetti with rock shrimp, spicy salumi (crispy bits like bacon, but spicier and more flavorful), and green chilis that were as bright and fresh as spring.  The whole mix was incredibly addictive.

goose liver ravioli- oh this was a rich decadent thing, served in a sweet balsamic and brown butter sauce.  In a surprising and fantastic combination, the sommelier Claudio served it with a vin santo (generally a dessert wine).

swordfish- I love swordfish, and this one was served with a stew-like sauce of eggplant and tomatoes.  

pork chop- this chop was a serious hunk of pork, served with hot and sweet cherry peppers, a pepper agrodolce and a sweet balsamic glaze.

saffron panna cotta- honestly, this was interesting but ultimately weird.  My friends rightly suggested that it tasted like shellfish, particularly lobster bisque.

cheesecake- The Babbo crew kindly sent this one out as a birthday treat for me, with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate and a single pink candle in the middle.  Oh, and they poured us a wonderful Moscato to finish it all off.  How sweet is that?  The cheesecake was delicious.

In all, this was one of those wonderful, transcendent evenings where I thought of nothing but the joy of being with my friends, the deliciousness of my food and the excellence of a top restaurant (I sort of forgot how high the standard of perfection can be).  Now, more than ever, I appreciate how special fine dining really is.

Babbo: 110 Waverly Place, NY, NY 212-614-6670.  Get more info here.

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