Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Restaurant Remix 3: Babbo
Clockwise from top left: Warm lamb's tongue; Duck tortelli; Italian cheesecake; Pappardelle with pork ragu.
LOCATION: 110 Waverly Place
DATE: July 26, 2005
FOOD: Sauteed Chickpeas (complimentary); Warm Lamb's Tongue Vinaigrette with Hedgehogs, and a 3-Minute Egg,; Roasted Potatoes; Spaghettini with Spicy Budding Chives, Sweet Garlic and a One Pound Lobster; Pappardelle with Pork Ragu; Homemade Orecchiette with Sweet Sausage and Rapini; Duck Tortelli with “Sugo Finto”; Italian Ricotta Cheesecake.
BEVERAGE: Split a bottle of red wine; Decaf Cappuccino
Is it possible to over-eat a good thing? Is it possible that the pleasure and excitement of a particular restaurant’s food will be lessened if dined upon one too many times? In the case of Babbo, the answer is clearly, unequivocally, and a forthrightly screamed NO! Unless you were born sans pasta taste buds, Babbo’s cuisine is like the Bloc Party and Rolling Stones albums that play in the restaurant, in that both the food and the music never get old.
Danny and his friend Brian joined Alex and I for a pasta tasting menu of our own creation. However, before we sampled semolina like it was our jobs, we started with the appetizer Danny had been fascinated with for weeks. The warm lamb’s tongue vinaigrette was every bit as evocative, singular and palate shattering as we’d hoped it be. The lamb’s tongue tasted more like mushrooms than meat, the tongue so tender that chewing really wasn’t required. Once the gushing yoke of the quail egg had been released by the prick of my fork, an entire new element of creamy richness was added to the more subtle acidic fangs of the vinaigrette. As a whole, the dish certainly ranks up there as not only one of the most unique appetizers in my New York dining experience, but also as one of the best.
However, we had come for pasta and it was pasta we would have. Like one of Umberto Eco’s monks in The Name of the Rose desperately trying to avoid the temptation of the flesh, so too did I ward off the desire to once again revel in the majesty of the black spaghetti and beef cheek ravioli that Danny, Alex, and Brian split. My restraint was rewarded by the tastes of four previously untried pastas. The first, the duck tortelli, was an amazing take on meat filled ravioli. The overly fatty nature of duck was well utilized in the tortelli, as in such specific amounts, the duck’s fascinating mix of poultry and lamb flavors was allowed to shine through. The tomato base saucing was superb and of course, the pasta itself was as soft and pliant as an Italian maiden’s bosom (or at least what I would assume an Italian maiden’s bosom would feel like, having never experienced it myself, I can only guess, which is a sad reality, an oh, so, so sad reality).
Next came the spaghettini with a full pound lobster. Possessed by the same spicy complexity that makes the black spaghetti such a successful mix of ingredients, the budding chives and heavily applied garlic combined to make the pasta just as decadent as fresh lobster dripped in butter, but with an edge. It would be hard to imagine lobster better used in pasta. Just as masterful was the pappardelle with pork ragu, the lasagna like noodles providing the wide berth needed to support the density of the stewed pork. Like all of Batali’s dishes, the meat was astoundingly prepared and when topped with grated cheese the sensation was pure bliss.
Last, but certainly not least was the orecchiette with sweet sausage and rapini. Anytime a dish is composed of three ingredients that are heavenly on their own, it’s a good bet the combination will end in a collaboration of momentous affect. The rapini had a lovely garlic hue, while the sweet sausage merged sublimely with the sugar of the tomatoes. Contrasting all the soft textures was the firm, chewy nature of the orecchiette, served authentically al dente. As we polished every last trace of pasta from the plates before us, it was only natural to sit back and gasp at the wonder we had experienced. Mario just continues to amaze.
While none of us were hungry at that point, in what seemed an effort to prolong the meal and keep the evening from ending, we ordered a round of desserts. My selection, the Italian ricotta cheesecake was exactly how cheesecake should be. Instead of the American version in which the over application of cream cheese leads to an inducement of stomach turning gravity, Babbo’s cheesecake was more like composed whipped cream. The fresh strawberries hinted at sabayon and supplied a lighter finish for a night filled with the hearty satisfaction only luminous pasta (and there’s none been than Babbo’s) can bring.
Even after two visits within two weeks, I still wanted to go to Babbo again. But while this desire will have no capacity to be quelled any time in the near future, I’m at least mildly contented by the fact that I tried all the pastas on the menu that intrigued me most. Hopefully by the next time I’m in New York, Mario will have let his creative side out once again, and there will be plenty of new raptures to try. Until then, mangia on Mario. Mangia on.
Posted by Vincent Rossmeier at Wednesday, August 03, 2005