1st venture last night to the newly reconcepted Babalu space on Washington ave, the Isaac Becker/Josh Thoma etc etc project. If it were a band, it would be a supergroup.
It was definitely exciting and I am predicting that it will become a tough place just to walk into, which is unfortunate because it has the casual air of a place to just drop by. They did a great renovation, utilizing a lot of the open space that the previous tenant had in the lounge/dance area, by adding a raised dining area with mainly booths. Reclaimed timber and black leather are the dominant decor here.
I was a little early for my group, so I decided to sit at the bar. 8 minutes and no service, so i just got up and explored a little. It looked like there were maybe 3 bartenders? To their defense, they were taking tables and talking food shop to guest ordering or having just recieved food.
Cocktail menu was pretty concise, some new school old classics(think negroni, manhattan) and the wine program is pretty wide ranging, and has a nice balance between old/new world styles and prices went from $6(btg) and around $24 by the bottle and up.
As for the food: The menu is broken down into 5 sections, Antipasto, Bruschetta, Dry pasta, Fresh pasta and Secondi, with a small dessert section as well. Pricing was pretty approachable in the 112 eatery mentality.
At the table there is a home-made giardineira style plate, some small pieces of cheese and marinated veg, mainly cauliflower, some beans, celery and red pepper, in olive oil. I would have guessed the cheese in the mix was either and aged provolone or fontinella, but I didn't ask. The bread service was a fried bread(think pizza fries?!!) with a nice salt, served warm. Great to dip in the veg mix.
From the Antipasto we had Sea Scallops with what seemed like a salty braised pork belly. Great hard sear on the scallop, great texture on the pork, and an aggressive salt to it as well. I think this would come off too salty for some, but it walked a fine line well for me. Nice dish, good balance. We also had the chicken and foie gras polpettone. This was a pretty rustic style pate that was a little to hardcore for some of the group. I liked it, good texture, but the chicken liver was dominant, the creamy sweetness of the Foie was lost to me.
For bruschetta we had the goat cheese and olivada, which was basic, rustic and solid. Bread not too hard, nice chew in the center, and a good goat cheese bite, as well as the braised pork shoulder, which was probably the most flat dish of the night. It was served cold, with a bit of a mostarda, which was pretty mild. Everything else was very spiced so there could be some subtle notes that I missed there.
For pasta we had all fresh: Gnocchi, great texture, bit to much orange rind for the cauliflower but the red pepper flake off set the citrus pretty well.
Tagliatelle w/ braised Calamari: Note here, this is a squid ink tagliatelle, which we were not told about, so the seawater aspect of the dish was pretty apparent.
Crab ravioli: Nice, obviously a high quality crab(i.e king) good texture and density to the pasta.
Orecchiette: Nice, rabbit ragu could have used something to pop it, i.e. parm reggiano or romano.
We also had a fennel crusted grilled pork tenderloin to split that was cooked perfectly, really nice char and a good salty broth. I would definitely get it again.
The highlight of my night, and it was the most simple dish of the night, was the Pappardelle with Veal Ragu. It was so well balanced, the textures were perfect, pasta perfect. It's rave worthy.
All in all, I will be there, regularly. If i can get in....