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Manhattan

Barbounia Report--longish

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Restaurants & Bars

Barbounia Report--longish

fresser | Dec 5, 2005 10:01 AM

I went, with a bit of trepidation, on Friday with two other friends. The trepidation was just that it is so new and that with the recent change in chef, I wondered how the food would be!

I'll get to the food in a moment. The service needs some ironing out, but I supposed that's the norm for a new place. Here were the problems: We were seated and received no menus until I asked for them. Our waiter took our drink order, which was one bottle of red and a glass of white. Then the sommelier showed up to ask us if we needed any help, though he seemed to know that we'd already chosen. The bottle came, but we had to ask three times for the glass of white. We placed our order within minutes of placing the drinks order...we didn't get our first app until 45 min later. A runner had given ours to someone else and this wasn't made apparent til I asked where the food was. Finally, the spreads and bread came, followed at a fine pace by the rest of the order. Then, at dessert, we ordered sorbet and were given ice cream, at that point, we'd been there 3hrs, almost as long as a Per Se meal! So we just ate some of the ice cream b/c we were tired of asking for things. I'm sure they'll iron out the kinks!

Decor is interesting-for those of you who may remember the covers of your Madeline L'engle books, you'll recognize the bizarre feathers and mini disco balls chandelier from the Wind in the Door, or maybe it's a Swiftly Tilting Planet? Anyway, the other odd thing was the use of movie lights for lighting, industrial and a big incongruous given the soft mediterranean colors of the room.

But more to the point, the food. We started with a sampler of spreads: hummous, baba ghanoush, spiced feta, and one other. These were tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary. Because we wanted to sample the menu widely, we ordered a group of apps. My favorites were the charred octopus confit: slightly chewy, good consistency and nice citrus flavor. The pieces were set atop fava beans whose bite set up a nice contrast with the octopus. The red snapper, barbounia, which was almost as good as the snapper at Pampano, but had just a bit too much olive oil, which overpowered the flavor of the fish. Still, the skin was crispy and tasty, and if this were an entree, i might order it. A side of gigante beans was fabulous: it was like cooking beans like you would risotto--a hint of chicken stock, a solid note of parmesan (?), and a bit of rosemary, which contrasted brightly with the creaminess of the dish. The beans still had good bite to them. I'd love to make this at home. The kefte kabob was pretty standard, nicely minty, though, thanks to a yogurt mint sauce. The meat was moist but the spicing not that interesting.
My friends really wanted the cheese plate, so we had that, it was just parmesan, fresh ricotta, and perhaps taleggio, can't remember. The highlight of that was the fig preserves, which were slightly truffled.
Dessert was an order of the sorbets, which came out as ice cream instead. They were Ok, but unmemorable and disappointing because they weren't the sorbet but at that hour, we just didn't care to wait anymore! We also ordered the Aphrodite, which was a chocolate cake, with a passionfruit-chocolate buttercream topping, passionfruit emulsion (sadly just four little dots) and a sweet cream or creme fraiche ice cream. Not really too good as the cake was rather flavorless, but the buttercream was tasty, not too sweet, but also not good enough to save the dessert.

The meal was fun, despite the service glitches. They did comp us the spreads, which was nice. The hostess asked me what I thought of the meal and I was honest about the service but did say that it's not unusual that early in a resto's career. I'd go back for a glass of wine and a few mezes. The ambience is fun, lovely room and fun buzz. I'd like to try an entree, but I guess I'd need to go with a different group!

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