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Manhattan Birthday

Birthday Chow -- Jojo and Babbo

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Birthday Chow -- Jojo and Babbo

Caitlin Wheeler | Oct 10, 2002 02:04 PM

Had lunch this week at JoJo and Dinner at Babbo, both special occasions.

JoJo -- The people were very friendly on the phone when I requested a reservation. The new decor was nice -- I don't know what the old room looked like, but the colors weren't too garish. The room was kind of dark (intimate) and the seating was a bit cramped, but the restaurant wasn't crowded. The food was excellent. They have a $20 3 course lunch deal which was a) delicious and b) Not so much food that you have to roll out of the restaurant after lunch. I began with a tuna carpaccio, which was very good, but a little salty. This was served with these amazing scallion potato pancakes, which were like soft potato chips with a strong scallion flavor. Very good. My main course was kind of fish (Baroundi? Baramundi?) steamed in a broth with vegetables. Again very light with a lovely subtle flavor from fresh thyme. Dessert was Tarte Tatin, which was excellent. I would definitely go back, and recommend Jojo as a good lunch spot.

Babbo -- For dinner. I had heard people complain about the ambience and the service, but we had absolutely no complaint about either. We were seated in the upstairs dining room, which was very pleasant, and our server was very attentive and answered all of our questions. When the wine we ordered had run out, the sommelier recommended another similar wine that was actually less expensive than the wine we had chosen, and was very good. We began with cocktails -- I had a delicious plum bellini made correctly, with fresh plum juice and prosecco, and my companion had a campari based cocktail. Babbo's house cocktails are excellent aperitifs -- not the nasty vodka based swill you get so often nowadays, but light cocktails that prime the palate well. For starters, I had a goat cheese "truffle" salad-- 3 balls of goat cheese, coated in different coatings. The goat cheese was good, but the coatings were not distinctive enough to really make a difference. One was poppy seed and another was, I think, paprika. However, the pickled onions the goat chees was served with were an excellent foil to the cheese. This was a good dish, but not sublime. My companion had the lamb's tongue vinaigrette, which he enjoyed. I had a bite -- it had a very strong muttony flavor which wasn't bad, but was not as delicate as I anticipated.
We shared a pasta course -- the beef cheek ravioli with truffles, which was superb and amazing and sublime, with big shavings of black truffles. mmm.
For secondi, I had grilled pancetta, with a corn fregolata and green tomato mostarda. The pancetta was well flavored and very tender, and the sweet spiciness of the corn and tanginess of the mostarda provided a nice counterpoint to the saltiness and richness of the meat. My companion had grilled quail, which he said was good flavor, but excellent texture.

We forewent dessert in favor of after dinner drinks -- my fiance had the house grappa, and I had the house Nocino, which was unbelievable -- a deeply complex nutty drink with hints of cinnamon. The perfect autumn liqueur.

I would definitely go back to Babbo, but I would probably focus on pastas, which seem to be the highlight of the meal.

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