Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Barbuto

Months ago, a bunch of us FBM friends went out to celebrate our dear KC's birthday. She always wanted to try Barbuto but never had the chance. So why would we and not help make that birthday wish come true?
The great thing about Barbuto is that it's a casual restaurant but the place feels fancier. The cool neighborhood decor with lots of windows and the open kitchen are all key. And now the food. Oh my! What can I say about the food? If you don't know about Chef Jonathon Waxman, then you're missing out on something. He's often described as a Jedi with a cool, laid back approach to food. Food can be comforting and delicious if it's sourced well and cooked well. No fancy tricks here. Just good food.

So after our dear KC scared the waiter with her Human Centipede scarf, we ordered a bunch of appetizers to share, and then entrees for ourselves. First, the calamari fritti ($15) with lightly battered squid tossed with frisee salad, chilis, and olive dressing. Fried calamari can often times be very heavy but not this dish. Nope. In fact, it was light, tender, and flavorful. Even though we were in the dead of wintry weather hell, this dish kept it interesting with the heat. This dish is very versatile. It can definitely be served in warmer weather. A good all season plate.

Next up, the bruschetta ($12) with soft egg, wild mushrooms, and podda classico (cheese). The bruschetta ingredients do rotate with the seasons but this rendition was just perfect. Thick toasted bread topped with runny and tender eggs, earthy mushrooms, and creamy cheese. Forget dinner, I could eat this for breakfast and be extremely happy. Again, simple yet elegant dish. Well executed.
And the last shared plate was the gnocchi con funghi ($19). These pan fried nuggets of potato were really soft with the slightest of chewy exterior dressed in sauce of wild mushrooms, walnuts, and talleggio cheese. Again, really good stuff here. These weren't the best gnocchi I've had but the preparation was a bit different where the gnocchi was cooked to create a brown shell. Interesting approach indeed.
And now our individual entrees. If you know Barbuto, then you must know about Chef Jonathon Waxman's chicken with salsa verde ($19). And if you know me, then you know that I don't often order chicken. But here, it's a must. Tender, juicy, seasoned. With his method of cooking, this chicken has been perfected. Every piece and every nook was cooked to perfection. The salsa verde adds a nice brightness to the overall savory dish cutting the fat at the right time. You get a whole half chicken per order so you may want to share. Or do what I do and eat it all yourself. Hahaha!
Some of the other FBMers decided to get something besides the chicken. More power to them! This is the maiale ai ferri ($24) which is a generous piece of pork loin over incredibly smooth polenta and julienned apples on top. I didn't try this dish but I was assured that it was excellent and the portion size large as well.
And what's a few entrees without sides to share? The patate ($8) here was equally ridiculous. So crunchy and yet so fluffy inside. A generous dusting of pecorino cheese and rosemary add the savory herbaceous flavor to the potatoes. I remember once seeing a video of Chef Jonathon Waxman cooking these and I think I remember him boiling the potatoes first then deep frying them. Twice cooked then doused with cheese and herbs. That's some fine cooking in my book.
And for something green, we shared the cavolini ($8) which are roasted brussels sprouts with colatura (an Italian fish sauce). Crispy, caramelized, and sweet. Again, execution was ideal here.
But of course all that wonderful food wasn't enough. We wanted and demanded dessert. The popular choices that night included a chocolate budino which is something in between a pudding and a mousse. Rich in flavor but not in texture. It's lighter which aided me after that meal. But even a few spoonfuls were enough for me. Dessert Zombie was more than happy to finish it off for me.
The affogato was also another popular dessert. A scoop of vanilla ice cream with hot espresso poured on top. It becomes a very luxurious dessert with a kick of caffeine.
I don't think you really need to read about how I enjoyed Barbuto in the summary here. I mean, wasn't it obvious? It's good simple food. It's well cooked and they're not shy with the portions. It's no wonder that this place remains packed every night. Here's to Chef Jonathon Waxman and his unwavering dedication to food.

Barbuto
775 Washington Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-9700
barbutonyc.com

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