NYC: Barbuto

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

775 Washington St
New York, NY 10014

(212) 924-9700

Despite my love for something so simple as a perfectly tender roasted chicken with a crisped skin delicately draped in its own sticky fat and the knowledge that Barbuto is famous for making an extremely respectable roasted chicken, I found myself most willing to let go of this reservation on my weekend New York trip because it simply seemed the least interesting in comparison to the sea of unique experiences available there.  We kept our reservations anyway although my mind was distracted with memories of the intricate nature of my meal at WD~50 the night prior and filled with expectations of David Chang’s meal later that evening.  I was too busy hung up on the tenacious memory of Ssam Bar’s simple yet immensely flavorful duck bowl from a previous visit, and I was curious to try some of the things I had recreated from the Momofuku cookbook to see how they compared.  What about all the more obscure Asian dishes that I was likely to find in New York that I can’t as easily find at home?  So many things kept my mind busy, and all I could think was how even chicken even at the hand of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon had lately disappointed me.  So I took my seat in the casual, yet chic space lit by virtue of the garage-style bank of windows that allowed much light to enter and reflect gently off of the cream tiled walls and industrial metal accents.  And oddly enough once the food arrived, I found my thoughts of other foods dissolved once I began to marvel at Barbuto’s fare for reasons of its simple, yet comforting flavors in a way that I didn’t expect to be so inspiring.

cavolini crudi
shaved brussels sprouts, walnuts, & pecorino

This managed to be my favorite dish of the evening and easily one of the most memorable dishes from the trip as simple as it was.  Raw shaved brussels sprouts were mixed with roasted walnuts and impeccably dressed in fresh lemon, creamy crumbly pecorino cheese, and very fine, fruity olive oil creating a dish that was lovely, clean, straightforward, and enticingly bright.  It’s amazing how something as potentially bitter as a brussels sprout takes on a whole new life when served raw and shaved thin and coddled in an acidic dressing cut with creaminess and fruitness.  I was so taken by this dish that I recreated it at the last minute as part of Thanksgiving.  Recreating the dish made me appreciate the level of quality of each and every one of the ingredients in Barbuto’s version.  I know the concept of simplicity and letting fresh seasonal ingredients shine with few quality enhancements is certainly not new, but this is one of those dishes that allows you to really understand and appreciate that line of thinking.  While my recreation was still delicious, there were differences in the quality of some of the ingredients that made me appreciate Barbuto’s all the more.

carate arroste
local baby carrots & herbs

This really once again illustrates the sort of food simplicity that speaks to my soul. Lemon juice, tarragon, other herbs, and more great olive oil clung to oven-blistered carrots in such a way that the only served to enhance the natural sweetness of the lovely carrots.  Provided you can get your hands on some fresh, beautiful baby carrots from the market, this is another dish you can make at home.  Yet somehow, you can still be satisfied ordering it in a restaurant due to their careful, yet seemingly effortless preparation and ability to source those amazing carrots.

pollo al forno
roasted JW chicken & salsa verde

What makes this chicken special is the wood oven that it is prepared in that allows for crisp, flaky thin skin to form on top of the succulent meat.  The olive oil based salsa is married with tarragon and the variety of herbs, capers, and garlic that produce flavors that melt into the chicken but manage to remain subtle enough to not overwhelm the natural flavors of the chicken.  Even though I will eventually attempt to recreate this, I expect that so much of the glory comes from the cooking process which has been perfected in an oven that I do not obtain.  On the other hand, the salsa is a marvel in itself and is the craveable sort of thing that could make even a simply prepared chicken in a standard oven much more exciting.

Pumpkin panna cotta with bourbon whipped cream & pumpkin brittle
I had no business so much as tasting dessert after all the indulgences that weekend, but I knew the idea of pumpkin panna cotta was something that my dining companion would not be able to resist. The general simplicity of the rest of the meal was reflected in dessert as well, and it was welcome.  So often I’m harder on desserts as I’d rather have something simple done well than something complex that doesn’t come together properly.  The panna cotta was light in texture but rich with heavy cream on the palette yet mellowed with warm spiced pumpkin flavors.  The main attraction rested on top of a super sweet yet bright syrup and was topped with bourbon whipped cream dotted with plump raisins.  The boozy richness developed the rich fall flavors and the toasty brittle that stuck to your teeth as garnish added a contrasting texture.  In some ways this dish was “expected” in terms of creativity, but most imporantly it was still successful.

Final Verdict:

The most important thing about my experience at Barbuto is that its simple theme resonated with the way I prefer to cook at home with lots of acidic lemon, rich garlic, and fresh herbs, yet managed to transform these ingredients to inspiring levels.  I anticipate that most would be able to enjoy their experience there as it is comforting and dynamic with is layering of bright notes on savory flavors even in its simplicity.   There are great meals that you idolize, adore, and obsess about for different reasons, but when you can execute simplicity this well, it’s a beautiful and potentially eye-opening thing.  Of course I’m sure it was no surprise that I was rather excited to almost immediately obtain the cookbook, Italian, My Way, as a thoughtful gift and scour the pages for more really simple preparations that give me ideas that I can re-purpose with other ingredients.  I think that the fact that I felt immediately compelled to seek out the cookbook after eating one meal at a restaurant speaks volumes.   I’m quite glad I came here, as I ended up appreciating the experience more than I ever expected.  If this sort of simplicity appeals to you, I have no doubt you will quite enjoy your experience here as well.

Have you been here?  Do these simple things sound intriguing to you?  Do you love a simple, yet perfectly prepared roasted chicken as much as I do?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Barbuto on Urbanspoon

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