Friday, June 17, 2011


Barbuzzo delivers on the hype. After hearing from various friends, acquaintances, and bloggers that Marcie Turney's Mediterranean kitchen is Fantastic with a capital F, I was overly excited and worried that my sky-high expectations would kill the meal before it had a chance to prove itself. My four friends and I sat outside on a balmy evening. Despite the fact that we were eating mere inches from a parked SUV and a large puddle (so close that we had to move when the woman needed to get into her car), it was hard to be unhappy with the setting when the weather was so lovely. Even though it drizzled during dessert and both a menu and a fork ended up in the puddle courtesy of sudden gusts of wind, I was glad we dined al fresco. Perhaps in the winter Barbuzzo's dimly lit interior is cozy and inviting, but in the summer it seems dark, hot, and stuffy. 

Barbuzzo recommends that you order 2-3 small plates per person and share; the menu makes this difficult because there are so many tasty looking and interesting dishes. Of the starters, I tried the "pig popcorn," chicken liver and foie gras mousse, and roasted beets salad. The pig popcorn (not popcorn at all but smoked pork rinds) was crispy and light, served with horseradish aioli, apple cider vinegar powder and espelette chile. The popcorn was a big hit at the table; it disappeared quickly. The chicken liver and foie gras mousse was one of my favorite dishes of the night: golden brown crostini and a tiny mason jar filled with the mousse and brandied cherries, and slivered carrots and beets on the side. Honestly, if I could have bought another jar and brought it home with me I would have. Velvety smooth foie gras set against the acid of the beets: it was perfection in an appetizer. And then there was the beets salad. A heap of shredded kale and crumbled pistachios atop a smear of goat cheese, several slices of beets, and sweet, juicy oranges. The ribbons of kale are slick with pesto; each bite is an exercise in the eloquent balance of salt and sweet, chew and crunch. It's also nice to look at: the deep green of the kale speckled with yellow nuts against the sharp purple beets, bright oranges and vivid white cheese.

For the main course, I shared the asparago pizza and coniglio pizza. I also tried the sweetbread ravioli, but I didn't have enough to really get a sense of the it, though what I tasted was good. The pizzas, unfortunately, didn't shine quite as much as the appetizers did. The asparago pizza is topped with asparagus, pancetta, cheese and an egg. It also has truffle and a "secret white sauce." You'd think that it would be over the top with so much going on, but it failed to pack a flavor punch, and to me, it needed salt. Compared to the earlier dishes it was a bit bland (of course, it wasn't bad by any standard, it just paled in comparison); it was gooey and rich but not complex. The same could be said of the coniglio pizza, with spicy rabbit sausage, olives and basil. However, in terms of bang for your buck, the pizzas are the way to go, especially when compared to the entree "plates" which are smaller and cost about the same.
Dessert consisted of the warm cinnamon apple bread pudding and the famous salted caramel budino. The pudding, with walnuts, caramel and vanilla gelato, was good--the melting gelato contrasting nicely with the warm bread and apples--though not spectacular or unique. But the budino was another story. With sea salt, vanilla bean caramel, and a fine dust of dark chocolate cookie crumbs layered on top and bottom, this is a bite you aren't likely to forget. It's silky and thick, the caramel's sweetness punctuated and deepened by the salt. Dessert heaven in a jar. Luckily this is a jar you can bring home: it's $45 for six at Now if I could just order some of that foie gras mousse, I'll be set.

110 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...