Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Barbuzzo (revisited)- Phila

Several months back when I started this blog, Barbuzzo was one of the first restaurants that I wrote a post about. I'm unsure why it's classified as Mediterranean cuisine when it's clearly Italian fare but perhaps there's quite a bit of overlap between the two. They've updated the menu with a few specials but the offerings have remained the same for the most part. The only thing annoying about this place is the wait. If you don't make a reservation, you can be sure to take a place in line so just make sure to call ahead.

Barbuzzo "Pig Popocorn"
To be quite frank, I had no idea what I was ordering when I selected the pig popcorn. For some strange reason, I thought I was getting caramel popcorn or something of the likes although the description which read "with apple cider vinegar powder, espelette chile & horseradish aioli" made no mention of the word caramel or anything sweet. I was surprised, but pleasantly, when I realized that "pig popcorn" was in fact fried pork rinds or chicharrones. Pork rinds was in fact one of my all-time favorite snacks of the past (back when I could inhale an entire bag of them without blinking an eye or giving a crap as to how many calories I just consumed). The pork rinds were freshly fried and still crackling when served. The aioli was perfect, creamy and smooth. The popcorn itself was fantastic as the apple cider vinegar powder added a touch of acidity while the chile powder kicked it up a notch without overdoing it.

Grilled Spanish Octopus and Calamari
We also ordered the octopus to share. The flavors of this dish were complex and delicious but the texture of the grilled octopus was rather off-putting. For the highlights, the oranges added a hint of sweetness to an overall salty dish created by the pancetta. There was also just a bit of acidity on the plate, perhaps a pickled vegetable of sorts? The drizzle of sauce tied the dish together and gave a bit of moisture to the plate without drowning the grilled octopus or making it soggy. As for the downfalls, the calamari was a tad undercooked, which may be fine for many people but not for me. And lastly, the texture of the grilled octopus was strangely reminiscent of mozzarella string cheese. It wasn't rubbery so much as it was sort of spongy for some reason.

Pork Two Ways- Pork Belly and Chorizo
This dish was one of the specials for the night. It looked so promising and so palatable but when I tasted it, it was seriously salty beyond belief. My dinner guest who ordered the raviolis below also found her dish to be unbelievably salty and sent her plate back. I wanted to do the same but I felt bad because I had already eaten a couple clams haha. So I sucked it up and finished my entree.

I was secretly hoping for a hunk of succulent, juicy, moist pork but instead I got this strange looking, pancetta-like, sliced round of pork belly. The pork itself was a bit dried though not inedible. The addition of salt sprinkled on top was not just unnecessary, but unbearable as the broth/ sauce itself was already incredibly salty. As for the clams (and the corn and tomatoes I guess), they were probably the only elements of the dish that I didn't complain about.

Sweetbread Ravioli
Sweetbread, if you don't know, is not bread that is sweet. It's in fact, "the thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork." Sounds appetizing right? I know. As yucky as that may sound, the people at Barbuzzo somehow made the sweetbread into a delicious filling for the raviolis. I guess I got a far better bite than my dinner guest as she mentioned her bite was beyond salty and had to send back the plate, exchanging it for the gnocchi below.

Pan-Seared Gnocchi
As full as I was from my own entree, I still took a bite of this dish. The gnocchi itself was phenomenal. These little dough balls were soft on the inside while just slightly crispy on the outside. Again, the sauce was quite salty but it wasn't as extreme as the ravioli dish. Additionally, they went a little crazy with the oil as you may (or may not) be able to see the layer of fat floating atop the sauce.

Ambience: 3.5 out of 5
Service: 4 out of 5
Food: 3.5 out of 5
Verdict: The sauces and flavors in every dish were great, if only they'd practice moderation with the usage of salt.

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