On our recent visit to MIMI 2.0 under chef Efrén Hernández (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2019/10/27/mimi-revisit/) last year, my wife Jun and I had a lot to like about the effortless yet satisfying take on French bistro cuisine from the restaurant. In a way, I viewed our experience at MIMI as a measuring stick for how good chef Hernández is, and a factor in deciding whether we should check out the other restaurant that he helms, a newcomer in Babs that in more pan-European in culinary identity blending in elements from Spain, France and other parts of Europe. We recently visited Babs for a dinner on Friday, and generally had a satisfying meal.
As noted above, there is really no particular European country that is the central influence on Babs’ menu, which seems to also lend more creative freedom to the kitchen. What I liked in particular about the dishes at Babs is the unexpected combination of different ingredients. You probably ate scallop tartare countless times in New York City, but chances are you didn’t get to taste it with seaweed, sweet potato puree and trout roe that gives an interesting dimension to the shellfish. It’s been a while since I last had crab salad before, but I certainly would’ve had eaten it more often had it come out with smoked potato rosti pancake. If there is tagliatelle with manila clam, French ham and mustard beurre blanc sauce, do yourself a favor and order this dish (it’s available in both appetizer and main dish portions but by all means go for the latter). It’s not an ordinary dish, a unique take on surf and turf that becomes even more quirky (but in a good way) with the addition of beurre blanc that you don’t normally see in pastas. One of the signature menus at Babs is the “divorced” sea bream with one side of the fish covered with red pepper romesco sauce and the other with herb pistou sauce. I wish the fish were more tightly grilled, but the flavor was overall well-balanced, and the side dish of potato taloa nicely complemented the fish. For dessert, Jun and I both enjoyed the burnt cheesecake with red wine and mezcal poached pear that had the optimal level of smooth texture that we would expect in a very good cheesecake.
Getting a reservation at Babs wasn’t too challenging, and the dining room was not completely full during our meal which actually makes the restaurant a good place for a quiet, intimate date night. There is full bar with competently mixed cocktails. The service was somewhat off in a couple of instances (Jun ordered a dry martini but was instead served a dirty martini) but the kinks didn’t diminish our experience. If you are looking for a neighborhood restaurant with cozy atmosphere and thoughtful cooking, I suggest you check out Babs. It doesn’t have the same glamour as its more colorful MIMI, but the understated vibe of the restaurant will make it a great option for casual dining.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 72 Macdougal Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 601-2835