Barbounia was a bit of a lucky circumstance – we were going to the Gramercy Tavern for lunch on the coldest day in NYC history, only to find it closed that day. Around the corner was a very inviting looking spot, full of people happy to be inside. We made a quick decision to try Barbounia – and what a happy accident!
From the moment the DinnerDoctor and I walked in, we knew we were onto something special – a such a frigid day, the place was buzzing with activity, but at the same time the cozy decor was very inviting.
The wait staff was very friendly, very accommodating – and provided a high level of service that is unusual for a casual, bistro style restaurant. The food is labelled as Mediterranean, leaning heavily towards Greek in flavor and concept. From our NYC experience, Barbounia is near the top for the Greek/Mediterranean restaurant scene, even those places driven by well-known chefs.
The interior is both rustic and modern at the same time, providing a fun atmosphere. If we had the time, we would have loved to come back for tapas and drinks. The drink list was very innovative, appealing, and impressive, with many drinks concocted using infusions of fresh, local ingredients. The lively open kitchen lends itself well to the casual fun atmosphere, with its frenetic but controlled activity. The throw pillows on the side stables feel comfortable after an adjustment or two – a hooka would fit right in.
The food did not disappoint. While we were looking for a light lunch, we still wanted to test out the kitchen’s creds. There is no better test of any kitchen than octopus. We have had many great versions in NYC (Del Posto, Felidia’s, Scarpetta), and we have tasted many failed attempts. Barbounia’s version is top notch – light, plump, and very tender, with just enough grill finish to provide a caramelized coating. The accompaniments of marinated chickpeas, red onion, and olives were a perfect match to the dish.
The DinnerDoctor and I shared both the roasted lamb salad and the baked branzino – more food than was necessary for lunch, but we really can’t complain. Every ingredient was clearly very fresh, and treated with a simple but refined approach. The succulent roasted lamb was plated over perfectly grilled zucchini and freshly roasted peppers, then topped with a deftly dressed arugula and toasted almond salad – we haven’t had a salad that was so well prepared in a very long time. The kitchen also did a great job with the baked branzino – it was moist, well-seasoned, and fresh.
Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp – you’ll see that most people would agree that Barbounia is quite amazing, and probably under-appreciated. By the way, you should try out brunch – the general manager was kind enough to share the menus from all there service, and the brunch really looks outstanding.
So, the weather outside might be frightful, but the humus was so delightful, so if you have no place to go – make it slow, make it slow, make it slow (cooked gigante beans at Barbournia).