Sunday, June 1, 2008

Almost A Great Catch


Lately, I’ve been curious about what the names of restaurants mean when they are in a foreign language. After a little research, I learned that “barbounia” is a red mullet fish found in the Mediterranean waters near Greece, and is thus very common in the Greek cuisine. Seems fitting for a Greek restaurant then! They do have it on the menu, but I was going to Barbounia for brunch, and didn’t think little, fried, whole fish sounded so appealing at noon!

If you have ever walked down Park Avenue South, then you know just how many lofty, upper-end restaurants there are. Barbounia is a newer (opened in 2006) addition that sits on the corner of 20th & Park. From the second you step food in the restaurant, it quickly becomes apparent that you are in a Greek/Mediterranean restaurant. White tiles cover the floors, large columns and archways are scattered throughout the place with very high ceilings to match. One of my friends commented that she felt like we weren’t in NYC when in this restaurant, between the sheer size and the décor of the restaurant. It’s a beautiful space, if not a little bit over-decorated with fake plants and fruit baskets everywhere you look. The bar area is very nice too, and becomes pretty lively and crowded after work and in the evenings.

We were seated at a nice table in the center of the restaurant and began perusing the menu. A basket of bread was brought out, and was filled with the most delicious, fresh breads. Some were similar to a pita, and some were very sweet with cinnamon and raisins.

There were the usual brunch items, but I felt like I needed to get something more authentic. I ended up ordering the Spanikopita that came with a side salad. The menu describes the dish as crispy phyllo triangles filled with spinach and feta, but there were no triangles to be found. What came out looked almost like a pastry - it was round and coiled like a cinnamon roll. Regardless, it was absolutely delicious…super crispy and flaky, very flavorful, and a perfect proportion of feta to spinach. The mixed greens had a very good vinaigrette and was a nice compliment to the spanikopita. My friends both ordered egg dishes that were served with potatoes. One got the Athenian omelette with spinach and caramelized onions, and the other got the eggs benedict. They both enjoyed their dishes a lot too.

I had read a lot of reviews before finally making it to Barbounia about how terrible the service was, and I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. Our waiter barely spoke English, which made it very difficult to ask questions about items on the menu. If he had been Greek, I would’ve let it slide because of the authenticity! But, to work in a restaurant and not be able to communicate the dishes you are serving to your customers is pretty ridiculous. He was MIA when we did need him, but hovered while waiting for us to finish up and pay our check. After all of the dining out I’ve done lately, I think that has quickly become one of my biggest pet peeves.

Despite this, though, I try not to let poor service ruin an otherwise good dining experience between the atmosphere, food, and company. If you are in the mood for some really good Greek food, definitely check out Barbounia. But just walk in with a boatload of patience.

Barbounia
250 Park Avenue South
@ 20th Street
website
Menu Pages listing

2 comments:

Overpower Radio said...

The way you described the environment sounds like something a scene in a film should take place in. Good work!

Marisa said...

I had dinner here about a month or so ago and was very much looking forward to my meal here--but I have to say the only redeeming quality was the space! The menu is set up for sharing and even though the 4 of us shared 3 appetizers and each got entrees, we were left hungry. But that wasn't even the bad part---it was SO noisy. We were sitting right by the bar area and left screaming at each other. I actually left the restaurant hoarse. In addition, the service wasn't great. The waiter forgot the spanikopita, brought us out meatballs that we didn't order and charged us for both! I would definitely go back for brunch and request a table by the windows if they are open on a nice summer day!