In his review of Barbounia, Frank Bruni’s most gushing praise was reserved for something critics usually don’t talk about: the seats. Yes, Barbounia has the most comfortable seating of any restaurant in New York—or any I’ve tried, at any rate.
On Memorial Day, the restaurant was only sparsely populated, and the staff invited us to choose our own table. Although we found Barbounia comfortable on both the eyes and the arses, the dining experience was mediocre.
I started with Saganaki ($13) — baked cheese, truffled fig marmalade, fresh fruit, fresh baked cherry and walnut breads. I was thinking of a baked cheese dish that I’d ordered in Greektown in Detroit, but this was a pale shadow of it. After a couple of bites, the cheese quickly became sticky and dull to the taste. Halibut with fava beans ($26, I believe) was competently prepared. My friend seemed to have the better of it with three juicy pieces of rack of lamb.
The wine list was featuring white wines of Santorini, a small Greek island of which I have distant but fond memories. Alas, both the first and the second Santorini wine I selected were out of stock. (“We’re re-configuring our wine list,” the server said, a process that evidently involves restocking, but not reprinting.) Pressing my luck, I gave a third choice, which they were finally able to produce. It was astringent and overly acidic. I don’t know if that’s Santorini’s fault, or if my first choice would have been better.
The befuddled serving staff was persistently confused about silverware. They gave me the steak knife and my friend the fish knife for our entrees. After we were finished, they dropped off clean forks and steak knives for both of us, although we hadn’t ordered any dessert. A few moments later, they were taken away.
In a neighborhood that has plenty of excellent dining options, we won’t be rushing back to Barbounia.
Barbounia (250 Park Avenue South at 20th Street, Flatiron District)