High End in Venice? (Barrique Review)
When you’re going out to have a nice, romantic meal for your 1-Year Anniversary, we weren’t expecting to be Hungry & Fit… just Alana & Chris, but we all know it can’t be that easy. If you put food in front of us, we’re probably going to return the plates to you clean, but we’re always going to have a strong opinion about what we just ate. We can’t help it!
You’ll notice that this review is missing something that we normally try to flood you with…our own photos. There are two reasons for that. First, we didn’t bring the fancy camera we use for our reviews. Second, it was extremely dark and every picture that I took with my phone was just blurry, no matter how many filters we applied. We could have used the flash for better results, but that would have taken away from the dining experience of the other guests, and when you’re paying this much for food, you expect an amazing dining experience. Bright lights flashing in your face isn’t the nicest way to enjoy a meal.
When I originally wrote out quick Yelp review for Barrique, I started high… mainly because there was this sense of… it was our anniversary dinner and we were so happy to be together, etc. As I started to think of everything we ate, those feelings faded and that mysterious veil disappeared. All that was left was the service, atmosphere and… the food. So, as always, let’s look at those factors and see just how high-end Barrique really is.
With a lot of high-end restaurants, places with chefs with past Michelin stars, eateries in LA… you see a lot of ego. We were worried when we waited about 15 minutes to be seated, with a reservation, and a lot of open tables, that this place was a bit full of themselves. Fortunately, when we were finally seated and served, that feeling went away. Why? Our waiter. This guy, tall with a thick accent, was extremely charismatic, in an extremely authentic way. He sat down with other customers, leaned over railings, and gave you the feeling that you were family, visiting from across the Atlantic, being fed at the dining room table. Even though his service was slow, we knew that he was running around waiting every table by himself, so we had no issue with the pacing. He was phenomenal and one of the standout aspects of this meal.
I will say that, however, I made a reservation and requested the most romantic table possible. We were seated outside, where it was chillier and louder because you’re right next to a relatively busy street. Also, we were seated right next to a drunk mother and her daughter, where we were forced to listen to her voice that she couldn’t control due to her state of being. Poor seating. Very poor, but that’s on upper management and not on the waiter we mentioned before. If we were seated inside, this all could have been avoided, but it’s all about the food so let’s get to that!
It was an enjoyable meal and even though the final bill was $180, it didn’t feel unreasonable in terms of portion size. We had one glass of wine, two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. They also serve you bread, so it was a four-course meal for $180, if that helps you visualize the experience better.
Alana seemed content with the wine. The bread was below average. Il Forno, a much less expensive Italian eatery in Santa Monica, has bread that puts this to shame. It’s a lazy attempt from a high-end restaurant to be diplomatic, but we didn’t come expecting bread, so it’s not a major issue. The salads were quite good in terms of flavor, but flawed. The ratios in the Caprese were off… plain and simple. It needed more basil, as there was only one piece and the basil-unfused olive oil… didn’t have any notes of basil in it. The watercress salad was delightful.
The halibut in their special was overcooked and it was missing the signature bell pepper sauce that was supposed to come with it. It made the dish even dryer and devoid of flavor, but it was a nice sized portion. That’s a big mistake, though. The red beet pasta with quail ragu was the shining star of this meal, and with the exception of the massive rogue bay leaf in it, that I was smart enough to avoid, it was near perfection. It didn’t have any acid, or anything to cut through the richness for that matter, and I’m so grateful for that. It was lust on a plate.
Both desserts were completely satisfying. The plates were totally clean when we sent them back. They were rich, but the balance of sweet and bitter components created complete bites every time. It was a great way to end the meal and we thanked the waiter for his recommendation.
We’ll let you decide whether you’d want to invest your time and money in Barrique. There were certainly some issues with the meal, but they also provided me one of the most inventive and engaging pasta dishes that I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately, when you’re charging this much, you need to make sure there are no bay leaves left in dishes, no sauces left off of daily specials, no fish is overcooked, etc.
It’s possible that we’ll return with expectations that will match our first experience. I know it will be hard to order anything other than that red beet pasta. And as always, stay hungry and fit!