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Barbacoa Brims with Bombast

Parkcenter's splashy eatery returns

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When my main course arrives, that hoary Madison Avenue mandate to "sell the sizzle, not the steak" is made utterly, sputteringly physical. As my waitress pours green-peppercorn- studded, creamy cognac sauce over a filet mignon that smokes atop a fiery-hot slab of black granite (the Hot Rock Filet, $34), a Vesuvian-esque eruption of sizzle arcs theatrically toward my freshly laundered sweater.

And thus flows, at pyroclastic speed, my introduction to the new Barbacoa (which rose recently from the literal ashes of the old Barbacoa).

I have nothing against bombast and magma. I am, in fact, a fan of demolition derby, Blue Oyster Cult and chili cheese fries. What I am less enamored of--and this I say with the faith that a just universe will always exalt Shakespeare over Madison Avenue--is a platter of sound and fury signifying nothing that also requires a trip to the dry cleaners.

Let's face it, a hot rock doth not a great steak make. A hot pan, on the other hand, or the flames of a righteous fire would, and always should, suffice. It is, as the Bard might say via the simplest soliloquy, "physics." Heat is heat and steak is steak, and when one embraces the other for the proper ticking of time, life again is made livable.

Theatrics, however, can get in the way of a good meal (or a short review). Therefore I shall cut to the chase: Barbacoa is all about the sizzle. It's big and bold and full of Mexi-kitsch artwork and loud, bass-heavy music and commensurately louder conversation and a wine-bottle-lined arch and two big bars and glass bobble raindrops that hang from a very high ceiling and flaming torches, glowing skulls and one crazy chandelier that looks like icicles frozen to antlers and lots of doors that suggest secret rooms and a not-cheap nor particularly Caribe/Mex menu with food that is dramatic if not dramatically delicious, all flowing together into a messy magmatic whole that feels--despite or because of all the above--kind of fun.

Yet alas, Barbacoa is not my first choice for a steak-fat facial ... or serious food.

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