RALEIGH’S GATEWAY…

Babylon

It was a lovely night and I was headed out with my ladies for an evening of drinking and dining.  The sky was ripe with the pending storm and the heat brought the black top to a near sizzle.  No real agenda, just fun, food and delightful conversation.  I met a few new friends, and was glad to be able to share in this experience with all of them.  All other outdoor patios in Raleigh pale in comparison to the lovely one at Babylon.  But how does the food compare?  This was my third visit to Babylon and I will include all three visits in this review.

http://www.babylonraleigh.com

Overall: 3.3 out of 5

Food/Beverage: 2.5 out of 5

Ambiance: 4.5 out of 5

Value: 2.5 out of 5

Service: 4 out of 5

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Let’s start with the beautiful ambiance.  I love sitting on the patio, in fact in all of my trips to Babylon, I’ve never sat inside.  This most recent visit I did step inside to wait for the rest of my party and I have to say it was gorgeous in there as well, however a little cold.  The bar is large and comfortable and the seating looks very plush.  Lighting is just dim enough and even though there are TVs and music, neither overpower the mood.  The only problem with the patio is the amount of flies (fruit and otherwise) we encountered and the brazen attitude held by the pigeons.  Those diseased creatures basically pick pocketed me while I sat there.  One was doing a little bit of a dance with my purse. Uncool.  While I realize you will encounter both of these things at even the most cared for of environments, there are ways to minimize this and both of these things did bring down the score just a touch.

Our waitress was prompt with seating us and accommodating our ever growing party.  They offered to bring over more chairs, another table, whatever we needed to make our experience the best it could be.  At the end, she did disappear for a little bit, even though the restaurant was not busy in the slightest, but she apologized when she returned.

Babylon offers a very interesting mix of food choices.  They are one of the few places in Raleigh that you can get authentic Moroccan cuisine, which is one of my favorites to cook.  I love the combination of spices and the cooking techniques of the Moroccan culture.  My first trip to Babylon was over restaurant week, which was the best experience I have had there.  The bill was just what I expected, the food was amazing, portions were good sized.  The next two weren’t quite so great.  Let’s start with brunch.  My lovely neighbor and I stopped in for brunch a few weeks ago, mostly because I was so excited about reviewing the place.  I didn’t realize they offered a different menu for brunch that they do at other times.  You can only order off of that menu.  It was rather limited.  Unfortunately, the menu on line is different from the one we had to choose from so I can’t tell you the prices of everything.

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I ordered this egg dish.  The name escapes me, I’d call it rubber eggs with spices.  I loved that it was cooked in a clay baking dish and thought the presentation as very cute.  It had two eggs, tomatoes, peppers, onions and potatoes.  I thought it would be filling at the least, which it may had been if it had been edible in it’s entirety.  The yolk were both rubbery and flavorless.  The whites, also rubbery, were ok.  Somehow the flavors didn’t combine well.  My brunch buddy ordered the Chicken Bastilla ($9).

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The flavor was nice, although it seemed like the chef was a little heavy handed with the nutmeg.  It was kind of dumped on top.  The filo was very crispy and well prepared and without  that yummy sauce, the dish would have been dry and lacking in flavor.  Along with our food, we ordered bloody Mary’s, which were on special.  I can’t remember the price but I remember the shock when I saw the size was about 4oz.

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The bloody Mary was awful.  It tasted like watered down tomato juice.  Fortunately, when I informed the waitress that it was horrible, she did take them off of our bill.  This experience is why my food/beverage score is so low.

My last visit, ladies night, was better than brunch but not quite up to par with Restaurant Week.  We started out with the Cheese platter

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It was beautiful, served with prosciutto, honey, almonds, olives and two delightful cheeses.  This was a great start to the meal.  The honey was so good!  Everything on this plate was good.  The main meals we ordered were all pretty good, but again I was let down by my comparison to my first visit.  I did enjoy my meal, although the shrimp was a little over cooked and the lamb was burnt in places.  The flavors were nice, the spice level was perfect.

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The Shrimp Provencale ($12) had plenty of shrimp and was served with a delicious dipping sauce.  It is so easy to overcook shrimp when you don’t butterfly them, and when you are boiling them.

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The Bodega Lamb Meshoui ($13) was served with a Moroccan version of pico and a lovely romanesco sauce.  When you overcook lamb, it becomes very tough and loses that lamb flavor.  Unfortunately, that was this particular lamb.

Other dishes ordered by the table included the Chicken Tagine.

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It was beautifully prepared, seasoned well and again a little overcooked.  The chicken itself was a bit dry.

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The Moroccan salad, $8, was a bit overpriced for what it was.  I didn’t taste it, but the guest that ordered it seemed happy with it.

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The Fetard Salad ($8) was very nice.  It had a great variety of toppings and a good amount of dressing.  I still think the price was a bit high, but overall a good value.

For our final course, we ordered a dessert item.

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I don’t recall the name, and can’t find it on the online menu.  It was flaky pastry filled with an almond paste served with honey and gelato.  They allowed us to order the hazelnut gelato instead of the vanilla it is traditionally served with, which was great.  The pastry was not my favorite.  The filling was very bland.

At the end of my meal when my $75 bill arrived (yes, we all paid separately) I was shocked.  By no means was this meal worth that much, even with the glasses of wine I drank (without them my food still would have been $50, which it also was not worth).  Again, as a comparison to the amazing food, service and price point I experienced during restaurant week it just didn’t hold up.

I would go back for drinks and that cheese plate, or during restaurant week but I won’t go back for a meal there again, unless they start offering drink specials.  And I’m heart broken for that fact.  I really want to love this place each time I visit.

 

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