Although it was primetime - a Saturday night at 9 pm - my party of five had no trouble getting a table. Perhaps a warning sign? The hostess was friendly, even when we asked to be moved to a table away from the drafty front of the restaurant.
Inside, the music was enjoyable, but not too loud to overpower conversation. Our server was cheerful and eager to provide detailed descriptions of menu selections when asked. She didn't rush us, letting us linger over wine and conversation while reviewing the menu.
While the broiled shrimp appetizer and mixed green salad with goat cheese went over well, the sweet pea and asparagus risotto with edamame was a big disappointment. Bland with a complete lack of seasoning, the risotto was also undercooked.
When our entrees arrived, we noticed a trend at Barrio: seafood selections were more flavorful and complex than non-seafood dishes. While a tomato broth with pasta, scallops and shrimp was described as excellent, a vegetarian pasta with broccoli rabe and oil was, again, bland.
Far worse, though, was my entrée, lamb curry. When told by my server that it was similar to a traditional Indian lamb curry dish, I quickly placed my order. What a mistake. When the dish first arrived, it was ice cold. A replacement entree was brought out quickly, looking very different from the first dish. The lamb and rice entree was positively soupy. Although some lamb pieces were tender and meaty, most had large visible chunks of white fat. The watery sauce didn't taste like any curry dish I had ever eaten. My companions tasted my meal and proclaimed it inedible. Even the man of the group who, through the years, has demonstrated a willingness to eat anything, winced at the taste.
Our watchful server noticed a problem and quickly whisked my bowl away, offering a replacement I declined. I was grateful when they quietly removed the charge from our bill and then provided complimentary desserts.
For our dessert, we selected the chocolate cake with banana sorbet. While the cake was fairly good, the sorbet was more of a granita, icy and exceedingly sweet. Pushing it to the side, we made short work of the two small chocolate cakes.
Each time I leave a restaurant, I ask myself "is it worth a return visit?" With Barrio, I'd like to give it another go, however I wouldn't rush to do so. If seafood is your bag, you might fare better than I did. Otherwise, I'd recommend avoiding the restaurant in favor of drinks at the bar.
Directions. Take the F train to 2nd Avenue. Barrio is on Stanton between Ludlow and Orchard.
Washington, District of Columbia
April 23, 2002
From journal Manhattan Visitor