New York, NY, Tasted on November 9, 2004 — It's impossible to
talk about Balthazar without talking about how it makes you feel.
And as desperately as I try to focus exclusively on the food (which
is excellent at Balthazar) the atmosphere is so warm, textured, and
friendly, that it can't be ignored. Is it wrong to love a restaurant
not just because the food is excellent, but because the restaurant
makes you so happy when you walk in? If so, I'm guilty.
But here's they key to this equation. If the atmosphere
and environment made a promise that the food didn't keep I wouldn't be
writing about Balthazar on this site. But the reality is quite the
contrary. The promise of warmth, refinement, and good taste as not only
delivered on by the cuisine, but it's emphasized and underscored by the
food served at Balthazar. I hate categorizing restaurants because it's
so incredibly limiting, but Balthazar really is perfectly executed
French bistro fare with genuine warmth, great flavor, and fantastic
attention to detail.
We showed up at 11pm on a Tuesday night. The first words
out of the hostess' mouth were "do you have a reservation?". That should
give you an idea of how popular Balthazar is. We started off with the
Soup Gratinée. While Alex
felt he'd had better (note: French Onion soup is Alex' signature dish to
eat), I thought the broth was silky with a beautiful balance of tangy
cheese. Essentially, a delicious flavor bomb.
Next up was the
Salad with Haricot Verts, Asparagus, Fennel, Ricotta Salata,
and Truffle Vinaigrette. The salad was fresh and interesting. In the
words of the various actress judges on Iron Chef,
DebDu opined that it was
“like springtime”. The salad was followed by the
Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart. This dish was definitely
good though the range on the flavors was somewhat narrow. It did have a
lovely cheesecake-like consistency.
Two stars came up next. First was the
Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, and Walnuts. The ravioli
were soft perfect pillows of brown buttery goodness. The pumpkin filling
bordered on a being a velouté it was so soft and smooth. As if that
hadn't made us die and go to heaven the
Steak with Pommes Frites and Maitre D’Butter arrived soon after. I'm
not sure what to say about this other than: imagine a hyper-flavorful steak slathered in
delicious butter. That pretty much sums it up.
I think if I lived in Manhattan I'd eat at Balthazar
once a week. I'd probably have to limit it to one dish per visit or I'd
have to be inserted into the restaurant by crane. If you're only in New
York for a few days, I'd still stop there as you're unlikely to find an
experience as rich and yummy almost anywhere else in the world, even
Note: Sorry for the age on some of these New York
visits. I promise if I felt the data was out-of-date I wouldn't post. I
have my spies constantly verifying. :)