Balthazar, Now a New York Classic

When Balthazar first opened in 1997, the wait went around the block of this Parisian-style brasserie full of pretty young thangs. 13 years later, the wait is still there, but the tables are now populated by young families and Euro expats. Nonetheless, this Keith McNally joint never misses a beat. Its kitchen continuously sends out classic bistro fare that is en pointe.

I have always been a big fan of Balthazar. As you can see, I have a copy of their cookbook which, incidentally, is fabulous for the home cook wanting to recreate their dishes.

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Its elegant pages are chock-full of photographs and recipes from the famed restaurant.

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Its location on Soho’s Spring Street is unmatched.

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Day or night, the bar is always buzzing.

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Stuff that calls to mind traditional brasseries: antique mirrors, red leather banquettes, and creaky wooden tables. Is this Paris or New York?

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Everything is typically Parisian, down to the details: linen napkins and bread basket cradling sourdough pain campagne

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The food, much like the atmosphere, is equally authentic and on the money! The strapping pieces of escargot in garlic-parsley butter are properly toothsome. Trust me on this one, the green sauce is marvelous with bread.

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The day’s pick of seafood is fresh, with a fine sampler of 6 varieties of oysters that night.

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Going clockwise, from the top of the marinara vinaigrette, Wellfleet (Massachusetts), Kumamoto (West Coast-Puget Sound), Glidden Point (Maine), East End (Massachusetts), Skookum (Puget Sound), and Island Creek (Massachusetts).

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An Octopus Salad with marinated chickpeas is, although not memorable, a good starter – light and not too intimidating. It’s easy to overcook octopus, but in this case, the tentacles are quite tender.

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Two fillets of Roasted Brook Trout rides atop a bed of warm spinach, walnut, and lentil salad. But truthfully, after our meal at Per Se, the fish here just felt a bit…ordinary.

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Two strips of Grilled Branzini (Mediterranean sea bass), skin-side charred nicely, floating on cipollini onions and arugula with a creamy sabayon. Again, they’re not reinventing the wheel here, but regardless, the quality is reliable.

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The Duck Confit is tender and juicy with a crackling skin that pairs well with crisp potatoes, wild mushroom, and frisée salad.

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The Saturday plat du jour features a fall-off-the-bone Braised Short Ribs with creamy mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. The secrets to this popular Balthazar staple is revealed in their cookbook.

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Two generous pieces of hearty Grilled Lamb T-bones surfaced with wilted spinach on the side. The meat is not too gamey, which is how I prefer it. Also, don’t be repelled by the copious amount of sauce – it’s perfect for sopping it up with bread.

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The desserts are all decadent, so you should really make room for this part. I enjoyed their creme brulée with sablé biscuits – from the brittle burnt sugar layer on top to the rich custard underneath – it is most satisfying.

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An individual serving of banana cream pie is sweet and reminds me of home.

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A French classic – profiteroles – is gooey and oozing with chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream.

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A decade strong, and I am still enamoured with Balthazar. Including its tiled floor. Consider this a classic.

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