Monday, October 1, 2007

Critic's Corner: Balthazar

Balthazar Restaurant & Bakery
80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 941-0364

As I digested the last bite of my Balthazar Bar Steak,with pommes frites and maĆ®tre d’ butter, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s probably easier to smuggle a bus-load of albino midgets across the North Korean border than it is to get into this much revered French bistro.

First there’s the doorway, which acts as a sink of humanity – minus the drain. Survive this first challenge, and you’re through to the Maitre D’ and the kind of wait you’d expect at the Social Security office.

Meanwhile all hell is breaking loose around you and if it weren’t for the wooden tables and occasional whiff of melted butter, you’d swear you’d just stepped into the middle of Penn Station. This – I’m told – is an accurate reflection of the “hustle and bustle” of a genuine Parisian bistro, although during my time in France I don’t remember hearing the squawk of a new jersey accent slice open the air like a machete with an “It’s a one and a haaaaaf hour wait. One and a haaaaaf.”

After negotiating the initial obstacles, we managed to get a table for brunch and perused the menu. I opted for the Steak – medium-rare – and Lifeflix chose Brioche French Toast.

Service was prompt if unremarkable, and after a few gulps of coffee our food arrived.

The steak came topped with a Maitre D’ butter and was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was rich, tender but at the same time never really seemed to get beyond treading water. Maybe it was the name, maybe it was the pre-conceived expectations I’d had, but I couldn’t help think that with this dish Balthazar was punching below its weight.

Perhaps the French Toast would be the sucker punch to turn everything around. Served with bacon – which was deep, smoky and very satisfying – the French Toast itself seemed like it was going through the motions. Where was the flair? Where was the love? More to the point, where was the reason for hordes of people to be lining the sidewalks outside?

And then it was over. Brunch came and went without incident and I felt that within three hours I wouldn’t’ even remember how to get to Balthazar, let alone what I’d actually eaten. One thing I will remember is the check – which came to almost 50 bucks for the two of us.

Does the Emperor have no clothes? I don’t know, and it’s probably unfair to judge on one meal alone. But for now I’d say he’s wearing a very expensive and rather ordinary suit.

- Hillsy

1 comment:

farmerbutch said...

Marichelle: May life continue to flix well in your life and heart. Just remember who really owns it. Happy Birthday from all of us: Kuya, Manel, Nika and Bianca.