Sometimes you just want an old standby. There are not too many New York City restaurants that can say they have seen both the 90s and the 21st century. New restaurants are constantly opening up overnight. Critics, foodies, and chefs alike wait in anticipation to see if the latest talk of the town will be a success. And, according to most in the food industry, no restaurant is safe until they have been open for at least seven years. Too often, most don't quite make the cut. Balthazar is a restaurant in Soho that has seen it all, served it all, and will survive it all - even the rough roads ahead. At the end of the day, it's nice knowing what you are in for and heading to a place that has a following of both young and old, locals and tourists, Americans and foreigners.
I have spent many memorable meals at Balthazar over the years. It is one of the few restaurants that I went to prior to moving to New York and still return to. Believe it or not, back in the day, I spent most of my time in midtown when visiting the city. But, Balthazar has always guaranteed great food and in a wonderful setting - nearly transporting me directly to a typical brasserie in France. No matter the time of day, whether you are eating lunch, brunch or dinner, there is a constant buzz in the air. As the French would do, diners linger for hours on end and most tables are packed with groups indulging in as many courses as possible.
Ordering is never a tough task at Balthazar. The menu has not changed - and for good reason - serving up any item you would expect on a menu in the middle of Paris. As I am typically there with a group, we always share several starters. They make one of the best steak tartares I have ever tasted - as good as any I have had in France. This is also the type of restaurant where an oyster platter should be a fixture on the table- it simply goes with the setting. Although basic, the green salad is also great. The sign of a truly authentic French restaurant is through their dressings. That simple vinaigrette always tastes so much lighter and fresher when topped on greens in France. The same is true for Balthazar.
I find it nearly impossible to go to dinner here without ordering the steak frites as my main course. The steak is always perfectly prepared to my medium-rare liking and the fries are exactly how I like them - thin and crisp. You also can't go wrong with their moules frites and the duck confit - all items to be expected at any standard French brasserie. When I last visited Balthazar, they offered a pumpkin ravioli as a special of the night. This seasonal dish was a nice addition to the old standards covering the table. To finish off the night, I recommend ordering a cheese plate and then you really might be confused as to what city you are in.
For the first time in my life (since I started traveling overseas), I am unsure of when my next trip to Paris will be. That is definitely not a comforting feeling, but it is simply a reality. I know work will not be sending me abroad any time soon and, at the same time, I really am trying to cut back in extravagance (at least for the time being). So, Balthazar is as close as it gets to being in my favorite city without having to get on a plane. I do know that I will be able to get back to Paris at some point - hopefully sooner rather than later. But, until then, whenever I need a Paris fix, I will continue to treat myself to Balthazar and enjoy an evening in my faux City of Lights.
80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012-3907
Phone: (212) 965-1414