Brunch at Balthazar is both an impossibility and a must for anyone who wishes to experience New York at its best.
It’s crowded. It’s noisy. It tries your patience. The wait for a table is often longer than it’ll take you to order and eat, which seems rather upside down.
Service can be slapdash. And the food – some of it’s good, some of it’s great. My chicken paillard was good, saved by sheets of shaved Parmesan; a buttery cloud of scrambled eggs in a puff pastry hat was great. My friend’s grilled brook trout was good; the caramelized banana tart was great (I’ve read the recipe in the Balthazar Cookbook a million times, yet have never made it). And so was the bread, which deserves and enjoys its own outlet next door at Balthazar Boulangerie, where the line can be just as long.
But you really wouldn’t want it any other way. In Balthazar, wizard restaurateur Keith McNally has created the quintessential Parisian brasserie. Though it opened in 1997, the restaurant has managed to paint itself into New York’s SoHo neighborhood as if it was there before anything else.
I never wrote about my brunch at Balthazar in March of 2009.
That meal was recently recalled to me by one of the friends with whom I ate there, the man with the smelly jar. Memories of that meal sent me digging through my files to retrieve this twenty-ninth photo of the week.
I give you Balthazar, a slice of New York.