Friday, March 4, 2011

Balthazar ! Moules Frites & Pastries Brunch

In my effort to continue to knock out more restaurants I've long adored from afar, I met Trang at Balthazar for brunch last weekend.

Aside from being crazy ridiculous place for brunch (serious tourist central in the heart of Soho), Balthazar also appeared in  Best Thing I Ever Ate: Fried Edition where Bobby Flay professed his love for their fries.  Now, I don't love Bobby Flay like Carrie does (I think she has a thing for freckles!), but I do love fries, and when an iron chef gives his golden crown to some fries in the city, well...I gotta check it out...

with some Moules Frites.

The moules came in a tiny little cast iron pot.  Cute! I love small pots overflowing with  beautiful, glossy mussels puckering with yummuh musselly meat! 
The mussels were perfect, as you would expect from this French brasserie.  Fresh with tender chew.  The light, creamy broth, aromatic with the strands of steamed onions, was hard to get to, but I wiggled my fork down there to submerge each mussel in the liquid.  I particularly enjoyed how my meal was served with three porcelain bowls stacked atop each other.  When I had a discarded a handful of mussel shells in one bowl, the server would remove it the top bowl to reveal a new empty bowl for more shells!  Genius!
The fries were served in a paper cone, golden, thin and hot.  I expected fireworks as I ate my initial fries.   I felt nothing.  I shoveled more in my mouth.  Still nothing.  They are good pommes frites, slightly crispy edges with a soft-potatoey inside, but nothing more extraordinary than that.  Sometimes they are borderline soggy, which I don't mind since I love me some tators!  But not worth the hype of Best Fried Thing I Ever Ate.
Trang ordered the scrambled eggs with asparagus served in a puff pastry - a more traditional brunch dish.  The puff pastry shaped biscuit was shelled out and filled with the eggy mixture.  I didn't grab a photo as my fry cone and mussel pot were monopolizing the table, but it looked beautiful.  Trang gave me the puff pastry cap (shown above), which I had to photograph for all the dozens of delicate, thin layers.  You could peel off each layer perfectly and eat them one by one (I also like to eat Kit Kats like that.  I hope I am not alone in this).
The waitress suckered us into looking at the dessert menu, and we decided we could totally share a dessert.  So we did.  Caramelized Banana Ricotta Tart with banana ice cream.  I know.  I have been obsessed with bananas and but now also ricotta!
Shaped  like a domed hockey puck, this dessert was tough to first dive into.  Trang and I coordinated our attack from opposite sides to dive our spoons through the caramelized/bruleed top and the tough little pie crust bottom.  The effort was worth it!  Inside was a sweet bananaesque filling, soft and creamy.  We made good work of that.
And then as if I did not already eat enough calories for a week, I stopped by their bakery next door to check out their pastries...more specifically....

Doughnuts.  Yes.  Research!
Banana walnut doughnut.  Beautiful, nutty glaze but absolutely ordinary cake doughnut interior, which I always enjoy, but it was unremarkable for the most part.
Chocolate doughnut.  Same story.  Not too sweet, which was good, but just underwhelming/plain/normal/boring.  I actually got this doughnut for free because I think I flashed the clerk a sweet smile, or maybe because he was already manhandling that doughnut and had to give it to someone.
Balthazar is super known for their croissants, so I grabbed a chocolate one. 
So. Many. Layers.  Beautiful!  The croissant was crispy on the outside and very flaky inside.  I rather liked it.  I could only imagine if I ate it fresh! 
Overall, I did enjoy Balthazar.  Is it overpriced?  Maybe.  But I am a sucker for a fun environment.  Balthazar was built in a former leather warehouse, so it has an open feel that lends to its unique atmosphere which is loud and lively yet comfortable.  Despite the infinite clusters of people waiting for table, they never once rushed us during our meals.  If you are looking to visit (and you should), I strongly encourage making reservations at least a couple of weeks in advance.  I called one week ahead  and had to take a 2:30p brunch time slot...but with a time like that, one could totally fit in two brunches in one day! Win!

80 Spring St
New York, NY
Reservations: 212.965.1414
Balthazar on Urbanspoon


  1. Yep, Balthazar is a zoo, but everything looks so delicious. That banana tart? There are no words. Another great post!

  2. i am mesmerized by the glaze on the banana walnut donut... !!