a friend of mine recently called balthazar his mcdonalds. i laughed at him only until i gave some actual thought to the comment. according to my spending summary on mint.com (an amazing resource when it comes to keeping track of where your money goes), i’ve spent more at balthazar than any other new york restaurant. and because (except for one, very bad, four in the morning white castle experience) i’ve yet to enter a new york fast food joint, i think balthazar might be the closest thing – it’s a model in consistency, efficiency, and is open at nearly every hour. and at balthazar, i can actually have it my way because they have a wine list. i know, that’s a burger king slogan. whatever.
my first balthazar experience was early morning, a quiet time where noise consisted only of clinking silverware, rustling newspapers, chairs scraping on the floor. coffee and a bowl of granola, fruit, and yogurt satisfied my every before-ten-am need. i’ve been back since for mid-afternoon snacks of creamy, capery, mustardy steak tartare, salty and scalding hot frites, and a carafe of muscadet. i’ve enjoyed long, lazy, gossip filled lunches over the generous cheese plate, balthazar salad (truffled vinaigrette, salty cheese, delicate asparagus), and luxurious, perfectly livery chicken liver and foie gras mousse.
most recently it was a midnight trip, after work, to celebrate my friend nadine’s birthday and prepare our stomachs for the serious night out that lay before us. the frites and balthazar salad were ordered without debate and both proved to be models for the restaurant’s impressive consistency. the crab in the 1/2 crab mayonnaise was mild and sweet and so fresh that it barely required the assistance of it’s friend, homemade mayo. but why not, since they were both so conveniently placed on the same plate. i learned that balthazar has a cocktail list and that the bourbon presse is a delicious, if simple, concoction. reminiscent of a cold hot toddy, livened with a bit of peach liqueur, it was effective and enjoyable all at once. though my second was clearly made by a different bartender than the first (it was more peachy than makers marky), i was so pleased with my surroundings (christmas lights and pine boughs, a table full of food) and our comfy corner booth, that it just didn’t matter. yes, during prime times you may well be squashed into a table by the door. but i don’t go to trader joes on a saturday afternoon, and i don’t go to mcdonalds when the drive through line is a mile long (or ever – i go to balthazar).