Balthazar Excess

December 30th, 2012 § 0 comments

HG has a Christmas tradition. When in New York around the holidays, HG lunches with Restaurateur Daughter Victoria (Five Points, Cookshop, Hundred Acres) at Balthazar, the great, huge, bustling brasserie in Soho. The place is a miracle. From the age-dappled mirrors to the polished brass to the gleaming dark wood, It looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like (loud) an old school Parisian brasserie. Service is deft. Given the extraordinary turnover, the food is surprising — ranging from good to excellent. The bread (especially the flavorful dark) is noteworthy and the Macon and Beaujolais Villages sold by the carafe are a value. The HG/Victoria lunch is an epic, lasting between three and four hours. (Victoria says it is a matter of making up for the years when we were out of touch). The centerpiece of the traditional lunch is Le Grand Plateau de Fruits de Mer. Victoria (who really knows food costs) says it is a bargain at $90. Le Grand is a two-tiered tower of oysters, clams, whelks (bulots in Paris); room temperature steamed mussels; sea scallop seviche; giant prawns; cracked crab and calamari salad. A preposterous amount of sea critters. Accompanied by appropriate condiments, lots of buttered dark bread and many, many glasses of chilled Macon, HG and Victoria had a joyous and gluttonous feast. But, the meal didn’t end there. The duo shared some brandade and finished with a shared dessert of profiteroles doused with lots of warm chocolate syrup. An offer of grappa was turned down. Enough, surprisingly, is enough. HG, BSK and friend Stevie P. returned to Balthazar the next day to lunch on duck confit, steak tartare, watercress salad, pommes frites, onion soup and creme brulee. Equally good but restrained.

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