Despite the fact that I love brasserie, I have managed unintentionally to avoid Balthazar until lunch the other week, which started with a very underseasoned, overmayonnaised shrimp & avocado salad while my friend had malpeques that were not fresh. I was very surprised by that and also by the presentation of my steak tartare, which was slopped on the plate and honestly looked like dog food. I don't mean that it wasn't arranged in quenelles as they do at Payard (and I think also at A Voce if I remember correctly); it's chopped meat and I expect it to look like that. But this was a blop and a smear and just unappetizing. It was properly seasoned but I had to do make some cosmetic adjustments before I could approach it. I had thought of Balthazar as a place that would nail oysters and steak in all its forms, so this first encounter was unsettling. Was my experience representative or was that a fluke? I would especially like to hear from others who have had their steak tartare--is it always served that way?
Incidentally the service was very good. The waiter was attentive and well informed, the manager stopped by to express concern about the oysters, and Jude Law held the door for me as I left.
We didn't find the food to be anything special when we dined at Balthazar a few weeks ago.
Anyway, the oysters were the best part of our lunch. They were fresh, tasty and nicely-prepared. We didn;t find the steak and moule frittes, our entrees, to be as successful. We also didn't find the service to be that accomodating. Plates were quickly cleared like they were intently waiting for us to take the last bite from the dishes.
For an extremely popular place (especially to out-of-towners), we found our meal to be just OK. But, we're not rushing to make our way back there anytime soon.
Well, if I tell my girlfriend there's even the possibility of a JL sighting, I'll never be able to bring her anywhere else.
But, to the point. I've eaten hundreds of oysters in Balthazar, the malpeques being among my favs, and they've never been other than first class. So a great disappointment to know that you got bad ones (if oysters are tired, they are close to bad as makes no diff).
I'm not a steak tartare person, so I'll have to pass judgement on that.
I think your meal was a fluke. Take a cue from the service. Wait staff don't generally go to any trouble if they are not darn proud of what they are doing. And I think the folks in the Balthazar 'family' are very like ourselves - devoted to good food and its presentation. It's a top down kind of place. And everyone appears to be involved.
I've been going since the day it opened, and I love the place. And I know they take complaints very seriously. So try again, maybe trying something else on the menu. You'll click with it eventually.