A friend has invited me to Sunday brunch and wants me to name the place. Somewhere newish, upscale, westside, south of 34th, north of Canal. She's an adventurous foodie and loves French cooking. Help me find a good place . . . that takes reservations.
I wouldn't describe Balthazar as "newish," considering that it's been around for how long? Maybe 8-10 years?
How about Cookshop? It's on 10th Av. & 20th St., so that fits the geographical parameters. I've not been but my daughter and her boyfriend have had dinner there, and they both said it was excellent. I presume would be the case for brunch. The menu is contemporary American (which usually means it has French underpinnings). It's only been open about about a year (?), so that certainly qualifies it as "newer." And, when it comes to cost, while people can differ as to what constitutes upscale, I think many people would classify it that way.
Personally I find Balthazar tired at this point and a bit B&T (like the rest of Soho).
My parents had brunch at Cookshop a few weeks ago that they enjoyed very much (we've only been for dinner.) They had planned to add the pastry basket to their order and decided to hold off. They ended up being so full from just the two dishes that they ended up skipping it.
We're all still wondering about those warm jelly donuts...
Concur with RGR on Cookshop! Love it! Love the egg dishes! (sorry I got overly excited as I now want to go there for brunch this weekend...)
Another more "upscale" version brunch option is Telepan (72 W 69th St). I think it is more of French-inspired Contemporary American (aren't all contemporary American like that?...) It has a prix-fixe brunch of $25 which I think is a bargain considered that Telepan is an upscale restaurant. You can reserve on Opentable.com
I wouldn't call Cookshop French in the least, it's more of a high end spin on southern cooking. One of their signature sides is their fried hominy. It's very good but very down home.
202 at the Chelsea Market is very good for brunch, and not quite the zoo that other places are around there...not French, though.
If you want to go really French, I've actually enjoyed brunch at Le Gamin Cafe many many times. However, it doesn't fit in the "newish" part of your request. My friend's French husband makes us go there when he's craving a real French meal. There are several outposts, but there is one on 15th St near 8th Ave, and one on Houston near Thompson that are geographically inside your parameters.
If the weather is nice the outdoor terrace one floor up from street level at La Bottega at the Maritime Hotel is a pretty place to sit and eat and enjoy the day. (But not French!)
While I would agree that it isn't at all French, looking at Cookshop's menu, I don't agree with your description of the cuisine as being a "spin on southern cooking," high end or otherwise. As I said, I've not yet eaten there, but when I read the descriptions of the various dishes, they indicate to me a rather personal, eclectic style of the chef, Marc Meyers.
Jane. They fill up so reserve (opentable.com) before Sat. Great (and filling) French Toast. Excellent egg dishes.
The only French places with notable brunches that I can name off the top of my head as Pastis and Paradou, and neither of those are all that new or upscale, though they are in the Meatpacking district.
For non-French, I have to concur with Cookshop (focus on fresh, local ingredients). I like Jane but I think Cookshop is better.
I would also ask you to consider the new Devin Tavern brunch menu. Bloody mary made with fresh tomato juice and fresh horseradish, excellent lobster benedict, love their apple sausage.
Fleur de Sel has their prix fixe lunch available on Sundays if you're in the mood for lunch food. I'm not a fan of Balthazar--found it frenetic and the brunch food mediocre. My favorite French brunch is at Danal, but it doesn't take reservations and is quaint and homey, not upscale. If you're not looking only for French food, Jane and Five Points take reservations, aren't shabby looking (though I wouldn't necessarily call either "upscale), and have good brunch food. Public might be another option, but I'm not sure if it takes reservations.