Thanks so much for the suggestion of Balthazar for our visit to NYC last month. We were only in the city for 24 hours before heading back to JFK for our flight to Europe.
We wandered through Little Italy and into Chinatown and then I started to get a blister, so we caught a cab to Soho. Our dinner reservation was for 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and we had about 2 hours to kill. We walked around, window shopped and had a drink at an unmemorable little bar. We decided that we'd go ahead and head to Balthazar about 45 minutes prior to our reservation to have a drink at the bar. At 8:15 on a Sunday night, the place was packed. We ordered our G&Ts and stood behind some folks waiting for a couple of seats to open up. It was like sharks circling for seats. There was a really agressive group of three men who pretty much bumped us. Phooey on them when we grabbed two seats at the other end of the bar.
We let the hostess know that we were in the bar and that we were in no rush, but if anything came available we'd take it. She came to check on us twice, which I thought was really nice.
We ordered two more drinks and chatted up the folks at the bar next to us. The hostess let us know our table would be ready in 10 minutes and we asked for the bar bill. Knock me over with a feather, I wasn't prepared for the bar bill. We each had two G&Ts, Bombay Sapphire at $12 each! $48 for the four drinks. Dang!
We paid the bar bill and were brought to a great table. A little table in the back with a great view of the rest of the place. Balthazar was hopping and it was a little loud, but not intrusively so. I love the cozy "European" seating, it just feels so romantic and intimate to me.
Our waiter arrived with bread and water and we looked at the menu. We'd had a snack in Little Italy, so neither of us was starving to death. We started with an order of the French Onion Soup to share. Which really means, the BF gets the bowl and I might get to have a taste. Wow, that was great soup! I'm not a huge onion soup fan, but this was fabulous! I loved it. $11.
We then ordered a bottle of the house red for $18. We'd heard that the house wine was good, so we decided to give it a try. The house was a Cotes du Rhone, which we both really enjoy.
BF wanted the lamb, but we were informed that it was sold out for the night. I ordered the Nicose Salad ($20) and BF settled on the duck shepherd's pie ($19, I think). We weren't really trying to be budget-minded, it just worked out that the things that looked tasty to us weren't the most expensive.
My salad was wonderful, the tuna was fresh and clean and perfect. The greens were crisp and the dressing was just right. The duck pie...wow! It was so rich and velvety. A perfect dish had it been 30 degrees out. It was a little heavy for a warm spring evening. We both loved it.
We finished up with an order of creme brulee and I had a cup of cafe au lait. The creme brulee was just about perfect.
The bill came to $98 before tip, $120 all inclusive. It wasn't until we got back to the hotel that I realized I was charged $28 for the house wine. So, apparently, I was upsold without being told so. Not a big difference, and the wine was lovely. I'm "hoping" it was an innocent mistake, but I'm guessing no. I wish I would have noticed it when I was looking at the bill. Oh well!
All in all, we loved our meal and the atmosphere and the service was very attentive but not intrusive. And the price was great! (Next time I think we'll drink wine all night instead of cocktails!)
We'll be back in NYC in June and I'm thinking that I'll try for brunch.
I'm on record as loving the duck shepherd's pie, which I think is one of the best things in New York, and not at all like the usual bistro menu fare in this town, which most people can almost recite by rote.
Again, too bad about the wine, which I think must have been a mistake. In all my times going there, I've never worried about being ripped off.
Have fun next time 'round.
Thanks for reporting back - glad you enjoyed it despite the wine mishap. I looked at their wine list, and it seems to me the misunderstanding might have come out of ordering a carafe of the Cote du Rhone ($18) and the bottle ($28). I've actually found that the carafes are a good value and pretty reliable wines. Hope you enjoy your brunch if you go back - we always enjoy the plateau de fruits de mer, and the steak tartare and frites - though for some incomprehensible reason, I believe the latter is not available on Sundays.
Just out of curiousity - did they bring you the carafe or the bottle? At least if they brought you the bottle, they did charge you the "right" price, even if it wasn't what you ordered. The frites really are excellent there - I love them with mayonnaise. The cocktail prices don't surprise me - I was at Bemelman's bar over the weekend and cocktails were $19!