Need advice about service at Balthazar
I am a notoriously worrisome planner, and I need a bit of advice. I am taking the boyfriend out to a casual dinner in a couple weeks on a Friday night as a ruse for his surprise party, which starts at 10pm. I have 8pm reservations at Balthazar, and the party is in the UES (74th and Lex). I need to bring the birthday boy in after 10. I know the train from Soho to UES will take about 30 minutes, leaving 1.5 hours to eat at Balthazar...is that enough time for 2 to eat, with reservations, on a Friday night? Reviews say conflicting things - that because Balthazar is always so packed, service is either overly attentive (i.e., rushed) or really slow. I was hoping some of you had some insight...I was planning on getting to Balthazar around 7:30/7:45 to grab a drink at the bar while they get our table ready; we will surely order an appetizer, entree and have been assured a birthday dessert. We probably won't linger too long after eating. Are they good about being timely with reservations and service?
I was worried about whether 1.5 hours would be enough, even with reservations, so I made an alternate reservation at 8:30 just in case at L'Absinthe - about a 10 minute walk from the party. Again, is 1.5 hours enough time for 2 to eat an appetizer, entree and dessert? I've never eaten at either place so I'm not sure how prompt the service is!
Thanks so much!
Also, if someone has eaten at both, which is better? I'm not too concerned with the noisiness/crampedness of Balthazar or romantic ambiance - I'm more concerned with tasty food. Balthazar seems just a smidge cheaper, but again, that's not really a huge dealbreaker either. Thanks!