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Balthazar: worth the price?

Blumie Jan 24, 2014 06:52 AM

Ok, so I recognize that this is an inherently subjective question, but I was kinda shocked perusing the Balthazar menu at their prices: $44 for the bouillabaisse, for example; or $19 for the frisee aux lardons. Not the kinda pricing I think of when I think of a classic French bistro. Thoughts?

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  1. Monica RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 07:09 AM

    French bistro in NYC has a whole different meaning I suppose.

    1. k
      kathryn RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 07:16 AM

      It's Soho, it's famous, it has celebrity clientele, it's Keith McNally, it's been on TV...

      See also:

      2 Replies
      1. re: kathryn
        ttoommyy RE: kathryn Jan 24, 2014 08:53 AM

        Ditto all @kathryn said.

        1. re: ttoommyy
          HoosierFoodie RE: ttoommyy Jan 27, 2014 09:20 AM

          Ditto as well. We've had lunch there a few times and liked enough to keep going back.

      2. b
        Bkeats RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 09:18 AM

        Maybe I've been in NYC too long but those prices don't even seem out of line to me for the type of place Balthazar is. I sorta think of its as a reasonably priced Soho spot.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bkeats
          ttoommyy RE: Bkeats Jan 24, 2014 11:06 AM

          I agree, but if you knew nothing about the place and were expecting it to be a "classic French bistro" as the OP put it, the prices would seem outrageous.

          1. re: ttoommyy
            Blumie RE: ttoommyy Jan 24, 2014 11:20 AM

            I know exactly what to expect.

            Ok, that's an overstatement; I didn't expect the prices to be that high!

        2. p
          Pookipichu RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 11:06 AM

          I've always thought Balthazar was much too expensive for what you get. No one seems to complain though, and it's always packed. Maybe because it's "French" they can charge more.

          1. Ziggy41 RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 11:58 AM

            I never realized how expensive it is until I had breakfast there recently and this time I had to pay for it.

            Eggs Benedict with homefries $21 - Would have been nice to get more than 6 little homefries.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ziggy41
              stuartlafonda RE: Ziggy41 Jan 24, 2014 12:25 PM

              I had breakfast there this morning and as always loved it. Yeah expensive, but everything was excellent and I go when they open, and it is quiet, a little classical music playing in the backround. I get a four top, spread out the paper with a bowl of coffee, then some eggs and home fries(a good size portion with sautéed onions) some bacon and wheat toast, plenty of butter. They leave me alone and after about an hour and the place is packed I leave. Many other excellentmenu choices. Nothing unique but for me it is in the right place and often enough, at the right time. Expensive but good quality ingredients, well executed in a perfect setting. Ya gotta pay for your pleasure.

            2. Ttrockwood RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 12:41 PM

              No one goes to balthazar looking for a bargain meal. Yeah, i think most items are a good $5 more than they should be, but you're definately paying more for the "experience" et al than other bistros.
              I would say if you have never been then yes, its "worth it" to go at least once and order something you wouldn't make at home like the cassoulet.

              1. Monica RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 01:14 PM

                I don't think OP has a problem of paying money for food in general...he/she seems to be shocked that a French bistro is charging so much for supposely a simple French fare.

                According to Wikipedia,
                A bistro /ˈbiːstroʊ/, sometimes spelled bistrot, is, in its original Parisian incarnation, a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve. French home-style cooking, and slow-cooked foods like cassoulet, a bean stew, are typical. [1]

                9 Replies
                1. re: Monica
                  Blumie RE: Monica Jan 24, 2014 01:28 PM

                  I also am very familiar with Balthazar and with Keith McNally restaurants. I expected it to be expensive. Just not THAT expensive! I'm still going. I'm still going to get whatever I feel like getting. I'm just surprised, that's all.

                  1. re: Blumie
                    Monica RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 01:36 PM

                    Let us know if you think it's worth it.

                    1. re: Blumie
                      Ttrockwood RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 09:02 PM

                      You may also be surprised at the ladies room attendant....

                    2. re: Monica
                      Nancy S. RE: Monica Jan 25, 2014 06:36 AM

                      Technically I'd categorize Balthazar as a brasserie. Look at the menus of the notable ones on Paris -- their not inexpensive.

                      1. re: Nancy S.
                        Monica RE: Nancy S. Jan 26, 2014 10:39 AM

                        According to their website , it's a bistro.

                        1. re: Monica
                          Nancy S. RE: Monica Jan 26, 2014 04:41 PM

                          Nevertheless, given the size, type of food, hours of service, etc., in terms of the traditional distinction, in French terms, between bistro and brasserie, I'd categorize it as the latter. But I may be mistaken.

                          1. re: Nancy S.
                            Bkeats RE: Nancy S. Jan 27, 2014 06:07 AM

                            I agree with Nancy. While it may say bistro on the website, its not a bistro nor is it meant to be. Its a fantasy of what McNally concocted as a vision of a bistro for NYers.

                            Compare to my favorite bistro in Paris.


                            Prices are higher at Balthazar, especially after you factor in tax and tip, but Balthazar is probably 8 times the size of Cafe des Musee and 8 times the size of any neighborhood bistro. Interesting thing is that the price of my favorite dish at Cafe des Musee, the steak tartar, is very comparable.

                            I think you would be hard pressed to find comparable food and atmosphere in Soho for the price. In my mind, its a bargain.

                            1. re: Nancy S.
                              versalgoodness RE: Nancy S. Jan 27, 2014 07:45 AM

                              I'd agree with Nancy as well, that Balthazar is a brasserie. McNally may market it as a bistro, and given its success he was clearly correct to do so, but its cuisine, decor, and service are those of a brasserie. Raw bars, steak frites, and other grilled and roasted meats (i.e., prepared to order) are traditional brasserie items. Bistros tend to serve more rustic, slow-cooked foods, like cassoulet or coq au vin, neither of which are on the menu at Balthazar.

                              (To make an extremely tenuous and inexact analogy, bistros are to brasseries as Texas barbecue joints are to steakhouses.)

                              I'm not making any case for whether Balthazar is worth it or not, having never been for a meal (just some impressive pastries from the eponymous bakery); just agreeing that since Balthazar is a brasserie, if the food is up to par, its pricing is right in line with typical brasseries.

                              1. re: Nancy S.
                                Phil Ogelos RE: Nancy S. Jan 27, 2014 07:58 AM

                                The whole thing is semantic, of course: arguing over New Yorkers' facility with the nuances of the French language, much less French cuisine, is a fool's errand leading only to grief.
                                Hell, we're still struggling with how to contract "it is" or "they are" in English.

                        2. s
                          Simon RE: Blumie Jan 24, 2014 10:16 PM

                          I've never thought the cooked food was particularly good, and it's often been mediocre...but i like going there at off hours for oysters and wine...the duck confit is decent...i'd never choose it for a dinner, but i wouldn't protest if someone really wanted to go there...

                          1. p
                            porkpa RE: Blumie Jan 25, 2014 07:22 AM

                            Chez l'Ami Louis in Paris is considered to be a bistro. Yet its prices are probably higher than half the three star restaurants in France. I would never define a bistro by its price.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: porkpa
                              Monica RE: porkpa Jan 26, 2014 10:41 AM

                              Except barthazar is not chez L'Amour loius.

                            2. r
                              RCC RE: Blumie Jan 25, 2014 07:40 AM

                              Nothing out of line about the pricing, imho.
                              Good bouillabaise in French bistro can cost upwards of $44.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: RCC
                                mwhitmore RE: RCC Jan 27, 2014 08:13 AM

                                But $28 at Aquagrill,

                                1. re: mwhitmore
                                  Monica RE: mwhitmore Jan 27, 2014 08:44 AM

                                  The difference is, Aquagrill uses US caught seafood while Balthazar uses seafood caught from French seaside. he he..

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