Brunch at Balthazar ~ Orderinny

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Brunch at Balthazar

An American tradition I have not really picked up all these years is the concept of Sunday brunch. Sure, I like the occasional pancake but I can do that for breakfast and still have lunch as a separate meal. Also, the criminally long waits for overpriced plates of eggs are often not worth the effort. However, there are certain sunshiny holiday weekends when you want to run out of the house into a bustling restaurant to soak in the festive atmosphere, to indulge in well made brunch classics with friends. For that purpose, Balthazar is a perfect choice.
Balthazar is perennially crowded, and at brunch time on Sunday, it is practically a zoo. However, once we were led to our tight little corner right next to the floor length windows that allowed the sunlight to stream into the cavernous room, I forgot the short but uncomfortable wait near the doorway, and smiled as I took in the room, the high walls, the bronze etched ceiling, towering platters of fruit de mare and the frothy bowls of au laits.
While the décor is classic French brasserie, the food was decidedly more American and very good on most accounts. Gerrie’s salad, the only thing off the regular menu that we ordered was laced with a brightly acidic vinaigrette. The egg dishes were varied and interesting. Yanru’s had a decidedly Italian flair, perched atop thick creamy polenta cakes and served with tomatoes and pancetta; Emily’s was lightly poached in a decadent red wine and bacon sauce while Xiaohong’s was scrambled and stuffed into a puff pastry. Unfortunately, the eggs were a little overcooked, marring the pretty picture of eggs in an edible shell. Dawn’s brioche French toast was thick, yummy and a perfect foil for the best bacon I’ve had in a while. Smoked salmon with brioche toast and the traditional garnishes of capers, chives and egg is the French version of bagel and lox and I happily bartered the extra slices from my generous platter of smoked salmon for bites off my friends’ plates. We washed down our meals with cups of coffee and then shared a portion of superior fries just because, hey who doesn’t like fries?
Blasé service at slammed brunch palaces is a common complaint and the servers at Balthazar can be a little tricky to wave down in a room buzzing with activity. But when the servers did get to us, they brought bread, extra coffee and water as swiftly as they could, remembered what each of us ordered and put the correct cutlery on each place setting. Sitting in the warm and delicious smelling room, watching happy and therefore smiley diners around you enjoy their food, chatting comfortably with your friends without actually having to yell, I have to say I understand the appeal of brunch at Balthazar. If a meal was taking a two hour holiday from the real world, Balthazar had transported me to a smoky brasserie in Paris (sans the cigarettes).

80 Spring St (Bet Broadway & Crosby)

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