When life seems to be going all too well, fly US Airways and you’ll be kicked back down. After hopping off of a very delayed flight at New York’s LaGuardia, I hustled toward ground transit. This was the airport scene from Home Alone, only in the opposite direction. I was meeting an old friend for a late lunch in the lower east side, and late was an understatement. But after many airplane peanuts, bottomless cocktails, and a cup of coffee…I wasn’t so bitter. I hopped into a cab and headed to Balthazar.
If The Cheesecake Factory dreamed of the better life, it would be Balthazar. We made our way through the crowded doors and sat down. It’s a struggle to get in without a reservation, but all worth it once you make it to a table. It’s seems crowded and loud (and it is), but you soon learn that this is one of the best parts (especially in the morning hours).
To start, the service here is great (that’s not to say that you won’t get some attitude). It seems like there is a group of employees who’s only duty is refilling your glass of water when it reaches exactly 25%. The food arrives about a minute before you were going to check on it, and the bus boys are just waiting for crumbs to drop on the table so that they can swoop in and save the day.
We started our meal with a glass of cab and some hors d’oeuvres. First came the Brandade De Morue Croquette. Then grilled octopus with chickpeas, curried baby leeks, celery and salsa verde, and ended with rabbit and pistachio with rhubarb mostarda and grilled bread. I’m not sure I’d order the Croquette again, but the octopus seemed to stand out.
We moved to main course. I ordered a side of fries, as I heard they are the best in the city. They lived up to expectations. My friend ordered the Homemade Linguini Vongole. Included was razor and manila clams, lemon, serrano chiles, oregano and toasted bread crumbs. The clams were excellent. Because I always shy away from duck, I decided to embrace it. I ordered The Duck Confit with crispy potatoes, wild mushrooms and frisée salad. It was fantastic, and the salad was especially impressive. If there weren’t a bunch of other things that I wanted to try on this menu, then I would definitely order it again.
Overall, our meal was great. But I think Balthazar is at her best in the morning. They have long been known to have one of the best breakfasts in the city. I had been to Balthazar about a year ago for brunch, and it was here I found the best eggs benedict that I think you can make. This place was built for breakfast–it is the perfect place to help you wake up, or cure a hangover. The yellow walls give it a very warm vibe, and the large mirrors and tall ceiling make the space seem even bigger. My favorite parts are the continuous sound of forks on plates, and old wood everything. Balthazar was opened in 1997 by Keith McNally. The original two chefs (Riad Nasr & Lee Hanson) still remain. Be sure to check out their bakery.