Tables for Two
by Kelly Snowden, New York Observer contributor, 02/05/2009
80 Spring St. • 212-965-1785
Balthazar presides over SoHo like a grande dame, which makes it strange to recall that just a dozen years ago it didn't exist. The feather in restaurateur Keith McNally's cap, this Parisian bistro succeeds (where so many others fail) in transporting diners to the City of Lights. It has all the details right, from black and white tiled floors to the soaring pressed-tin ceilings over the zinc bar, but stops just short of making the whole thing seem like a movie set. The menu is just right as well, with consistent bistro bites like escargot, chicken liver mousse and cheese-drenched onion soup. The gold-tinged lighting reveals a crowd of well-heeled foreigners and shoppers on break, popping Champagne corks and chattering, sometimes deafeningly. The signature salad is lightly dressed in truffle oil, lending the crisp radishes, fennel and greens an earthy depth. At a nearby table you're likely to see a pile of dark, crispy frites, accompanied by either mussels in a buttery broth or a superbly charred bar steak. For dessert, choose from French standbys like tarte tatin and crème brûlée. Even if you can't live in Paris, you can at least eat like you do.
Table for Two
This bistro is bursting at the seams at almost any time of day so request back corner Table 53, set a little off the frequented footpaths for minimum interference but perfect for people watching.
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