The New York restaurant scene is constantly changing with places opening and closing all the time; but as in London, there are some places that will always endure.
Balthazar is a traditional French bistro set in a gorgeous converted warehouse. The ceiling is lofty, seating is comfy red leather banquettes or bistro chairs and the atmosphere was buzzy, in fact it was totally full when we arrived for lunch.
Oh, Balthazar, you had me at the wall of wine…
But the fresh seafood counter and piles of freshly baked bread also told me that this was my kind of place…
We decided to stick with our classic favourites.
Mr S chose onion soup gratinee, he loved the thick soup, packed with cheese and caramelised onions. I tried the soup and it was totally delicious though very heavy, it could certainly have been a main course, it was so filling!
My much lighter dish was smoked salmon with classic accompaniments…well would you expect anything else? You can’t really go wrong? Though I’m not a big fan of brioche so I just nibbled at the tasty fresh baked bread already on the table.
I really enjoyed my main course of grilled dorade with fingerling potatoes and romesco sauce.
And Mr S dove head first into a hearty pail of moules frites.
Balthazar is iconic in New York and though the food won’t set your world on fire, the atmosphere is alight!
Another restaurant that didn’t quite make the cut last time was ABC Kitchen
, but it was at the top of the short list this time.
ABC Kitchen is located at environmentally-conscious homeware store, ABC Home, but it’s not just some department store restaurant.
I really loved the rustic decor of the dining room, furnished by the attached stylish home store. My photo doesn’t really do it justice – it actually looks like a messy warehouse! But the bulbs hanging from the ceiling gave starry spots of light and it was actually very romantic.
After being led to our table we settled down to wait to order a drink but the service was very slow. Actually it was one of those annoying things where there seemed to be a lot of waiters and waitresses hanging around talking to each other but not serving the customers…
Fortunately, Mr S was able to order his cocktail, after our short wait, and I stuck with wine for the evening. And while we had the waiter’s attention we quickly ordered our food too!
I’d heard great things about the crab toast so I knew that was what I was going to choose. The toast was beautifully crisp with big sweet hunks of crab and creamy blobs of mayo.
The menu has been created by Michelin star chef Jean Georges Vongerichten and the concept at ABC Kitchen is about creating a healthy relationship with the planet. Vongerichten espouses the farm to table movement and presents a menu that is free of pesticides, insecticides and any other nasties. Everything is sourced from regional farmers and fair-trade cooperatives so it’s no wonder the crab tasted so wonderfully fresh.
We also chose the tuna sashimi, it was fab and I’d been a little unsure as it was marinated with ginger and mint which seemed a little unusual to me but the combination worked very well.
I’ve mentioned before Mr S is something of a foodie heathen, and one of his favourite restaurants is KFC, when he saw buttermilk fried chicken on the menu, he knew he was in for a treat! As you can see the portion was HUGE!! And yes…he ate it all….
My dish wasn’t quite so successful. Black bass with chillies, spinach and basil. It was rather flavourless, with rock hard potatoes.
I actually sent it back.
‘I’m surprised,’ I said to Mr S, ‘This restaurant is raved about’
‘Yes, but we weren’t that fond of his other restaurant either’
This was true, we’d actually visited the chef’s flagship three Michelin star restaurant, Jean Georges
, last time we were in New York and had a similar mixed experience.
I ordered some salmon sashimi instead…salmon is always my fall back plan.
But, to be honest I wasn’t a fan of this either. I don’t think salmon should be covered in a creamy sauce, it’s already fatty and all the oil is just too much…I had a few bites but I wasn’t really hungry by that point anyway!
So in summary, a pretty mixed experience but, it’s always so hard to judge a place on just a few dishes so I would suggest checking out some other reviews as I think it’s still worth a look.
I still have a massive list of places to visit in NYC and I hope to have another chance to return again soon.
80 Spring Street
35 East 18th Street