Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oh Balthazar

When New York City's fave bistro opens in London; it obviously causes a stir. Foodies be raving over the the oysters, the steak tartar, the raspberry soufflé and the cocktails. I wish I could tell you: don't worry it's not all its hyped up to be (and in a way it is not). But to start at the end Balthazar executes a bordering on boring bistro menu best!

Me and my party arrive 30 minutes before our reservation; we are directed to the standing bar and order a round of cocktails. I have the Screaming Viking (tecquilla and lime). It is strong, served on ice and refreshingly delicious.

My Refreshing Cocktail:

We decide that while Balthazar London looks and feel just like Balthazar New York this is also kind of a shame because   this place is brand new and the made-to-look-used paneling, lamps, mirrors and even menu feels camp. However, as our waiter seats us, and we take another sip of our clear and cool cocktails we are enveloped in the enviable service standards and entirely delicious  Balthazar Bistro experience. (Who cares if its made to feel old when it's this comfortable?) 

I order the asparagus with lemon and butter sauce, the steak tartar and of course the raspberry soufflé.

It actually started out pretty disappointing. It is not entirely asparagus season anymore (I know that; I should know better); so while the asparagus were cooked to perfection (crunchy throughout), the taste was not incredible. More importantly the lemon butter sauce was so lemony it had large blotches of juice throughout the sauce. The impression was chewably acidic. Not great. 

Average Asparagus off Season:

Next, the tartar. This is served light with a side of salad and small pieces of toasted baguette. It is very fresh and light and makes for a perfect summer lunch or dinner. If I had to fault one thing, and this is entirely a matter of taste as I recognise many people loves the simple classic version, even so I would point out that it is hardly spiced. As a result when they offer pepper: say yes! Maybe ask for a bit of mustard (I didn't do that, but I will next time). (Note to readers the tartar at Bird of Smithfield is such a good evolution on the classic version that Balthazar serves - see previous post). I have to conclude that I actually can't think of anywhere that does the classic tartar better. That in itself is a massive feat.

Maybe the best classic steak tartar there is:

Last, the soufflé. This is such a highlight! It is so airy and so sweet yet so tart with such decidedly distinct raspberry and, when you pour custard on, sweet vanilla flavours. It is positively exquisite. Honestly I could insert my spoon into this mystifying dense pink foam over and over and over again and sense it as it alters from almost hot soft marshmallow to something subtler in my mouth. It is so good. Worth the 10 minute wait. Worth an average starter. Worth even an evening at what could be an otherwise over-hyped bistro. 

This soufflé: SO good

With that my evening has come to an end.  The service throughout has been impeccable, even as the mojo is just ever so slightly formal when it really doesn't have to be. We see families, young couples dinning with their parents and a lot of older people all apparently enjoying themselves (as are we!). And so I reiterate whether it is for business or pleasure Blathazar is almost certain not to disappoint anyone looking for a good bistro. (3 courses, cocktails, and wine came to £75 per person...basically affordable!)
 
Balthazar on Urbanspoon

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