Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SoHo on the Seine New York Entry #31

What makes New York the only truly global city in the United States is its ability to contain the best of the world's culture on its streets and avenues. Many cities - Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami, once-and-perhaps-again New Orleans have worthy restaurants, but only New York has the range of restaurants that if they are not quite truly transplants, at least can pass for authentic if one is a gentle critic.

Balthazar in Soho is a adequately faithful rendition of a fin de siecle Parisian brasserie (the distinction between a brasserie and a bistro is perhaps most evident in that Steak Frites is the signature dish at the former and a bar is much in evidence. The brasserie is a bistro with balls).

Balthazar is not demure or restrained. Bustling is a fitting adjective. Loud is another. The food lacks subtlety, but makes up for this absence with robust charisma.

As a starter I selected Grilled Sardines with Roasted Eggplant, Arugula, and Basil. It was everything that might be wished. I particularly enjoyed the smoky grilled fish. If not delicate, it was as boisterous as Balthazar itself. The flavorful, pungent eggplant salad matched the sardine bite for bite.

My entree was Roasted Monkfish, Apple Smoked Bacon, Creamed Leeks, and Bordelaise Sauce. The combination of bacon and leeks merged two heavily marked tastes with a hearty monkfish. In such company the Bordelaise Sauce was a good match, not overpowering the other ingredients.

As dessert, I selected the tarte du jour: Fig-Raspberry Galette with Frangipane and a scoop of Toasted Almond Ice Cream. The galette was a disappointingly tough pasty sheet, but the fruit, almond cream, and almond ice cream were a soothing ending to a meal that succeeds in its terms, encouraging for a moment the fantasy that one was dining in SoHo on the Seine.

80 Spring Street (at Broadway)
Manhattan (SoHo)

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