New York City’s best answer to real French cuisine is Balthazar Restaurant on Spring Street in Soho.
After a week of real American restaurant food, I took my husband to Balthazar for a meal his stomach could understand without an interpreter. He was overjoyed. “I know everything on the menu,” he joked. “They’ve captured the Parisian brasserie pretty well. And the service is better.”
We began our meal with a glass of champagne followed by an entrée (appetizer) of rillettes de lapin et porc (a pulled porc and rabbit pate – I know, I know…). I ordered Bouillabaisse (a fish and seafood soup with hints of saffron and garlic) which came in a classic French cast-iron pot. My other half delved into a Boeuf Stroganoff, a meal reminiscent of his childhood, even if it is a little less than French in origin. The bread was magnificent, a true pain de campagne served with whipped butter (the American touch).
The food at Balthazar is authentically French, even if the name isn’t, as are the servers in long white aprons, black pants and ties, the endless glass bottles of tap water, the cloth napkins with red stripes just like at home. The deco is true Parisian brasserie, save for the storey-and-a-half high ceiling which you rarely see in Paris and the modern single-gender bathrooms (an American luxury). Pricey as we would expect from a speciality restaurant, reservations are
As far as I’ve come across, Balthazar is the best representation of French cuisine and atmosphere in the city. I thought so before I left for Paris and now that I know intimately what the real thing is, the restaurant still gives me that transported feeling. It is a true taste of Paris right here in NY.