There are two places all New Yorkers try and avoid during the holiday season; Times Square/Rockefeller Plaza and Soho. Lucky for me, I work in Rockefeller Plaza and the only store selling the perfect present for my sister was located in the heart of Soho. I made the trek downtown, emerging on Prince Street into a whirlwind of foreign accents and slow-walking individuals with far too many shopping bags.
After picking up the precious presents, I decided to treat myself to the one place worth splurging and dining at in Soho; Balthazar. This French restaurant is a staple of the area, known for their chronic French Fries, wonderful brunch and loud, bustling atmosphere.
I entered inside, sitting at a table towards the front. All of the individuals around me had Southern accents or spoke a different language, trying to take advantage of the New York dining scene known to all tourists. While this place does scream “touristy” you really can’t beat the quality of food. Everything is extremely simple on the menu, but done right.
Brunch was still being served at 11am on a weekday, which is always a pleasant surprise. I was slightly disappointing I wouldn’t be able to indulge in the best fries in the city, which are cooked three times in peanut oil until they have the most delicious crunch and sweetness from the peanuts. Once you’ve had these fries, you really can’t help but dream about them.
I decided to ordered the Omlette with Herbs and Gruyere and Home Fries, along an Iced Coffee. While people watching and listening to the Southern couple next to me rave about the greatness that is NYC, I picked up a copy of The New York Times, carefully arranged on a table towards the front for patrons to read while dining. I sipped on my coffee, while catching up on the news of the day, waiting for my breakfast to arrive.
According to Wolfgang Puck, you can judge a great chef by his ability to perfect an omelette. Balthazar passed this test with flying colors, as the golden omelette, folded so precisely next to a neat pile of home fries was placed right in front of me. Immediately, I could smell the sweetness of the onions, butter and potatoes.
I dug into the potatoes first, an ultimate weakness of mine. They just seemed to melt in my mouth as the heavens opened up and began to sing. One of the, if not, the best home fries in the city. It has this light, creamy texture to it, transforming a rustic potato into something silky and divine. The sweet, slow-cooked onions, add a different complex layer of flavor and creaminess. If you add salt or ketchup or any condiment to these, you should be shunned. They are absolutely perfect as is.
Then the eggs, cooked to that wonderful golden color, without browning the egg even a little. This is sheer perfection at first glance. Then cutting into the omelette, the stringy, melted gruyere binds with the parsley and scallions, giving a wonderful richness to an otherwise heavy dish. The eggs kept building in richness of flavor, with natural oils oozing from the cheeses, melting into complete perfection. While the eggs might look simple at a first glance, the flavor is divine.
My mom always says at brunch you should order something you can’t make at home. I could only dream of coming close to replicating this dish. The color and taste are only achieved by a master, with a skillet at the perfect temperature, slowly cooking the eggs and adding the herbs and cheese at just the right time. This is brunch. Nothing fancy, just the basics, done right.
The next time you are in Soho, run past the tourists and into Balthazar and order the French Fries. Or anything else on the menu. Even though the prices might be intimidating, you will leave dreaming about the dishes for weeks, months and even years.
Balthazar – 80 Spring Street – New York, NY
Location: Soho, NY
Type: French, Bistro
Perfect For: Chronic Brunch, Special Occasions, Big Groups, Celebrity Sightings
Favorite Dishes: Moules-Frites, Steak Tartare, Herbed Omelette