80 Spring St
(between Crosby St & Broadway)
New York, NY 10012
The first time I came to NYC as an “adult,” I was a college sophomore rebelliously skipping Friday classes to make the 5-hour trek to the big city. The only meal I distinctly remember having was at Balthazar. We went for dinner and I remember it feeling super NYC… busy, trendy, with a hint of stuffiness. I hadn’t returned since…until Y.N. invited me to join her and L.N. for brunch. LAW and I decided to go for the bread (they have a bakery next door known for its baguettes) and for the company, of course.
Y.N. read my mind and asked if we could share the bread basket ($21.00). L.N. was on the same page and had apparently already asked for a bread basket… on the house. L.N. manages a number of restaurants in NYC, including Dos Caminos (which I need to check out), so he has the hook-ups. For a bakery that supplies so much bread to numerous restaurants and cafes in Manhattan, I expected more from Balthazar’s bread basket. It wasn’t bad. The croissant was buttery and light. The pecan sticky bun was fresh and properly glazed. The golden raisin walnut bread was dense and flavorful. But nothing stood out… the breads weren’t particularly moist, chewy, soft, or crusty. The bread wasn’t hot or cold. It was room temperature. Really nothing to write home about. Continue reading
218 Lafayette St
(between Kenmare St & Spring St)
New York, NY 10012
We had a big dinner here to celebrate J.P.’s birthday. M.C. and J.H. organized everything and J.H. even crafted a set family-style menu ($80 each) so that we could try a bit of everything. If it weren’t for this family-style meal, I probably would have had only two things: free bread and pasta. After having tried half of their menu now, I can say that the free bread and pasta were the highlights of my meal anyway and will probably be the things I have the next time I’m there. I’m thinking of starting a “free bread” ranking… to rank the restaurants with the best free bread. If a restaurant takes the time and energy to serve you warm, delicious, buttery rosemary rolls, or in the case, airy light focaccia drenched in olive oil, you start the meal with a smiling face and happy belly. Only good things can ensue. Thoughts?
We started with the Five-Choice Crostini (normally priced at $28), which consisted of towers of crostini, also drenched in olive oil, and five different types of dip. From left to right: 1) fresh pea, fava bean, mint & crispy speck; 2) smoked trout, olives, and sour cream; 3) roasted beets, shallots, and ricotta (which the waiter made sure to pronounce as rhee-KOE-DA); 4) buffalo ricotta and nepitella pesto; 5) veal crudo and tonnato. It was nice to see that the kitchen paid such close attention to every dip. It was clear that every single one was crafted with care and meant to shine on its own. Not one was just thrown in as a filler. My favorite was the smoked trout, olives, and sour cream. It was like a tuna salad on crack. The smoked trout was so smokey in flavor and went very well with the slight tartness of the olives. Sour cream added an extra creaminess that mayo alone couldn’t provide.
We also had the Polpettine Prosciutto and Mortadella (a large Italian sausage) Meatballs baked in tomato sauce (normally priced at $10). I did not know that the meatballs were made with prosciutto and mortadella during dinner as I never saw a menu and definitely wasn’t able to distinguish the unique meats through taste. I do remember the meatballs being extremely robust. Each ball was hearty as hell and very tasty, though it could have been a bit more tender. Parisi Bakery’s meatballs still win in my book. We also had the Insalata Mista (normally priced at $12), which was a mixed green salad with spring vegetables, salumi, and parmigiano. The spring vegetables were pickled, which I happen to like a lot. However, the dressing itself was a strong vinaigrette; once combined with the pickles, seemed a bit too sour overall.
62 Prince St
(between Lafayette St & Crosby St)
New York, NY 10012