It was my Mom's birthday last night, so my brother & I took her to Balthazar (80 Spring Street). We had tried to go to Blue Ribbon (97 Sullivan St.), but the Maitre D' informed us that it would be an hour or more for a table. It was freakishly hot yesterday as well as being a Saturday, so we knew it would be busy, but not that busy. So, we decided to go to Balthazar & didn't fare much better.
Balthazar can be somewhat imposing & upon opening the front door, our senses were barraged. The smell of the various foods, the sight of the sheer size of the place with it's staff doing what looks like a choreographed dance, the sounds of hundreds of people eating & chatting & the feel of 75 or so people waiting for tables & brushing up on you. We didn't get to the taste part until an hour later, & that was with preferential treatment as my brother knows the Maitre D', Kevin.
We were finally seated in an area away from the door, with far less foot traffic which made for a far more pleasant/comfortable dining experience than those who were sitting by the door or bar. I was still recovering from the night before, so I drank San Pellegrino all night, but my brother did order an excellent '05 Sancere which I had a few sips of. The wine list simply blew my mind. I thought it was only the front & back of a large sheet of paper, but it actually opened up to reveal 2 inner pages - over 400 wines; amazing!
We started with a dish known simply as 'Le Grand'. A towering, two-tiered monster of selections from the raw bar along with a seafood salad, crab & gigantic shrimp. We also ordered half a dozen Fanny Bay oysters for good measure.
Stefan ordered the Sat. special; Braised short ribs, which fell off the bone at the slightest touch. He also got a glass of Syrah-Grenache blend which he seemed to enjoy. I got the duck shepherds pie which I thought was so-so (that having been said, my taste buds were still recovering from the whiskey beating they had taken from the night before). We ended the night with coffee & a chocolate cake for my Mom.
All in all, an excellent experience. Don't let my horror story of the wait deter you from checking Balthazar out. The food is excellent & the service is among the best I've ever had (our waiter, Provost was awesome) despite the huge number of people dining. You can thank me later...