Tag Archives: MINETTA

Balthazar: Most Disappointing Dinner in Months

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For the past few years I would walk by Balthazar on almost a daily basis. When I didn’t walk by it, I could see the red awnings on the corner of Crosby and Spring as I was running to/from the 6 Train. The place is always bustling, usually with people hanging outside by the entrance waiting for tables. Even when you are not in Soho, it is have to avoid the Balthazar, with their trucks driving around NYC. So last night I made two reservations, one at Saxon + Parole and one at Balthazar. Both have been places I wanted to try for a while, and after eating I regretted my decision.

The Good:

I will start with the waitress’s (Pepper) knowledge of the drink menu. For my first beer, she suggested their Balthazar Ale, which was pretty good. She mentioned it was similar to a Bass – and she was dead on. Always like to try restaurant/bar’s proprietary beers. Not really into the Pale Ale style, but I enjoyed it – however $11.00 for their own beer is a little on the high side. In terms of local Soho Restaurant Beers think Toby’s Public House’s Toby’s Cheap Ale is the better move, and half the price. For the wine, my fiancé asked for something similar to Cab Sav, and the waitress suggested Haut-Medoc, which she really enjoyed.

The fries were really good – which makes sense since this is owned by the same group that owns Minetta Tavern.

The Okay:

For one of our appetizers we chose the Kabocha Squash Risotto, which was served with duck ham, heirloom apples, mascarpone cheese, and pumpkin seed gremolata. This has nice chunks of duck, and all the ingredients went together nicely. The second appetizer we ordered was Chestnut and Ricotta Agnolotti with caramelized fennel, country ham, candied orange zest, and brown butter. This dish was okay, kind of like thinner rectangular raviolis but the orange zest was a little too stronger and overpowered the rest of the flavors. One thing I found strange was that the dishes came out almost within minutes of ordering – which leads me to believe these are pre-made and then just heated up, which if so WHY THE HELL ARE YOU CHARGING $21.00/20.00 per APPETIZER?

One of the mains we ordered the Skate, which was pretty large. My fiancé enjoyed it, came with raisins and pine nuts, which can make anything good.

The Disappointing: 

The Duck Confit! I read so many great things about this online, the waitress said it was great … and I  was really disappointed. The meat, which came over potatoes and mushrooms, was extremely dried out. The skin has no real crisp to it, the only flavor I got from it was burnt dry meat. What made it even worse was I was – I was really looking forward to eating good duck. Over the past few months I have had duck at Dirty French, Gramercy Tavern, PUBLIC, Tao Downtown, Hakkasan – all of which were delicious. After reading all the great things people had to say online, and then trying it – I can only guess maybe it was an off day?

The Bread! One of the other things I was really looking forward to was the famous Balthazar Bread. Their bread is highly regarded as some of the best in the city, so why not get excited. The bread came, my eyes light up, and the taste fell flat. It was nothing special at all. In comparison to somewhere like Il Buco, Peasant …etc Balthazar’s bread was subpar.

The Bill

So for the two glasses of wine, two beers, two appetizers, side of fries, two main courses, and one of their deserts – we are talking $201.00 before tip. I would have much rather spent this elsewhere, and I do not recommend Balthazar to anyone. Don’t buy into the hype, there are dozens of better restaurants in the neighborhood – skip Balthazar.

Minetta Tavern: Best Burger in the World

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So for years I have heard of the infamous Black Label Burger @ Minetta Tavern, usually in the top-five of any Best Burger list. So looking to try not only their coveted, but some other items without paying the hefty price tag – I did what anyone on the Buy Side employee  should do, mention it to one of their brokers, and they will take you. So we scheduled a lunch, invited my boss to gain some brownie points, and the two of us – and the big whigs from [BIG BANK] and headed down to Greenwich Village from our perches on Park Avenue. It was a 2:00 Reservation, and once we sat down I waited for my bosses drink order before I placed mine (always a good idea). The bank asked what we would like to start with, and with complete carte blanche we ordered up a storm. My favorite of the appetizers, Roasted Bone Marrow – until this day, the only time I have had marrow that came close to comparing was TORO Boston. Roasted to a golden perfection, with a butter texture that smeared across the toasted bread they provided. I personally would like to thank the cow that donated it’s shin bones so we could scrape the gelatinous goodness out of. Between the four of us, along with the other appetizers we ordered, we devoured 4 orders of the Roasted Bone Marrow. Now to the main event, The Black Label Burger, which as everyone knows is absolutely amazing. My first bite, I was at a loss for words. Lets start with the meat – comes from one of the finest poureyor of meats, Mr. Pat La Frieda. Prime grade meat, blend of Short Rib, Skirt, Brisket and Dry-Aged Ribeye – which is dry aged and then finished with clarified butter. The only way to show this meat the respect it deserves is to order it up Medium-Rare, anything more would be a mortal sin. The second proponent which should not be overlooked is the caramelized onions. Some say this is done in truffle oil, others the tears of orphans, whatever is in them is nothing short of culinary genius. So take the meat, then add a healthy helping of these onions – which is then place on one of the best buns I have ever consumed. One thing I do not think gets enough praise – the fries. I am a sucker for skinny fries thats are perfectly salted – especially when they are given in massive quantities.

You would think after all that I would have a sense of accomplishment to which I could then move on. Wrong, a few weeks later I took my fiancé to Minetta. We had a 6:00 Sunday Reservation, and she was a little hesitant – which probably could have been due to the fact that she hasn’t had red meat in close to a decade. We happened to be out one day, and she mentioned how much she used to love burgers and loves the smell, so if I was going to reintroduce her – I had to do it the right way.

So she ordered their Pinot Noir, which was from Oregon, and great. I ordered an Arrogant Bastard, and we began the food ordering. We went with two of their specials, and although I would have loved to have her try the marrow – I was happy enough she was ordering the Black Label Burger and trying meat. The Verdict: She liked it a lot, she ate a half – which left me eating 1 1/2  Black Label Burgers, which quickly became one of the best eating days of my life.

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Stone Brewing Company: Levitation Ale

Had this for the first time yesterday while at Mercer Kitchen, second time having something out of Stone Brewing Company – the first was an Arrogant Bastard while at Minetta Tavern. This is definitely more subtle than Arrogant Bastard, being close to 3.0% lower in ABV, definitely cannot consider it an American Strong Ale. The Levitation Ale seems to be considered a Amber Ale or a Red Ale, however definitely has more characteristics of a Red IPA. You pick up the hops from the beginning of the sip, with a little bit of a citrus tasted to it with tones of caramel and toasted malt. On the end, you pick up some of that bitter aftertaste you would expect from an IPA. Definitely would consider this more of a session beer rather than something you can drink all night, but would suggest it if you like both Amber Ales and IPAs.

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