There was only one reason I was eating at Balthazar this morning — brioche French toast. I had never had it before but Sooj’s raving about it during our regular IM sessions about eating got me fixated on trying it. I mean, does brioche really make the difference between good French toast and great French toast? The answer is “yes.”
Why Balthazar? Well, during my online research preceding our trip, it was one of the only places that served it as part of their regular breakfast menu and not just during Sunday brunch. I had no idea that it was one of those places where you might see a celebrity or two, or that it’s actually pretty famous on its own. All I knew was that they had what I was looking for, and it was walking distance from my friend’s place, so I made a reservation.
We were seated promptly on arrival at 10am and the restaurant was already bustling. It’s very loud and busy, even at breakfast, and it was everything I ever imagined a New York restaurant would be. I wonder what this place is like at dinner. We started our breakfast with an apple galette and a homemade doughnut. The galette wasn’t very big, but was the perfect breakfast “appetizer.” The apples were tart and the pastry was buttery and flaky. It would also make a perfect dessert. The doughnut was a light, cake donut with a bit of sugar sprinkled on top. This was also good, and I’m not normally a fan of cake doughnuts.
My wife ordered scrambled eggs with asparagus and wild mushrooms in a puff pastry. The scrambled eggs were perfect and you could tell that the eggs were very fluffy, a sign of fresh eggs. You could taste every buttery layer of eggs but it wasn’t heavy at all. The puff pastry was perfect, and my wife was happy because we had been having bad luck with puff pastry at restaurants in the last few months.
My brioche French toast was great. The thick slices of light, eggy bread were topped only with powdered sugar and two slices of applewood smoked bacon and served with a side of syrup. One bite and I was hooked. the crust was super crispy but not burnt, and I proceeded to cut the corners off the French toast to maximize the amount of crust in each bite. The bread was soft and pillowy and soaked up the syrup nicely. I normally like my bacon crispy, which wasn’t the case with Balthazar’s bacon, but I didn’t care because the smokey flavor that permeated the meat more than made up for it.
This New York trip, coupled with my addiction to Yelping and eating out, has helped me understand why people pay a little bit more money for good food. The simplicity of Balthazar’s French toast paired with only a side of bacon may seem sparse and cost twice as much when compared to your typical American restaurant breakfast. I mean, I could have easily gone to IHOP or Denny’s for French toast with eggs and bacon/sausage and hash browns, etc. and that would have filled me up, but was it really satisfying? Even when combined with the galette and the donut, our breakfast at Balthazar was both excellent and extremely satisfying without putting us into a food coma for the rest of the day.