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Birthday Dinners at Batard

December 28, 2014

A birthday celebration at the end of August for JL and a belated one for me at Batard, the new restaurant occupying the space that Corton had held for so long in Tribeca.  I had read some rave reviews for the spot but also was made aware of its pitfalls, including what seemed like a rather stiff and formal dining room that much needed sound proofing with its at times older clientele.  That said, the praises for the food here were so overwhelmingly positive that I decided to push aside any reservations we had as we walked into the dining room of Batard to in order to fully appreciate our meal here.

Wines and a cocktail to start off the night – the milk punch with a base of myer’s rum and batavia-arrack and hints of pineapple and clarified milk came highly recommended by our waiter.  The drink arrived tableside in an adorable glass bottle and a cute little reminder to drink up.

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We nibbled on warm rolls and debated how we wanted to structure our dinner.  The menu at Batard is unique in that it offers the diner an option of a 2-, 3-, or 4-course prix-fixe.  And for those without a sweet tooth like BF, the restaurant is more than happy to allow you to substitute an extra appetizer in its place.  We all agreed that we might overindulge by each ordering a 4-course meal.  In the end, we figured that the best way to taste our way through the menu was by ordering a 2-, 3-, and 4-course complete with an addition of a cheese course, something else that the restaurant was happy to accommodate.

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The first appetizer to arrive tableside was the chilled sweet corn soup with lemon balm, scallops and apple balsamic.  The silky smooth corn soup was poured over the sweet lobes of scallops and the overall tone of the dish was balanced by the lemon balm and apple balsamic.  The subtle flavors of the soup was delicate and sophisticated, a lovely representation of the summer gone by.

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As we savored the corn soup, the rest of our appetizers arrived.  The octopus pastrami was one dish that was mentioned in every review that I had read so this was a must have and it did not disappoint.  The terrine looked like a thin beautiful marbled slice, firm yet tender.  With a dab of mustard, these ate well on top of the bread we were given or on their own.

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One bite of the yellowfin tuna and we were all agreed that this was the one of the best dishes of the night.  Firm slices of the tuna was lightly marinated and served on a bed of toasted quinoa for a crunch.  Thin slices of marinated radishes added a bright note to the dish.  A quenelle of tuna provided a duo of textures, this time blended into a smooth puree.

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Lastly, we rounded out the appetizer portion with a Maine lobster course.  The lobster was gently poached and served with vibrant green asparagus, fried zucchini blossom, a tiny quail egg and some citrus rind.  I wanted to love this dish but the flavors lacked a bit of spark that the prior three had.

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We moved onto the main course with chicken schnitzel, a Viennese special, pounded thin and fried until a greaseless golden crust had formed.  We had doubts about how good a schnitzel can taste but this really showed us how tender a thin piece chicken can be despite being deep fried.  The accompanying German style potato salad and slaw were great side dishes and the Lingonberry jam as perfect with the crispy chicken.

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I have always had my reservations about whether or not veal really deserves the high praises it often gets but Batard happily proved me wrong with their veal tenderloin “tramezzini”.  The tenderloin pieces were cooked to a perfect medium rare, evenly pink throughout and were wrapped in a thin almost invisible piece of swiss chard and then a golden pastry crust.  A few pieces of snap peas and a lobe of sweetbread plus a drizzle of sauce completed the dish.  The veal was tender and flavorful, unlike many others that I have had that were rather forgettable.

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And finally, a piece of perfectly moist piece of Atlantic halibut served with butternut squash, grilled lettuce and pumpkin seed vinaigrette.  Even though this might have sounded like the least exciting entree of the three, I was still amazed at quickly we devoured the entire plate.

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In lieu of a third dessert, we opted for the cheese course and left our selection up to our waiter.  He presented us with a trio of cheeses that spanned the flavor spectrum.  Two local Northeast cheeses, a creamy Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert and a sharp Baley Hazen blue, were served with an Pyrenees Breibs from the Bearn region of France’s Pyrenees Mountains.  We had a hard time deciphering the names even though our waiter tried his best to shout above the now rather noisy dining room.  I had just given up trying to figure out the names and was happily experiencing the cheese when the waiter surprised me with a hand written note of the names.  A thoughtful touch indeed!

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A few sweet notes to finish our meal.  The caramelized milk bread was easily one of the best desserts I have had all year.  The brioche bread had a perfect golden brown caramelized crust that yielded easily to my fork, revealing a barely sweet tender buttery center.  The blueberries and brown butter ice cream on the side were just the icing on the cake.

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And speaking of cake, there had to be cake of course for the birthdays!  A slice of dense sacher torte, a special for the night, was served with three different toppings of spiked whipped cream, creme fraiche and sour cream.

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As if we needed more sweets to end our night, three airy pieces of almond marzipan cookies arrived with our check.  We were too full to finish all three and our waiter was more than happy to pack away the rest and a few more for us to take home for the next day.

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Even though I had tempered my expectations about my experience at Batard when we arrived, by the end of the night, I had completely fallen in love with this newcomer to Tribeca.  Everything about the meal from the delicious food and the flexibility of the restaurant to the hospitality of the staff down to every little details amazed me.  If you can look past the slightly off beat atmosphere and decor and the at times rather loud dining room, you will be in for a great dining experience.

Batard | 239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013 | http://batardtribeca.com/batard.php

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