Posts Tagged ‘Onion Soup au Gratin’



Cuisine: Authentic French Bistro food.

Visit: February 2012

Price: High

Opened by Keith McNally in the spring of 1997 Balthazar became legendary for its great bread and authentic brasserie-style cuisine that it soon attracted celebrities and the international as well as local power crowd. The bread success accumulated in to opening of the signature Balthazar Bakery next door. What is more, just this month McNally opened Balthazar in London’s Russell Street, so these of you having it far to New York, can savor its celebrity-approved tastes in the London Town. Of course there are plenty of excellent brasseries in Paris, a two-hour Eurostar train ride (London) or a an eight-hour flight (NY), yet now one does not need to spend hundreds of Pounds for a ticket and rather splurge it on a nice bottle of wine at Balthazar.

Atmosphere: The interior is authentic, you feel like at a Parisian brasserie. It is noisy, crowded and immensely popular. The latter due to the celebrity snaps entering, leaving or dining inside Balthazar in tabloid magazines. Reservations even for breakfast and lunch are highly recommended although if you are lucky and do not mind waiting you can get the same food at one of the small tables around the bar, where no reservations are taken. Surprisingly, despite the business the staff is fast and the food arrives promptly.

Grilled fish & lentil salad

Grilled fish & lentil salad


Food: From Le Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée to a juicy Filet de boeuf (steak), all the traditional French dishes are included. There is more though, with a bit of added creativity the chef took some French ingredients and modernized them a bit. For example the delicious and filling Grilled Brook Trout over a warm spinach, walnut and lentil salad, that one can have as a main course for it is really big. The fish was fresh and delicate, the lentils added some freshness and protein-richness and the spinach leaves color and lightness. “C’est parfait avec une verre du vin blanc!“as the french would say. It is indeed ideal with a glass of white wine. A deeper full-bodied Burgundian Chardonnay or Pinot Gris from Alsace would do the job perfectly.

The Seafood Ceviche in the starters is the answer to the fashionable Peruvian additions on the New York’s menus. Raw seafood bar is more traditional brasserie fare and great to start with your bottle of champagne. From the main courses the most typical are the Moules Frites (Steamed Clams), the Steak Frites or the Duck Confit, and perhaps the most adventurous is BALTHAZAR Burger à Cheval. The Horse Meat Burger is a bit contagious to mention now when London is so predisposed with the faux-beef scandal. The british were outraged by the revelation that some of the beef imported from France turned to contain horse meat instead. Well, nobody died and if people enjoyed the taste, then what is the difference? If one is not totally a vegetarian then that seems to me to be quite irrelevant to distinguish which meat one eats (unless it is cannibalism – eating human meat is a unique category I would rather not got myself into).

Back to normal, there are the “Plats du jour“, the Daily Suggestions that change throughout the week available for both lunch and dinner. The menus for lunch and dinner are the same, breakfast, afternoon, Sunday Brunch and After Hours menus are different.

The desserts are baked on the premises and worth trying especially if you come during the afternoon for a cup of coffee or tea.

Drinks: Wine, wine, wine … the list is excellent, with reasonably as well as highly priced wines, it is very French. What I like is that there are plenty of champagnes and wines-by-the-glass to choose from. Just ask the waiter which one he/she would suggest with your meal. I was satisfied with the mineral CHABLIS from Desvignes Ainé & Fils 2011. There are some half-bottles and well-priced wines so you do not have to go for a $200 bottle of Burgundy. From North to South each significant wine-making region is represented, so you might try something less-known, such as the old and uniquely tasting wines from the Jura.

Opening Hours:

Mon-Fri: Breakfast: 7:30 am–11:30 am, Lunch: 12:00 pm–5:00 pm, Dinner: 6:00 pm–12:00 am (Fri till 1am).

Sat: Breakfast&lunch: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, Dinner: 6:00 pm – 1:00 am.

Sun: Breakfast&lunch: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, Dinner: 5:30 pm – 12:00 am

Contact: Tel.: +1 (212) 965-1414

Address: 80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, USA.

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Cuisine: French brasserie in Savoyard style

Visit: January 2013

Price: Medium (starters mostly under €10 and main dishes between €10 – €20).

Les Trois Vallées is a popular ski area in the Northeast of France thus finding a good place to eat on the ski slopes is not too hard. There are huge differences in prices and atmosphere though and some places just have better food than the others. I have been eating at Le Grand Lac for years and I have always found it serving great mountain food for a reasonable price while still maintaining high service standards and the rustic mountain feel.

Le Grand Lac

Le Grand Lac

Atmosphere: During the high season lunch time the restaurant is packed. The dining area is humming with hungry skiers looking for their depleted energy boost, while the terrace is a popular chill-out spot on sunny days. It is very casual. Families, friends and couples, they all cross each other in their ski boots, some with their helmets still on their head. You can reserve a table there, but if you are patient enough and not reeling with hunger you can just come whenever you ski-by. Waiting in one of the comfy beach chairs on the sunny terrace actually is pleasant when the sun shines.

Food: Traditional Savoyard, generous and tasty. This is perfect food for avid skiers in need for energising and comforting food. A plate of the local style pasta or the Onion soup au Gratin are quickly made and satisfy. From the traditional dishes the Croziflette with morels (local type of pasta with morel mushrooms) and the Savoyard toast with melted cheese and side salad are both great options, especially for the cheese lovers. Similar to the later is the Grande Tartine Savoyarde – a slice of country bread with onions, lardons, cream and melted reblochon cheese. It is bigger and has more savoury ingredients than the Savoyard toast.

Melted cheese on toasted bread

Grande Tartine Savoyarde

A slightly lighter cheese delicacy is the Warm goat’s cheese salad with pine nuts. The cheese is served warm inside a crisp pastry and is simply delicious. The lettuce with dressing is crisp and tasty, plus it adds more vitamins to your plate. An ideal dish if you want to ski hard after the lunch as it does not make you feel too heavy cruising down the slopes.

 Goat cheese salad

Goat’s cheese salad

The Tartiflette, Sausages and other simple foods typical in the mountains are also good options. And, of course you can get the typical brasserie fare like the Salade niçoise or

The daily changing Lunch menu consisting of three courses: Salad Grand Lac, main dish and a dessert or cheese. All for less than 20 EUR, excluding drinks.

Drinks: If you are a fan of hot chocolate then try the organic homemade “chocolat chaud” that will warm you up without the side dizzy effect of mulled wine – the “vin chaud” that you can get at Le Grand Lac as well. If it is very cold outside though, why not to try both? The combination of cocoa, sugar and alcohol will surely make you warm! The restaurant’s speciality is its coffee and the Café Gourmand is particularly tasty as it is served with a plate of small sweet treats.

Hot chocolate

Hot chocolate

The wine selection is very local. An excellent opportunity to switch from the Italian Sassicaia or bottle of Chateau La Tour with your lunch to a more humble yet enjoyable bottle of “Vin de Savoie“. The wines from the Savoy region can have many taste facets. Feel like a light and crisp white wine? You can get it. Or something with a flank of meat or a generous cheese dish? You can get a blend of a bolder, bigger wine made in Savoy with plenty of acidity and some tannins like we had (look below). The great news is that these wines will not ruin your valet and work with the local food very well.

Vin de Savoie

Vin de Savoie

Opening season: Open daily usually from 15.12. to 20.04 of the following year.

Address:  Le Grand Lac; Secteur des Allamands; 73440; Saint-Martin-de-Belleville; Les Trois Vallées; France. The access map on the restaurant’s website is more useful when you are on the ski.

Contact: Tel: +(33) 0 479 082 578

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La Frégate

La Frégate’s convenient location across the Seine river from the Louvre and just a few blocks away from Musée d’Orsay makes it a frequent dining spot on my visits to Paris. Authentic and honest French food with a traditional atmosphere are persuasive assets of this brasserie.

Cuisine: French traditional

Visit: April 2012

Price: medium high for Paris

Atmosphere: Families are the most frequented diners here, but also couples and friends come along. It is an elegant and traditional brasserie so not many young, cool and trendy Parisians hang out there. It feels casual, friendly and the service makes it a pleasant dining spot between your browsing through the nearby museums. Many locals frequent La Frégate since it is food is honest and reliable.

Food: From snails through frog’s legs you can savor all the traditional French dishes at La Frégate without fuss and worry that loss of authenticity. I come to this brasserie almost every time I visit Paris and anything I have ordered from the menu has been so far great. The Frog’s Legs are crispy and delicate, much better than the chewy version of this dish in China. Served simply with parsley and garlic, bread is their ideal companion. The Escargots or the Burgundy snails in butter and herb sauce cannot be better. With fresh bread dipping into the buttery sauce this is an excellent dish with a glass of crisp white wine such as Sancere (Sauvignon Blanc) or Puligny-Montrachet (Chardonnay) from Burgundy. Luckily, the French know how to make their bread – always fresh, crisp and simple without any spices, so it goes well with many cheese or sauce-based appetizers.

Les Escargots – Bourgogne snails

The Onion Soup au Gratin with a crust of cheese on the top is a lunch on its own. Intense onion flavor, melting bread and warm goooey cheese stretching like spaghetti when eaten with a spoon. Strangely, I like it for a late breakfast sometimes. Another soup I love here, for its incredible condiments, is the fish soup. La Soupe de Poissons et sa Sauce Rouille is a rich fish soup eaten with a crispy slices of baguette, egg and saffron-based rouille sauce and grated cheese on the top.

French onion soup

Soupe oignon au gratin

If you want to start with something light, La Frégate has a great selection of oysters not only from France and they recommend a bottle of white Pouilly Fumé with it.

From the main courses the Sole Meunière with potatoes is a great pan-fried or sautéed (often you can choose) sole served with amazing rich sauce Meunière consisting of brown butter, parsley and lemon. It tends to be served as a fillet and is quite big so be hungry for that.

La Frégate has such a good selection of cheese that I rarely order a desert there and rather have a cheese plate with a glass of wine. The selection of desserts is very wide so if you feel like Tarte Tatin or Crêpes Suzette please yourself. I have seen many kids enjoying them and sharing unwillingly with their parents as they probably were so good.

Drinks: The wine list is quite small, but good. From a small budget to a more expensive bordeaux and champagne. By the glass and half bottle selection is what I like about this place the most as I do not need to drink too much and savor more types of wine.

Opening hours & contact: Open every day from 11:30am – 11:30pm; Telephone: +33 (0)1 42 61 23 77

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