Balthazar is how restaurants rolled before they went all share plate and put cutlery in tomato tins. That’s not to say it’s old fashioned. It’s as cool as craft ale, with its exciting and engaging food designed NOT to share to its walls of terroir-driven wines and staff who moonlight as mind readers.
Our helpful waiter steered us toward an aged, to pair with oysters and mussel escabeche? Perfect. The wine list is carefully curated by co-owner and winewonk Ferguson. It is a lengthy and interesting document and for many diners, a journey into the unknown.
New chef Luke Wakefield continues the wow factor of his predecessor with prettily plated taste bombs. Think slivers of cured swordfish topped with creamy goat’s curd, or seared duck breast dotted with pecans and beetroot leaves. Wakefield, a farm-to-plate man, has made the menu his own, with an intense focus on local produce from pork to Freo mussels.
And, if anyone could make beef tongue look good, Wakefield’s up for it – presenting the oft-neglected delicacy as a lick of tenderness with crisp parsnip chips and a pickle for fun. Balthazar offers a captivating and memorable experience.
You’ll more than likely have a love affair with the venue too. It is one of the sexiest basement restaurants in the city. Lunch-a-lot wine-lovers have been known to stay on well after dark in this moodily-lit, sophisticated den which says jazz basement (it’s not, it just has that vibe) and high-end dining room in equal measure.