Despite the fact that I love brasserie, I have managed unintentionally to avoid Balthazar until lunch the other week, which started with a very underseasoned, overmayonnaised shrimp & avocado salad while my friend had malpeques that were not fresh. I was very surprised by that and also by the presentation of my steak tartare, which was slopped on the plate and honestly looked like dog food. I don't mean that it wasn't arranged in quenelles as they do at Payard (and I think also at A Voce if I remember correctly); it's chopped meat and I expect it to look like that. But this was a blop and a smear and just unappetizing. It was properly seasoned but I had to do make some cosmetic adjustments before I could approach it. I had thought of Balthazar as a place that would nail oysters and steak in all its forms, so this first encounter was unsettling. Was my experience representative or was that a fluke? I would especially like to hear from others who have had their steak tartare--is it always served that way?
Incidentally the service was very good. The waiter was attentive and well informed, the manager stopped by to express concern about the oysters, and Jude Law held the door for me as I left.