Balthazar, 80 Spring Street, New York (00 1212 965 1414) Clientele and view Balthazar is all about people, and during its first year, 1998, it was the restaurant to impress your date in. By the time we managed to get in, there were ordinary mortals everywhere. Still, Gina Lollobrigida, striking at 68, was sitting demurely at the next table, so we felt mildly associated with the beautiful people. Two of the most stunning drag queens I have seen - slim, tall, immaculately made-up - were seated behind her. Location Like the rest of the Nineties wave of cool, Balthazar resides in SoHo, though some of its cachet has now moved on, together with its early clientele, to newly-hip TriBeCa. We still found a crowd milling outside on Spring Street, the epicentre of New York galleryland. Design To Europhile New Yorkers - to whom every regional variation on the Continental theme is a novel variation on hip - Balthazar is a Parisian brasserie. With its wood and zinc and retro posters, it also looks

Balthazar, 80 Spring Street, New York (00 1212 965 1414) Clientele and view Balthazar is all about people, and during its first year, 1998, it was the restaurant to impress your date in. By the time we managed to get in, there were ordinary mortals everywhere. Still, Gina Lollobrigida, striking at 68, was sitting demurely at the next table, so we felt mildly associated with the beautiful people. Two of the most stunning drag queens I have seen - slim, tall, immaculately made-up - were seated behind her. Location Like the rest of the Nineties wave of cool, Balthazar resides in SoHo, though some of its cachet has now moved on, together with its early clientele, to newly-hip TriBeCa. We still found a crowd milling outside on Spring Street, the epicentre of New York galleryland. Design To Europhile New Yorkers - to whom every regional variation on the Continental theme is a novel variation on hip - Balthazar is a Parisian brasserie. With its wood and zinc and retro posters, it also looks rather unfortunately like a Stateside Cafe Rouge. Service They know you want to be there and it shows. There was enough haughty disdain to impress a French maitre d'. Romance factor If the allure of the name isn't enough, the intoxication of celebrity by association should do it. Wine list France and California battle it out expensively. We compromised on a luscious Oregon Pinot Noir made by a Frenchman, Joseph Drouhin. Oh yeah, and the food My peppersteak was huge and herbaceous and the cream sauce was beautifully balanced. Sam's skate wing with capers was delicately zingy.

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