Restaurant Review: Balthazar

Should I feel… outmoded? unfashionable? just plain out of touch? Cos, seriously, up until a couple of months ago, I had never ever heard of Balthazar. Yet, several internet lists rate Balthazar as one of the top restaurants in Perth [1], and it’s apparently been open for ten years or more [2]. So, somewhat intrigued (and after finding that Star Anise was all booked out for the night) we forayed there for my dining partner’s (MDP’s) birthday, even though it wasn’t even in the Entertainment Book!

I’d read in several reviews that the lighting in Balthazar is fairly low and it is quite dim – possibly bordering on hazardous, but pleasant all the same. Likewise, the music was pretty loud for what one would expect in a higher class restaurant. However, while ‘loud and dim’ doesn’t sound particularly appealing, the overall feel was intimate and lively (and the music was good). Service was very attentive to start with; water in our glasses was continually refreshed and we received our wine and shared starter (a tasting plate of *most* *excellent* carrot soup, a fine duck roll, a -meh- smoked wagyu carpaccio on cracker[3] and a *very* *good* fried goat’s cheese ball) in quick succession. However the wait between removal of the entree plate and the arrival of the main course was long, long enough for MDP to start one of his favorite activities – using his phone’s stopwatch to see how long we would be waiting for attention. Altogether it was a good 30 minutes plus before the mains arrived. When they did, my rabbit leg was impressively de-boned and rolled, but lacking zing. The accompanying leek risotto was fantastic, however. MDP’s venison (the bit he gave to me anyway) was tender and full flavoured, though apparently it was difficult to cut.

We were undecided about dessert (particularly given we had truffle cake at home already), but they *just* managed to make it from clearing our main plates to asking us if we wanted to see the dessert menu in the 15 minutes we’d given them and I was kind of interested in the item in french in which I could only understand the words ‘cheese’ and ‘beetroot’ and so we ordered one of those to share.

What arrived was five beetroot slices/crisps, fried or baked, each filled with a blob of a sweet cheesecake-like filling. While probably creamcheese-based it also had hint of blue cheese, which gave it a *fantastic* edge. Combined with the walnut and beetroot garnishes, the dessert was impressive, but marred by the chewiness of the beetroot crisps (i.e. they weren’t crisp). If the crisps has been crisp, the dessert would have become a stand out in my memory. As it is, I’ll always remember it with a tinge of regret.

Details: Balthazar, 6 The Esplanade, Perth 6000 WA. Phone: (08) 9421 1206 (Colour me crazy, but I’m not at all sure they actually have a website!)

Service: There were lots of wait staff and service was good to start with. The long wait for our main course marred the experience though.

Food: Overall, excellent food and you could tell that quality produce had been used. However, servings were on the small side and I do feel that, after a two course meal (three courses, with entree and dessert shared), I shouldn’t come home and feel the need (want?) for two pieces of toast. Some aspects of our meal bordered on sublime (some parts of the entree and the dessert), the rest (mains included) were solid but ultimately unmemorable.

Mark-up: MDP chose the Agly Brothers Cote du Roussillon 2004 (shiraz, carignan, grenache) and was rewarded with a most excellent drop. We paid $64 for a bottle that might retail for $39 (it seems difficult to buy, a real pity), making it about a 64% mark up, which actually seems pretty reasonable.

Conclusion: A good meal, but not a great one. I can’t help feeling that now we’ve ‘done’ Balthazar, we probably won’t feel the need to return. Anyone who can get us a couple of bottle of the Agly Brothers, however, should get in touch!!

Rating: 8/10

Balthazar on Urbanspoon

[1] Though, courtesy of Palace Foods, it ain’t in the most recent top 10 for Perth from Gourmet Traveller.

[2] In my defence, 10 years ago I was still an underpaid PhD student, and unlikely to be forking out more than $20-30 for a dinner out, if I could help it. (And after finishing I went AWOL O/S for 4 years too).

[3] I think an unsmoked fresh carpaccio would have been better

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