My husband, myself and another couple decided to have an elegant evening out, so we planned to have dinner and drinks and then go to an art gallery opening. Our friends suggested we try Balzac, and since none of us had been there and we all wanted to try it, we decided to start our evening out there.
What a huge mistake! Don't get me wrong...it seemed like the ideal place: the decor is beautiful, and the crowd very upscale, but I have to say we were very disappointed when we left.
We started the evening at the bar, which was fine, but then moved to a table to have dinner and more drinks. Our waiter came over and introduced himself as the floor manager (I think his name was Pete, but I'm bad with names so this could be wrong). He explained the Balzac concept to us (small plate/tapas like dining) and a fine wine list. We ordered and the first course arrived with no problems.
Our first two dishes were the seared scallops and the marinated mushrooms. The scallops were delicious and cooked to perfection. However there were only two scallops, and although they were very large, the price tag of around $10.00 seemed excessive. Also they were served on a bed of sweet potatoes that had been pureed to a baby food consistency which I found unpleasant, and even though the flavor of the sweet potatoes was pleasant, it seemed mismatched with the scallops. Also there was a mound of spinach on top of the sweet potatoes and the combination of the wilted spinach and the pureed sweet potatoes did not work well together at all. The other dish, marinated mushrooms, was a small bowl of crimini mushrooms which were okay, but nothing special.
Our second round became much more problematic. Our food arrived before our drinks, and even after the guys at our table got their Manhattans, it was even further down the road before I received my second glass of wine. Our server never came to the table to explain the wait, and even after I tried to get his attention, it was quite some time before he came over to check on us and deliver my wine.
Our next course consisted of a tenderloin on garlic mashed potatoes with a wine sauce and deep fried shrimp with a chili sauce. Both dishes were very well prepared and we liked the shrimp so much that we ordered another. We received this dish from another server, and then our waiter and another waiter attempted to deliver more shrimp to our table, each time we had to explain to the server that we had already received our shrimp, which was quite an interruption. Also, for each round we should have been given new plates, but we had to ask for them with our dessert course, as they were really unusable at this point. I would have preferred new plates with each round.
It took us quite a while to order dessert as well, because no one ever checked on our table to see how we were doing, get us more water or offer more drinks. When our waiter did come over three of us wanted coffee with dessert. We wanted it with our dessert course, but it came out second. Our coffee really was delicious, it is their house roast from Anodyne Coffee, and it was so wonderful the other person at our table decided to order coffee as well, but it took forever for us to get our waiter's attention.
When the check came, we had been charged for an additional shrimp order and an additional glass or wine. We never received any apologies for the obvious service problems, but the items that hadn't been ordered were promptly removed from our check.
Our bill was around $160.00, and we all really felt cheated. Not that we don't understand small plate dining, but this is really, really small plate dining. The idea for tapas is that you get appetizers sized portions with appetizers sized prices. This portions were smaller than appetizers and priced higher. The ingredients were pretty common place as well, so the pricing wasn't a result of the dearness of the dishes.
The only draw to return to Balzac for me would be the extensive wine list, many of which you can order by the glass. My husband figured out that each bite of food was about $2.50. A price unearned in my book. The terribly inattentive service, though ruined any chance my wanting to dine there again, especially as our waiter proclaimed he was the floor manager in the dining room. If HE couldn't handle two tables (the restaurant was NOT crowded at all), what are the chance of those under his watch being good servers?
If you like wine, try sitting at the bar, but if you like to dine, Balzac drops the ball!