Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Can Always Judge a Restaurant by it’s Restrooms

It was my son Dash’s birthday yesterday, and our whole family went out to dinner at Bar Baloud, the wine bar run by Daniel Baloud, which is across the street from Lincoln Center. It was a bit crazy getting us all there mid-week – Kate had a singing lesson after school, then had to rush to get to the restaurant; Glen and Dash came from home (and were actually on time); and I thought I could work miracles and take a cab instead of the train (wrong!) and ended up getting there 15 minutes late. By the time I got there, Dash had polished off the bread basket at least once, and was practically gnawing on the table. Since he had already read the menu, though he was quick to place his order.

We were all excited to see that there were two non-alcoholic drinks on the menu. Dash and Glen ordered the Rosemary Lemonade (rosemary syrup, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and sparkling water) and I ordered the Hibiscus Tea Soda (made from hibiscus syrup, and also served with sparkling water.) Kate played it safe with, you guessed it, a Virgin Mojito! After one sip, Dash and I quickly switched our drinks with each other. The Hibiscus Tea Soda was very sweet, while the Rosemary Lemonade tasted like, well, Rosemary. I loved it, but Dash preferred the sweeter drink.

After ordering, I made a quick trip to the Ladies restroom, which is downstairs from the main dining room. You pass a beautiful hallway, with wine bottles stored in racks on both sides, a private dining room on one end, and an alcove with a skylight. By the time I got out of the ladies room, I couldn’t remember which doorway led to the stairs, so I wandered up and down the hallway a couple of times before a waiter stopped me from entering the kitchen and pointed me through the right door. (OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I have absolutely no sense of direction. I worked in an office building for six years that had elevator banks on both sides of the hallway. Once I got on the elevator, I never remembered which side I was on, and I always went the wrong way. I never even thought it was an issue until Glen came to my office with me one morning and couldn’t believe I turned the wrong way!) That said, the food was a little bit like the ladies room – there were some good things on the menu, but sometimes my taste buds got a little lost.

Dash is a burger fan, but both he and Kate settled for the Steak Frites, while Glen and I were a bit more adventurous. I ordered a potato leek soup to start, and scallops with polenta, and Glen had pate to start, then fennel soup and a cauliflower gratin for dinner. In order to get a full picture, you have to understand the seating arrangements at our dinners out. Glen and Kate do not really like to share what they order, while Dash and I like to sample everything on the table – sometimes more than once. Dash also likes other people to experience what he’s eating, so he’ll often insist that I try his burger – “Really, mom, this is the best burger I’ve ever had!” So Dash and I sit on one side of the table, while Glen and Kate sit on the other, just to keep us all happy.

Dash took one taste of my potato leek soup, then proceeded to polish off most of it. I had to beg to get it back. Luckily for me, Glen didn’t want all of his pate, so when he was finished eating, he passed it over to me. Kate preferred to wait for her steak.

My scallops were delicious – but two measly scallops sliced thinly and arranged across a bed of polenta did not really seem up to the same caliber of the kids steaks, fries and salad (and the scallops were more expensive!) I was especially jealous of the little cups of ketchup and mayonnaise that were served to go with the fries – I had instant memories of making fry sauce at the fast food restaurant where I worked in high school. I LOVE fry sauce! I refrained, though, from stealing all of Dash’s fries, and instead waited for him to offer me half of his steak (which he did!) and instead I indulged in the dipping my meat in the béarnaise sauce that accompanied it. Newsflash: béarnaise trumps fry sauce!

Dessert was pretty typical. Kate ordered something chocolate. I can’t describe it because she didn’t share! Dash ordered passion fruit/raspberry sorbet (go figure, the kid loves sorbet!) and Glen and I split a rhubarb/lichee nut dish. (Loved the rhubarb, but does anyone really like lichee nuts?)

I had made our reservation online with OpenTable, and had made a note that it was Dash’s birthday, and asked if we could we get a candle in his dessert. I forgot about it until the waiter brought Dash’s plate, with a little “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate sauce and a square of gelee with a lighted candle sticking out of it.

Dash did, indeed, have a happy birthday!


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