About three weeks ago, I met my friends, Emmanuel and Sonia Hamon, at Balaboosta for brunch. This lovely couple was visiting from Breton, France (geographically, it’s close to Brittany) for vacation. The slightly intriguing thing was that this is their first brunch experience since the French generally don’t have this meal or notion of what New Yorkers (or generalize this further, Americans) about this meal called brunch. I heard good things about Balaboosta so I might as well point them to this restaurant and hope they’ll enjoy it.
To give you some background, Emmanuel is the proprietor, pâtissier and chocolatier of Pâtisserie Hamon based in Breton. His wife Sonia assists him in the business aspect. Interestingly enough, their first trip to New York City (a year ago) inspired his Christmas collection with the New York theme, especially with his Bûche de Noël. Vibrant, colorful cake if you head over to his company’s website.
We were the first to arrive, as none of us has the patience to deal with 30+ minutes of waiting for a table. The first thing we all needed was coffee. After getting some caffeine into our system, I realized this restaurant was pretty charming. Dark wooden floors and tables with windows to have some natural light. A large bookshelf and bar toward the front. It feels cozy.
Emmanuel had the braised short ribs beef hash with sunny side egg and grilled country bread ($17). This is rustic, comfort food that omnivores or carnivores would enjoy. Emmanuel commented that this kind of dish reminds him of home. To have bread served along with his food (his other dining excursions mostly don’t really have bread served with his mains) and the cooking style of the food.
Sonia ordered the grilled spice rubbed skirt steak with patatas bravas and green salad ($17). This was a slightly simpler version of what Emmanuel had. The skirt steak was tender, flavorful and cooked to a perfect rare.
My lamb burger stuffed with herbed goat cheese topped with caramelized onions on a brioche bun, served with patas bravas and pickles ($15) was great but really messy to eat. (Here’s a cross section to get an idea how it was.) The lamb burger was cooked to a medium-rare, as desired. I did anticipate a juicy burger but with the goat cheese melting within, it’s like a three to five-napkin burger to keep wiping off the juices dripping down my wrists. (That’s a good thing.)
After finishing our plates, we’ve asked our waiter to take a photo of us. We did walk around SoHo and I took them to Kee’s Chocolates and Dominique Ansel since they’ve asked me where are good New York chocolates and pastries. We’ve tried a couple of their goods and they were pretty happy with those and brunch. (Thank goodness.)
When we’re about to part our ways, they were really generous and kind to give me gifts. (Pointing below.)
Emmanuel and Sonia bestowed me about a pound and a quarter or so of their confections.
When I opened the boxes, I went slack-jawed to see the gorgeous praline bonbons and orangettes (candied orange peels dipped in chocolate), palm-sized, edible gold painted ganaches, and one of the best salted caramels I’ve eaten in a very long time. Frankly, when it comes to the salted caramels, the French (Emmanuel is using one of the best salted butters in the world – in Brittany) does it very well.
I usually share my chocolates and other confections to friends and family but after trying one of each, I kept them all to myself. They’re that good. I made a mental note to visit Breton and Brittany very soon to see Emmanuel and his wife, as they’re wonderful people to talk to and see how it’s like outside of urban, bobo Paris.
To view more photos of my visit, please click through the slideshow (or view my Flickr set):
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