A perfect menu is a menu where every word matters

"Are you ready to order?" Our waiter asked, as he flipped a page over in his order pad.
"Yes," I said. "I have a question, though. The soft-boiled egg, does that only come with one?"
"You can have two," he assured.
"Great, I'll have two. And can I also have a side of berries?"
"Fresh berries?" he looked at me with intent to clarify, his eyebrows raised.
"Yep," I answered. He shifted his gaze towards my friend.
"Can I please have the granola," she began. "But, what kind of fruit does it come with?"
"Well, it comes with cantaloupe, melon... grapes..." I knew what she was thinking even before looking at her, because I felt it too. Distaste.
"Would it be possible to have berries, instead?" She asked.
"Yes, of course," he said. "Fresh berries?"
She hesitated momentarily. "Yes."
He glanced at his pad and back up again. "No croissants, scones...?"
"I think we're okay," my other friend offered.
"Maybe later?" He persisted, ever so slightly, and everyone smiled in awkward amusement.
"Maybe later."

The strawberries were pleasantly sweeter than I expected, the raspberries as good as a good box of Driscoll's, and the blueberries just fine; altogether, they were as fresh-tasting as one could hope for in late March. So, why the emphasis on "fresh"?

It got me thinking about a breakfast I had once in San Francisco, at Hotel Vitale, where I ordered a glass of "fresh orange juice." When it wasn't pulpy like I had hoped, I was confused. My server explained, "it doesn't say fresh-squeezed, it just says fresh."

Later that day, I went to the restaurant's website and studied the breakfast menu for mentions of berries. And I realized this: there are sour cream-hazelnut waffles that come with warm berries. It all made sense; because this is the kind of place where even though warm berries aren't listed in the sides section, you could still request them along with your two soft-boiled eggs. This is what the waiter understood, and what and we did not.

As for Hotel Vitale, while the fresh juice incident was nine years ago, I will say this: their current menu lists "organic juice."

👌
Balthazar
80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
(212) 965-1414