East Village Eats

Food & Drink recommendations straight from the East Village, New York City

Balade

Posted on | January 12, 2010 | by Jason Casséus | No Comments

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I’m not the biggest fan of Middle Eastern food & I’ve never had Lebanese food & know very little about it, so I was not sure what to expect when I went to Balade (208 1st Avenue @11th Street) tonight.  Being the day after the initial opening, it was empty when we arrived so we had the choice of any seat in the joint.  We were greeted pretty quickly by complimentary wine (we chose the 2008 Norton Malbec, they also had a white wine), warm, delicious flatbread & olive oil with sesame seeds.  Currently, they do not have a liquor lisence, so I’m not sure when they will begin to sell alcohol.  We all know that Community Board 3 can be a bit fickle!

I started with the Labneh w/Toum; Lebanese ‘Cream Cheese’ with Cucumber & my friend got the Fattoush; a salad with tomatoes, citrus & toasted pita bread ‘crumbs’ which added extra crunch.  My dish was really garlicky (not a bad thing) with a hint of lemon & was served with warm pita bread.

My main was the Mujaddara Crush platter; a lentil & rice dish & a side of yogurt & cucumber with a hint of mint.  I was sort of freaked out by the fact that this was a cold dish, but it was really good.  It was topped with sauteed onions that were very sweet (vidalia perhaps?)  The side dish was very good too, but was really similar to my starter.

My friend had the Balade lamb platter with rice & the Lebanese Salata; a tomato & red onion salad.  As soon as I tasted the lamb, I wish I ordered it!  Well seasoned, tender & flavorful.  The rice had a sprinkling of cinnamon, sauteed onions & diced almonds. (The cinnamon was an excellent touch)

For dessert, we had ‘thick’ Lebanese coffee which was served in a large beaten copper pot & drank from tiny cups. I ordered the Mouhallabie; a rice pudding & my friend got the Halwet el Jebn; a ‘sweet cheese’, both covered in sweet syrup & pistachios.  My pudding didn’t last long at all.  The super-sweet almost herbal tea-like syrup was amazing!  There was no need to put sugar in our coffee as it would have been totally overpowered. I tried the cheese dessert also.  It had a nougat texture & honestly didn’t really agree with me.

The service was great (albeit the place was virtually empty at 6pm on a Tuesday) & the food was really good.  Although we ordered 6 actual dishes (not including sides), it feels that we didn’t even make a dent in the menu.  No dishes are over $20 (although the fish platter is Market Price). The portions aren’t massive, but I was definitely full by the end of the meal. I really enjoyed myself & will be back to Balade for more!
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