I passed by Balade every day for six months on the way home, and finally after much lurking outside, I decided to check it out. The verdict: leaps and bounds better than I expected. The prices are very reasonable, the interior is well-designed, and the menu selection is perfect for carnivores and vegetarians alike. So unlike most of our restaurant outings, my boyfriend (a recovering vegan) and I (an absolute omnivore) both left happy. And trust me, this is not an easy feat.
Carnivorism and vegetarianism aside, if you love bread, you’ll love Balade. Everything with bread at Balade tastes good. We knew this was going to be the case when a warm basket of housemade bread arrived at the table. These hollow poofs which were all crust filled with steam were a good way to start the meal. They hinted of bready greatness, but didn’t fill us up so we couldn’t enjoy the rest of our meal.
Dipped in a mixture of green olive oil, sesame seeds, and sumac — in which I added a little salt — the bread was even better.
There are six salads to choose from at Balade. We went with the Fattoush ($9), a traditional pita chip topped Lebanese salad made with chopped romaine hearts, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, bell peppers, and parsley tossed in a very light dressing of pomegranate molasses, sumac, and extra virgin olive oil. It was a decent salad with a lot of crunch, but nothing too exciting. Order this as a side to something else, not as a main.
David ordered for his entrée the Vegetarian Mazmeez ($15), a platter of four appetizers of your choice served with warm thin pita bread. He chose warak einab (stuffed grape leaves), baba ghanouj, falafel, and labneh with toum. Besides the dense soggy falafels, all were quite good, especially the labneh, a garlicky cream cheese dip made from Greek yogurt. Slathered on thin pita bread, the creamy tanginess came across wonderfully.
I ordered the Lahme Baajin ($12), a Lebanese pizza-like creation topped with ground beef, diced onions, and tomatoes. I say pizza-like because it was pizza-like in shape, but more bready like flatbread. Nothing wrong with that, I love bread. And although it wasn’t spicy, as described on the menu, I liked the peppery seasoning of the beef and the juiciness imparted by the tomatoes.
Dessert didn’t disappoint either. We decided to share the Kenafa ($5), a savory and sweet baked cheese dessert made with stringy housemade cheese, topped with crushed pistachio nuts, and drizzled with sweet syrup. The waitress had said it was like a Lebanese cheesecake, but more savory, it was better than either of us had expected.
Which again, save for the falafel and fatoush, was our general feeling about everything we ate at the restaurant. David and I will continue duking it out at other restaurants, but at Balade we’ll return to break bread.