First Dinner at Balade – NYC
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.
208 1st Avenue (b/n 12th & 13th St; map)
New York, NY 10009
The Lebanese pizza sounds very interesting! I’m assuming it didn’t have any type of sauce lathered on it. Was it dry at all? Balade is definitely a place I gotta try! Thanks for making light on some good places to eat in the east village.
I really love your food blog because your reviews & restaurants that you eat at are not pretentious! From funky chinatown to the east village to the other side of the hudson. Keep up the great reviews & writing style! Fists up from a jersey guy to a jersey gal!
@Pat – No sauce, and no it wasn’t dry at all because of the tomatoes. And even though I’m not a jersey gal (grew up in NY), thanks for the kind words! I pump my fist for you and all my other NJ readers!
I’ve wanted to try Balade for brunch. TOo bad you didn’t sample the hummus because that’s what I’m curious about (vegetarian who adores hummus :P) Thanks for sharing your dinner!
haha, recovering vegan. that’s right, vegans need to recover yo. The Lebanese pizza looks awesome. 1st ave between 12 and 13 though. I’m never ever there, but next time I’ll try to remember this restaurant.
@kim – We were thinking we eat hummus all the time (at home and out) so we wanted something else. Yeah, I need to try Balade for brunch too. Soon soon….
@Danny – Yeah, the pizza is good. Check it out. And yes, my BF is recovering, slowly, but recovering.