A restaurant that showcases the best of Lebanese cuisine
NYC is home to a variety of cuisines found all over the world. It’s so easy to walk into a place and find a new type of cuisine and food you have never experienced before. But finding a spot that is chic, warm and inviting, and has great food is a rare find. Balade, an authentic Lebanese restaurant, has all of that and more. Located in the East Village. Balade offers some of the best Lebanese food, focusing on fresh ingredients and premium spices and herbs to create a variety of tasty, mouthwatering dishes. What makes Balade unique is the variety of food, from family-style platters all the way to some of the tastiest Mezze (small plates) you could find. And what’s even better is that Balade takes the initiative in offering food that both vegetarians and non-vegetarians can enjoy. Additionally, Balade offers a variety of wines from Lebanon as well as a Lebanese beer selection which includes Almaza and 961 Red Ale.
We started off trying a few of the Mezze courses like the Hummus Lahme and the Balade Falafel. The Hummus Lahme was recommended by our server and it did not disappoint. This dish is basically a delicious hummus, traditionally made from chickpeas, topped with lamb and pine nuts. The hummus itself was creamy and delicious, having a rich umami flavor backed up with some subtle notes of garlic. Olive oil was added to the hummus to give the dish some moisture and make the hummus a bit more creamy. The lamb was a delicious addition to the hummus. The lamb by itself was cooked well and seasoned to perfection. And combining the lamb with the hummus accentuated the umami flavors and made the hummus more savory which was great. And for the Balade Falafel, we were so excited to try their take on this classic and traditional dish. Stuffed with onions, sumac, crushed peppers, and olive oil, this dish was one of the best things we tried that night. The exterior of the falafel was perfectly crispy from being fried. Taking one bite, you are hit with an incredible crunch which immediately is followed by a moist interior. The onions and sumac offer a nice spice and heat to the dish as well which elevates this dish exponentially. And we have to mention the pita that comes on the side. The bread was warm and fluffy and is the perfect vehicle for any of the Mezze dishes you choose to order.
We also tried one of the salads called the Fattoush. The dish was made with a mixture of greens with cucumber, tomatoes, onions, mint, bell peppers, sumac, and extra virgin olive oil, served with toasted pita chips. This salad sounds fairly simple on paper but has some distinctive flavor profiles to it. The salad greens were fresh and you could taste how crisp every little green was on it. The added mint helped add that extra bit of freshness to the salad as well. The salad was covered in olive oil and paired with the sumac adds sour and acidic notes to it which also is complemented by the fresh tomatoes in the dish. And if you are lucky to have a bite with the toasted pita chips, you get a nice crunchy texture to the salad as well.
One of the best things about Balade is its platters which are so big and full of food that it can easily feed a party of four with some leftovers. With that, we decided to try the Supreme Mixed Grill. This platter is served with beef kafta, lamb kebab, chicken tawook, and lamb chops and served with chargrilled vegetables covered with Balade’s famous house freshly baked bread. When this was brought to the table, the entire dish was covered in bread, where the server then took a knife and sliced the top half of the bread revealing the meat and vegetables inside. Immediately we were surrounded by such a fragrant aroma that made us hungrier. The dish is also paired with Balade’s homemade hot sauce and garlic sauce. The hot sauce was delicious, starting off with a bit of tang and having heat slowly and subtly build up. The garlic sauce was also delicious, having a few powerful garlic flavor, spreading smoothly as if it were made of butter. From this dish, one of our favorites was the chicken tawook, being so moist and juicy, practically melting in your mouth each bite. Paired with the hot sauce added a nice kick to the chicken which makes your mouth water after the heat subdues. Alongside that, the beef kafta was delicious and cooked to perfection. We also took some of the bread from the top and ate the meat and sauce like you would with naan at an Indian restaurant.
And to complete our wonderful meal, we tried the Ashta dessert which is their homemade white pudding topped with honey, pistachio, and fresh fruits. The pudding was extremely creamy and had a very mellow flavor to it, similar to a panna cotta in an Italian restaurant. This paired nicely with the honey drizzled on top where there was a very subtle and natural sweetness that didn’t overwhelm the palate. The fruit added to this dessert was banana and strawberry and there was a beautiful freshness to the fruit that was further accentuated by the pudding, almost reminiscent of fruit and cream. Adding pistachios is extremely common in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean desserts and with this dish, the pistachios added a wonderful nutty flavor as well as a nice crunchy texture addition to the dish.
Our final thoughts of Balade is that this restaurant showcases the best parts of Lebanese cuisine. The variety within the menu means that there is something everyone can enjoy and the flavor profiles within the food are unmatched. The restaurant itself is warm and inviting, having a rustic and homey feel to it too. If you are ever in the East Village, be sure to check out Balade.