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Tuesday
Jan042011

Dinner at Balaboosta

  • Cuisine: Mediterranean, small plates
  • Atmosphere: cozy, warm, rustic
  • Attire: smart casual
  • Ideal for: small groups, 1x1
  • Price: affordable to moderate - small plates under $15, entrées under $29
  • Phone: 212-966-7366
  • Location: 214 Mulberry St. (at Spring St.)
  • Website: click *here*
  • Directions:  www.hopstop.com/?city=newyork
  • *All photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

    Mulberry Street,a tree-lined stretch lined with avant garde boutiques and charming red brick facades, just may be one of NYC's most charming.  Situated in trendy Soho, the neighborhood is hardly lacking in the restaurant department but, while there are a few gems, I find it safe to say that quantity prevails over quality.  To put it more gently, there are not too many eateries that I would consider "destination worthy."

    ...That was, until I dined at Balaboosta.  Middle Eastern and Israeli small plates (though there are full-sized entrees, too) line the menu at Einat Admony's second successful restaurant venture (she also has Taim which, arguably, is home to the city's best falafel).

    Balaboosta's space could best be described as cozy, rustic, and lively. Exposed-brick walls, a tiny open-kitchen, book shelves lined with wine bottles and chotchkies, and dim lighting anoint the interior.Upon seating, Moira and I were handed food and drink menus as our server simultaneously listed that particular evening's specials - which were also hand-written on a chalkboard, conveniently hung above our table.

    A gratis bowl of addictive seasoned-crisps (god knows what they were made of and shame on me for being too distracted to ask!) arrived with our beverages.  Along with my red sangria, I ordered a glass of homemade mint-lemonade.  Double-fisting never tasted this delicious.

    Balaboosta's "crack" crisps

    Left to right: red sangria and minted-lemonadeInstead of ordering separate entrees, Moira and I chose to share an array of small plates.

    The vibrantly colored dish above is Balaboosta's Smoked Eggplant Bruschetta.  Hugging the top of a crunchy, super-buttery slice of toasted bread was a thick schmear of garlicky, creamy, smoked eggplant dip.  A lawn of emerald-green parsley shreds crowned the Bruschetta. 

    While I typically take my salads with extra dried cherries, candied pecans, blue cheese, and some sort of creamy dressing - I have to give Balaboosta credit for creating a deliciously-healthy plate of lightly-dressed greens.  Citrus segments, thinly-sliced radish, and roasted squash were dressed in a tangy blood-orange vinaigrette.

    This dish was the turning point - the moment, during the meal, when I fell in love.  What appears to be falafel-on-a-stick is actually falafel-wrapped meatballs on-sticks.  And this isn't just any falafel, it's the famous product that put Taim and Balaboosta on the culinary map!  A crunchy, flavor roller coaster of exterior falafel gives way to a meatball that is so perfectly cooked and juicy, that you can't help but wonder, How in the hell did they pull this off?  A parsley-oil topped tahini sauce proved to be the ultimate accompaniment.

    Beautiful picture, isn't it?  The bowl, above, is filled with organic Labne (a Middle Eastern yogurt/cheese), a thin drizzle of harissa oil, and topped with the most perfectly voluptuous, golden, fried-green olives.  Long tooth picks/sticks joined the dish as olive-dipping utensils.

    The presentation of the hummus and pita, above, was more pleasing that its actual taste.  While there was nothing fundamentally wrong, I found the pita bread to be on the dry side and could not figure out why the hummus was served in a guacamole-esque mortar bowl.

    While Balaboosta's falafel-wrapped meatballs had me falling in love, it was the dish, above, that changed my life.  Literally. 

    I was so taken aback when our server informed us that the cauliflower was the most ordered - and raved-about - item on the menu.  I mean, wasn't this the crap that our mothers forced us to eat by threatening "no dessert until you finish your veggies?"  I couldn't figure out why this tasteless, texturally awkward and, frankly, gnarly vegetable was so popular. 

    That was...until I hesitatingly tasted it for myself.  Florets of cauliflower were dredged in crack a delicate batter, fried, and then tossed with sweet currant berries and earthy pine nuts.  Sure, this may sound like an odd combo, but take it from a former 'hater: this is one of NYC's most delicious and unique dishes.  I would return to Balaboosta for the cauliflower, alone.     

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