I had been eager to dine at Mediterranean restaurant Balaboosta for a while now, and an eating buddy was recently able to get our party of four a reservation. Considering the rezzie had to be made a few weeks out (for a Thursday night, no less), I was looking forward to seeing if the food lived up to its hype. Would I be pleasantly satisfied, sorely disappointed or fall somewhere in between?
As there were four of us, we decided to order a variety of starters before delving into our entrees. We first started with a traditional dish – the hummus “mortar and pestle” with tahini, lemon and roasted garlic:
Served with warm seasoned pita, the hummus was well seasoned, garlicky and hearty. We quickly made history of this dish – yum! The only thing that was roundly agreed by the table was the temperature at which this dish was served – the hummus was cold, and it is traditionally served at room temperature. With this one small adjustment, this appy would have been perfect.
We also ordered the fried olives & organic labne with harissa oil:
I’m usually not the biggest fan of olives (ok, I tend to avoid them entirely), but I’m always willing to give food a second, third or fourth try. I was so glad that I did because these fried olives were warm, crispy and pleasantly tangy, while the labne with harissa oil added a cool and creamy contrast. I totally would have licked this dish clean if I were eating alone. Ha!
Our third appetizer was crispy cauliflower with currants and pine nuts:
You’ll notice that this picture is a tad blurry, a common side effect when I get excited about dishes. I never thought I’d be excited about cauliflower, but I really loved this preparation (errrrm, I’m sure the battered and fried-ness didn’t hurt, haha). As expected, the cauliflower was served hot and crispy, and was extremely scrumptious. If all veggies could taste like this I would be ALL over that.
We finished our appetizer selection with a special – the calamari salad on a bed of frisee (first photo). Frisee is one of my least favorite greens (seriously, I pick out all traces of frisee from my lunch salad), despite my best attempts to like it. I didn’t change my mind this night, but that had nothing to do with the dish itself – the calamari, grape tomatoes and tangy vinaigrette tasted fresh and light. I give this dish two thumbs up.
Mmm, did they choose well. I snuck a little bite off a buddy’s dish, and the lamb chops were tender and flavorful without being gamey, and the Persian lime sauce was at once cool and rich. The roasted sunchoke mash was mild and absorbed the flavors of the dish beautifully. I would definitely order this dish if I dined here again!
I decided to live on the edge a bit and ordered something a little different – for my entree, I chose the grilled whole branzino with baby root vegetable salad, roasted potatoes, and lemon-dill sauce:
Mmmmm – I love whole fish! The outside of the branzino was satisfyingly crispy, while the meat was tender and juicy. The accompanying lemon-dill sauce perfectly complemented this fish, while the roasted asparagus was perfect for a warm summer evening.
We finished off the evening with the banana-date pread pudding with yogurt ice cream.
There was a reason that 3 tables around us all ordered the bread pudding – it was lusciously decadent, with a crispy exterior and satisfyingly chewy middle. The tang of the yogurt ice cream prevented this dessert from becoming cloyingly sweet, while the heartiness of the pudding itself made for a solid end to this meal.
My dining experience at Balaboosta was highly satisfying, with excellent food, lively decor, and knowledgeable service. If you ever find yourself in SoHo with a hankering for Mediterranean fare, give a Balaboosta a try – you won’t regret it!
214 Mulberry St. (@ Spring)
Fresh and well-prepared Mediterranean fare in a lively atmosphere.
Have you had Mediterranean food before? Tell me all about it!