Little-mentioned Balade offers, among other things, a Middle Eastern spin on pizza, and that makes some purists suspicious. So JungMann was pleasantly surprised by his recent lunch at this two-year-old East Village restaurant.
The fattoush (vegetable salad with pita chips) was the best he’d had, fresh and tasty with a burst of tartness from sumac. Tabbouleh (bulgur salad with herbs) was also nicely done, with vibrantly flavored vegetables that were complemented, not dominated, by the wheat. Loubia bil zeit (olive oil–stewed green beans) were just right, straddling the line between soft and firm. JungMann also tried the pizzalike manakeesh—one topped with the herbal condiment za’atar, the other with ham and stringy Armenian cheese—and enjoyed both. He was less taken with kibbeh krass (lamb and bulgur croquettes), which he found weakly seasoned, and baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), whose subtle smokiness was overshadowed by mushy, out-of-season tomato.
“My experiences of Middle Eastern-ish food in the East Village have generally been negative,” JungMann says. “Fortunately Balade proved to be a surprise. They manage to translate Lebanese flavors into a new Arab-American concept.”