Eating Balaboosta Style

The food: roasted squash with pecans and raisins

The story:

After reading some pretty glowing reviews in the New York Times, The New Yorker and New York magazine, I was pumped to try Balaboosta, a casual Mediterranean/Israeli restaurant opened last year in NoLita by the owner/chef of Taim, a hole-in-the-wall spot that serves a very fine (best in New York?) falafel sandwich, about which I have previously written.

During the week I planned to go, the New York Times Dining section, as part of a story about restaurants’ Thanksgiving menus, printed a recipe for butternut squash with pecans and currants from Balaboosta that sealed the deal: I made a reservation at Balaboosta for the next evening.

Our first impression of the restaurant when we arrived was that it was dark, so dark we could barely read our menus, and decorated in a style that seemed more homely (those bare tables and uncomfortable-looking chairs!) than homey.

Then the waitress told us that the squash featured in the New York Times was not offered on the regular menu.

In an attempt to rally from that disappointment, we ordered four dishes (of varying sizes) to share, starting with the Market Salad, which that day featured golden beets, radishes and a generous amount of arugula:

It was fresh and light, but not very interesting or distinctive.

Next up was what would be our favourite plate of the night, the savoury and sweet deep-fried cauliflower with currants and pine nuts (gotta love the dried fruit and nut combo with vegetables):

Fried potato lovers that we are, we couldn’t resist trying the Patatas Bravas with Za’atar and a Roasted Garlic Aïoli:

The za’atar and aioli added some spice and zest, but the size of the potato chunks and their lack of suitably crunchy edges left us unimpressed.

The last thing we shared was a main course, the Boneless All Natural Half Chicken cooked “Under A Brick” with Israeli Couscous with Dried Apricots and Green Leeks and Gremolata Sauce:

The dish looked and tasted good, but not great, partly because the chicken was more dry than succulent. And while E liked the Israeli couscous, and I the gremolata sauce, we decided we probably wouldn’t go back to Balaboosta, not when there are so many other restaurants in New York that serve great, memorable food.

Soon after coming home though, I made the Balaboosta squash recipe from the New York Times, which combines some of my favourite foods – candied pecans, more dried fruit (it calls for currants, but I used raisins) and roasted squash – and I declared the recipe a definite keeper.

Here’s another pic of it to whet your appetite. Go make it.

Balaboosta on Urbanspoon

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