The word balaboosta connotes an endearing Jewish type: The homemaker who possesses just the right touch in everything—a true domestic goddess. Israeli chef-owner Einat Admony—also of the falafel joint Tam, and a veteran of the kitchens at Tabla, Danube, Patria and Bolo—embodies that multiplicity. She’s well versed in the ingredients of India, Europe, South America and of course, her native Middle East, combining them in dishes—some great, some not, most daring—at this latest venture. Like the name, Balaboosta’s interior is disarming, if a bit frumpy for Nolita. The tin-paneled room, furnished like a home library, its shelves lined with books and tchotchkes, takes far fewer risks than the menu. A Spanish-Arab starter of fried olives dunked in house-made labna was a briny, greasy treat, but too frivolous to be filling. A Japanese-Med tiger shrimp appetizer, meanwhile, was good only on paper: The meaty crustaceans gasped under a cloak of oily kataif (shredded phyllo pastry) and a too-unctuous wasabi-fish-roe mayonnaise. Another dish—scallops crusted in poha, a rice that puffs when cooked—is a carryover from the chef’s Tabla days that should have stayed behind. The result, something akin to Styrofoam coating perfectly good seafood, was not improved by an earthy side of lentils or mismatched yogurt sauce. But with entres, Balaboosta excels. A marinated half chicken cooked under a brick was ideal comfort food, featuring crisp and juicy heritage fowl with gremolata and apricot-studded Israeli couscous. Lamb three ways was a fitting homage to Admony’s high- and lowbrow culinary backgrounds—a tender lamb chop was bathed in lime sauce; soft tenderloin wrapped in Swiss chard rested on fennel puree; and fried kibbe was filled with a hearty mixture of lamb, pine nuts, raisins and spices. Like the mains, desserts—a buttery date-banana bread pudding, delicate malabi (milk custard) scented with orange-blossom and rose waters—were more in touch with Admony’s Middle Eastern roots, and better off for it. Despite the chef’s globe-trotting tendencies, a meal at Balaboosta is better when the cooking stays closer to home.
214 Mulberry St
|Cross street:||between Prince and Spring Sts|
|Opening hours:||Daily 5:30–11pm|
|Transport:||Subway: N, R to Prince St; 4, 6 to Spring St; J to Bowery St.|
|Price:||Average main course: $22. Disc, MC, V|
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Average User Rating
4 / 5
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The portions aren't huge in the way many would hope given the steepish price, but what you do get is delicious. The hummus appetizer is a can't-miss. (The sangria is delicious, too.)
The food here was very good, but the portions are relatively small. It was not my favorite restaurant ever because of the super loud environment and the proximity of the tables. I may go back, but at a time when it's less crowded so that my elbow doesn't have to be on the adjacent customers' table.