Continuing our culinary journey of the week, we made our way down the street to Balaboosta., with a top recommendation from the lovely May at Paulino’s. Here we were lucky to have one of THE most impressive meals we’ve had since, well, last night. Because truly, Paulino’s was excellent.
However, Balaboosta is a step beyond in refinement, taste, construction and delicacy. Our third ‘small-plate’ was a truly world class gazpacho. It featured a cantaloupe base and was embedded with Almond Brittle and Jicama-Mint relish. The mix of the sweetness of the cantaloupe combined with the fresh tomato and hint of spice from the relish make this as flavorful as fresh garden with the lightness of a granita. As we are wont to do, we ordered a second Gazpacho for dessert!
There is a varied selection of vegetarian appetizers and pizzas. Standouts being the Fried Olives with Organic Labne & Harissa Oil and the Smoked Eggplant Bruschetta accompanied by an Herb & Citrus Salad. A treat is the the Humus, which is served mashed by hand in a Mortar with the pestle included so you can mash to your hearts content!
The dessert we chose, listed simply as Wild-Berry Crumble with Whipped Cream, was truly surprising in the most wonderful of ways. What was left out of this overly simplistic description in the menu was the custard créme at the bottom of the ramekin. It added a beautiful sweetness that just made the entire body sing. The mix of blueberries, strawberries with red & black raspberries put just enough tart into the dish to really excite you about the vanilla-bean laden sweet créme. We plan on going returning to Balaboosta just for this dessert!
The brunch service is also quite creative – thank you for no Eggs Florentine or Normandy! There is a delicious coconut french toast and Shakshouka – the Moroccan dish of Baked Eggs in Spicy Tomato bell pepper sauce with Spinach. The green scrambled eggs with feta is another lovely palette for both the palate . Let’s also not forget the grilled breakfast pizza with caramelized onions, spinach, zucchini and organic eggs. Yum!
Green Scrambled Eggs, Served with Quinoa Hash Brown, with Feta, Tomato, Feta and Arugula Salad
Grilled Breakfast Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Spinach, Zucchini, Two Sunny Side Eggs, Feta and Za’atar
Israeli Chef Yotam Ottolenghi has reaped his countries wealth of powerful ingredients and food culture to create a haven for vegetable lovers. After purchasing Mr. Ottolenghi’s first book “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook” we became immersed in the brand new flavors he produced, and that we were now capable of learning at home. Combining heretofore unthought of ingredients, it is not often that a cooking book can truly transform you thoughts on food, but the Ottolenghi Cookbook really changed culinary world-view.
After a year-long love affair, we found ourselves in London, and of course needed to experience first hand that which we had been making. Many times this can be disappointing, as expectations can be built too high.
Ottolenghi was everything we had hoped it would be, and more. With each dish being both delicious and beautiful. Our experience at the Notting Hill location started from us peering in the window and just admiring all the delicacies laid out. One could see the myriad of flavours in the swirling of colors. Upon entering, the smell of freshness wafted over, pulling us in further. We sat at the communal table and ate a bit more then we should have, but ever morsel was love; and you can never have too much love.
Luckily there are 4 Ottolenghi restaurants dispearsed throughout London, so you should not have to long commutes once you realize you can go back again and again.
Roasted butternut squash with tahini yogurt, pine nuts, chili, red onion and coriander.
Roasted baby carrots and grilled courgette, orange reduction and pea shuts.
Basmati and wild rice with dried cranberries, lemon zest, mix nuts and herbs
Just looking at these pictures is making me salivate 🙂
Chef Tadashi Ono’s wonderful Matsuri transports you directly into the Edo period- giant paper lanterns vaulted ceiling, dark wood floors, jade-green ceramic tiles all create an ambiance to rival a movie set. Born in Tokyo, Chef Ono started his career at age 16, and then moved to Los Angeles to train at La Petite Chaya and L’Orangerie. He then moved east to NY heading up the kitchens at La Caravelle Restaurant; nine years later he opened Sono on 57th Street and now we are so lucky since 2003 to have Matsuri. Where, in the lushest of environments, Chef Ono presents authentic Japanese comfort food. Flying in organic grains daily from Japan and offering more than 200 kinds of sake.
Special items for us include:
Kinpira – Sauteed and Simmered Burdock
Hijiki salad in soy and sake
Kampach sashimi with yuzu and green pepper sauce
the shishinto peppers in dashi
Mushrooms baked in parchment paper contain all their juices and flavour (ordered everytime)
Nasu Shigiyaki – Japanese eggplant grilled with miso sauce so sweet and delicious
Black Cod marinated in sake paste and then grilled so perfect each bite falls effortlessly
18 grain rice
Lotus roots, the perfect snack with a fresh Aldentéd sake crunch
The sushi and the sashimi are very fresh and clean
on the sweet side, the warm chocolate cake melts with every bite
Keep an eye out for Chef Ono’s new book: Japanese Hot Pots; where he directs you to the creation of hot pot meals. Recipies from the book will be featured in the restaurant’s menu as of late September 2009.
October 2009 will the 10th year anniversary of Lupa; the creation of Jason Denton- who also brought us our favorite ‘Ino, Joseph Bastianich- son of Lidia Bastianich of Felidia Ristorante fame, Mario Batali- the well known TV Celebrity chef, and Batali’s protege Mark Ladner- the executive chef.
Lupa follows the formula that ALL long-term successful restaurants follow: good food at a good price with comfortable service. We have gone a few times and always have been treated with courtesy and the feeling that we certainly could have spent a lot more for a lot less.
The menu is very meat heavy (as are most in NYC these days) and there are few non-meat options. Exceptions being the wonderfully fulfilling Bavette Cacio & Pepe and the clean Spaghetti Aglio E Olio or con Pomodoro.
Bavette Cacio & Pepe
Spaghetti con Pomodoro.
Corn Salad With Oregano Flowers
A special of the day when we last dined was an excellent corn salad with lavender. This mix was one of those effortlessly simple ideas that once one tastes you wonder why no one has ever done it before. Less then exciting desserts are made up for with an amazing cheese selection.
When you are wanting a safe bet, where you are assured of taste, value and service- then Lupa is an excellent choice.