Balaboosta is back—and boy are we happy about it. The popular downtown Mediterranean restaurant has relocated to the West Village, and reopened in a charming, bright, and cozy space. We’d previously reviewed their SoHo location and found the food to be great, the service lackluster, and the space overwhelming. Well, we’re pleased to report that Balaboosta is better than ever, slinging delicious brunch cocktails, innovative, mouth-watering, and oh-so-satisfying Mediterranean dishes, and pretty much everything we’d want in a brunch.
We settled in to brunch as a foursome at a table near the front of the bustling restaurant. Our server was a true professional: friendly, informed, fast, and accommodating. This was definitely not his first rodeo—he did not slip up, not even once. The place was packed and he was managing quite a few tables, but did so with dexterity. We were promptly served waters and coffees, and our drink orders taken.
The beverage menu is concise but effective and offers a classic mimosa, a Harissa Bloody Mary, the “Mika,” with tequila, campari, lime, and grapefruit, and the Sparkling on Hudson, with St. Germain, Arak, and cava. We only had one Bitch imbibing today, and she was starting her vacation off with a few mimosas.
There’s also a selection of non-alcoholic beverages: a rosemary soda, cucumber gimlet, and pineapple ginger. The pineapple ginger, and lime sparkling beverage, served in a high ball on ice with lime, was a refreshing, crisp and zesty mocktail that was just the right amount of sweet and citric.
By way of starters, Balaboosta offers a few shareable Mediterranean appetizers: two kinds of house-made hummus, the latter being an enticing Hummus Basar with beef, pine nuts, and pita. There’s also a green salad and patatas bravas with harissa aioli, which was similarly tempting.
While we have no doubt Balaboosta makes delicious hummus, we recommend you skip over to the main events and choose the breakfast bureka, the more inventive of breakfast dishes. This enormous puff pastry of phyllo dough was served hot and fresh from the oven in all of its crispy, flaky glory. Inside this flaky, warm confection lies thin slices of hard-boiled eggs, and potatoes with tahini. When sliced, the pastry is easy to share with the table, though you won’t want to.
We opted to share everything, choosing the shakshuka, the chilaquiles, and the lamb shawarma. The chilaquiles were presented as you might expect: crispy corn tortillas coated in a red sauce with slices of avocado, pickled onion, poached egg, and feta. It was a clean, delicious, and easy-to-share dish, a great item to have on the table, but not the main event.
Similarly, the shakshuka was served in a classic fashion: a skillet of bubbly red sauce with eggs and cheese, accompanied by deliciously fresh, grilled white Challah bread.
The two must-order dishes are by far and away the lamb shawarma and the Halva French toast. Tender, shredded pieces of lamb meat and grilled purple onions are packed into a thin pita pocket, which is slathered with the most decadent, flavorful curry aioli. It doesn’t look like much, but boy is this sandwich really something.
Balaboosta’s French toast looks good, but tastes unlike any breakfast pastry you’ve had before. The slices of French bread come covered in a caramel-colored sauce, sprinkled with berries. After one bite, you discover this caramel look-alike makes the dish, a smooth, sweet, and nutty flavor that’s hard to put your finger on. The secret ingredient? Tahini, made from sesame seeds, which comes as no surprise given that you’re seated at a Mediterranean restaurant. The tahini French toast is worth the trek from wherever you live in the New York boroughs to the West Village and into a seat at Balaboosta.
There are two desserts on the menu: the Coconut Malabi, with candied pistachio, plum marmalade, and kataif, and the Milky, a simple chocolate mousse with whipped cream. Having just polished off the French toast, we all nodded our heads politely in agreement that we’d skip dessert. At the last minute, we gave in— “we’ll take the Milky” yelped the weakest among us. The meal had been so delicious, with each bite filled with surprises to enchant the palate, that we simply could not remember why we originally wanted to forgo dessert.
The simpler of the two options, the Milky was a safe bet. The thick, creamy and smooth chocolate mousse was at the bottom of a small, simple glass topped with impossibly fluffy whipped cream. To give it the added Balaboosta touch, it was served with crispy sesame rice crackers, which tasted great dunked and dipped into the mousse.
The Bitches say: A+ for an exceptional Mediterranean brunch with just the right amount of options, great flavors, easy and kind service, and a bustling, casual ambiance that’s perfect for brunchers of all sorts.
Balaboosta serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.