Last week I had back to back dinners at two restaurants on the east side of the city. The first took me back to The Meatball Shop, in the LES. This small restaurant was one of the first restaurants I went to when I arrived in the city after hearing glowing reviews of their interesting and flavorful balls of meat (and one of lentils…even vegetarians can eat here!) I met my meatball virgin friend for an early dinner and the place was already packed to the brim. Last time I wanted to be a purist and really taste the balls so I ordered them naked (I know how this sounds, but check out their menu). This time, after some good advice from a NYC meatball expert, I went with the chicken balls over an everything but the kitchen sink salad with both the tomato sauce and pesto sauce.
Let me tell you, this was some good meatball advice! The large salad features the chefs selection of fresh greens and veg of the day, so it is always changing. This time it was arugula, roasted beets and carrots, pickled radishes and cucumbers, and apples. Amazing flavors and textures that went perfectly with the chicken balls…and definitely go with the pesto! My friend, being it was her first visit, went the very traditional route with the classic beef and classic tomato sauce. One bite, and I think she was a new meatball fan! We also shared some sides:
The fennel was amazing! Not only can these guys do meatballs well, they do vegetables very well too! Of course, any dinner on the LES must end with some Big Gay Ice Cream and this night was no exception. Meatballs and ice cream…what more could you want??
The following night, it was the East Village that was the site of my double date dinner with Adam and another couple friend. Balade is a Lebanese restaurant I had on my list for a while…one of my favorite Toronto restaurants is Tabule and I wanted to see how this place stacked up. Balade has some unique dishes…they make their own bread and use it for interesting Lebanese pizzas called makaneesh and for dipping in a fabulous zatar sauce, which we started off with.
We decided to share a bunch of mezes as our app…I couldn’t get pictures of everything as I was way to hungry and excited! Some of my favorites were the tabule, the un-picutred kebe (like a lebanese meatball…I obviously hadn’t had enough of meatballs yet!), the labneh (lebanese yogurt mixed with spices), and their homemade cheese.
One downside noted by everyone at our table was the pita…they have this delicious homemade bread they give you when you sit down and then terrible pita bread to accompany the dips. Some more free homemade bread (they charge $3 for another basket) would be a nice touch. We were all quite full after all of these apps (also had some unpictured very delicious falafel), so Adam and I decided to share a pizza as our main. Not your usual thin crust, tomato sauce, NYC slice…but this lebanese pizza was unlike any pizza I’ve had before. Adam and I went with the Jabneh, traditional lebanese white cheese served very hot with sliced tomatoes on top.
After first bite, I think we were both saying “mmm!” Lots of very salty, fresh melted cheese on delicious soft homemade bread. Highly recommend this dish! Unfortunately, we ended on a not so high note. Our server came around and asked if we wanted dessert…we were kind of full but my friend was debating on the homemade baklava. When she saw we were hesitant, she told us that if we weren’t having dessert could we please hurry up and pay as another party was waiting for our table. We had a 7:30 reservation and it was not even 9 yet! So after that, you better believe we ordered dessert and a pot of very luke warm mint tea. Overall the service and food was good, but that left us with a very sour taste in our mouth (and it wasn’t from the lebanese yogurt dip!) I think Tabule wins this one….don’t worry, we had some very delicious 16 Handles fro-yo courtesy of a recently purchased coupon to sweeten the night!