202 Mott Street
New York, NY 10012
Food & Service:
Mott Street used to be a hideaway area for restaurants and other eateries, but this Soho backstreet is steadily becoming a happening location to find intimate fine dining for a decent price. A restaurant that truly fits the bill of being intimate
and having reasonable prices is newcomer Balzem. The provincial yet modern design of Balzem includes exposed brick walls, high ceilings, a pine wood bar and an open-air front that provides additional natural lighting to fill the dimly lit interior.
Balzem’s menu has a Mediterranean focus, brimming with mezze / tapas along with a few sandwiches and entrees. Some of what defines Mediterranean food often boils down to what is available in a specific area. This may include fresh herbs, olive oils and grains along, with a variety of vegetables. Some parts of the Mediterranean may include even spicier dishes, but what Owner & Executive Chef Balahan Bobus has on the menu tends to fall in line with the cooler, tart tastes found in most Greek food.
Citrus flavors, bright greens such as arugula and fresh seafood…fresh everything, will hit your senses with each dish, small or large. Mezze starters like the Prosciutto Wraps filled with burrata cheese and set atop a grilled green pepper then drizzled with balsamic glaze may sound like a mouthful yet there’s no competition in terms of the savory experience of each bite. Burrata is a very light and soft complement to the salt in the prosciutto, and the slight sweetness of the balsamic that thankfully hasn’t been cooked long enough to be too syrupy. Add in the distinct spice of the green pepper and you have a wonderful introduction to what Balzem offers.
The Branzini Ceviche may not be what comes to mind in terms of ceviche itself, yet on a bed of arugula the thin fish cooked in wine with bay leaves and butter is infused with a tartness that is refreshing and finished with dill; served with lemon vinaigrette on top. You’ll find many ingredients such as dill, lemon, and arugula reappear either as the star or
supplement in Chef Bobus’ delightful culinary creations.
The Octopus, grilled but not charred is tender not chewy, served on arugula with lemon vinaigrette is the Spanish inspiration for the menu. The Octopus’s distinctive flavor comes from being cooked with butter just before serving to add the “char”. The Grilled Brochette (lamb on skewers) is the heartier of the offerings, and is a full entree served with warm Syrian flatbread and herb and yogurt dip. The sauces on the side cater to the fleshy and organic taste of the lamb.
The sides available at Balzem are less Mediterranean inspired and more traditional American comfort food. Truffle oil is abundant in the Truffle Mac n’ Cheese yet only hinted at in the Potatoes Truffle Gratin. The smaller main plates could each be considered palate cleansers due to the refinement and subtlety of the herbs in comparison to the heaviness of butter, cheeses, and rustic flavors of the side dishes.
Balzem’s weekend brunch menu offers many of the mezze platters that are available during the week, along with specialty breakfast items too. At less than a year old, Balzem is
shaping up to be a hot spot in Soho, with the twenty to thirty-year-old crowd indulging in some of the 40 + European wines available. Wine director Mehdi Mokrani has a well-
prepared wine recommendation for any platter you may choose.
What really shines about Balzem is the attention to detail regarding its traditional Mediterranean food. The chef easily incorporates modern twists with old family recipes confirming it as an up-and-coming establishment to a steadily burgeoning area of New York City.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Native New Yorker, Jennifer Baker has been writing since she entered the academic institution and continues to do so every moment she gets. Jennifer has a particular love for desserts (both eating and baking them) and while partaking in some of the sugary treats NYC has to offer, she has interviewed local bakeries such as Ivy Bakery, First Prize Pies, Hot Blondies, and Zugar Haus. Jennifer regularly posts about writing, books, baking, and food events in addition to reviews and hosting giveaways on her website: jennifernbaker.com. You can also follow Jennifer on Twitter at @jbakernyc and check out her site at www.jennifernbaker.com