Balade, in Lebanese means "fresh local of high quality" and this describes this nine year old restaurant very well. High quality in food, warmth of service, and the interior design with wooden beams, hard wood floors, and wall of handsome tan brick and what looks to be logs of wood piled together. The music that is played is soothing, but cool and hip, my waiter telling me it is called "Cafe del Mar" a DJ mix from Ibiza for "chilling out on the beach."

The cuisine of Lebanon has a special taste all its own. The menu is extensive, but make sure to start with some of the "Mezze"  which are Lebanese appetizers/small dishes (there are 25 to select from), the Mohmara, which is considered the signature meze - this consisting of spicy red peppers walnut and pomegranate - crazy about this dish, a very unique taste. (top photo) And for my entree, the waiter Fabian suggested Hebbie Bi Labanie, a classic Lebanese dish (oval shaped Kebbe beef which is minced with bulgar cumin and cinnamon, with rice served in warm yogurt).  Delicious! 

The warmth of the restaurant carries through into the kitchen, as the head-chef Micheline Wakine, a native of Lebanon not does magic on the plate but vivacious and high-spirited. She has been with Balade right from the start, nine years ago.

Address 208 1st Avenue  (12th-13th Street)                (212) 529-6868