Mediterranean Cuisine at Balzem in Nolita Julie March 19, 2015 Beer, Brunch, Dinner, Drink Spots, Featured, Happy Hour, Lunch, Restaurants, Reviews, Wine I was recently invited to a press dinner at Balzem, a quaint Mediterranean spot in Nolita on the corner of Mott and Spring that opened last spring. The dining room has a rustic appeal; ehanced by a 12-foot high-beamed ceiling, handsome reclaimed pine bar, classic bistro chairs, as well as reclaimed pine communal tables. The exposed brick walls were also lovely, adorned with vintage mirrors. Balzem has a nice ambience, including a great bar, which offers a wide selection of Mediterranean wines(40 to be exact!), imported beer, and even some wine cocktails…yes you read that right! Such as Hot Cab Manhattan, Balzem Fizz, and Ginger Ride. I plan on going back to try them all. This is probably a great time to mention that Balzem offers happy hour 7 DAYS A WEEK! From 5-7pm they offer $6 Mediterranean wines, $5 imported beers, $5 mezzes/tapas, and $1 oysters. The Food at Balzem Now on to the meal. Their menu is contemporary Mediterranean featuring an eclectic selection of classic dishes, many from original family recipes that have been updated with a modern flair. In addition, Restaranteur/Chef Balahan Bobus recently introduced a great selection of mezzes and tapas. For our meal we had a tasting menu with a wine paired with each dish. What I loved about Balzem was of course the food, but the service was also tremendous. Chef Balahan came by to describe each course, and shared a personal story with each dish, adding a nice personal connection to the whole menu. For example, the red pepper paste in the Chicken Orzo soup is not made from bell peppers at all. Actually it was from a different kind-more like a Cubanelle-that’s red instead of green. It’s something that Balahan made as a kid growing up in Turkey, when his family would head to the mountains to cool off during the hot months. There, they made red pepper paste, pastries, and bread. When you go to Balzem, which you will, I urge you to talk with Balahan and hear more about the inspiration behind each item. Out of all the(many many) dishes, the standout for me was the octopus. It’s braised for 45-50 minutes in white wine spiced with lemon, bay leaf and black pepper. It’s then blasted on the grill for a nice charred and crispy outer edge, and then finished with a bit of butter. It was incredibly light, but still meaty and delicious. And a squeezed lemon on top truly brought out its flavor. Another highlight for me was the Branzini Ceviche, which I have never seen done anywhere else in Manhattan. Overall I had a great experience at Balzem. The service was wonderful, as was the whole meal. I’d recommend this spot for a date, pre-game spot for food and drinks, and obviously for happy hour any day of the week. They also offer brunch, which I look forward to checking out, as well as lunch deals ($12 for soup/sandwich or soup/salad combo.) For more info on Balzem and to make your reservation, click here.