Upper East Side, NYC | I am lucky and grateful that, in a city—and now neighborhood—where businesses come and go like the wind, a handful of my favorite restaurants are still around and even thriving in this increasingly fickle food market.
One of those favorites is the much-appreciated little side street gem Balon Wine Bar & Bistro, here on the Upper East Side and still offering not just some of the best wine selection available this side of Central Park, but a wonderfully warm, quaint, ambient environment, as well as an expertly thought-out and executed menu of dishes to, like the wine selection, satisfy every culinary whim.
As I no longer partake of alcohol, my visits to Balon have dropped in number. But on the occasion that I am now (re)building the Balon website, I was able to meet with the warm, friendly owner, Ilona, and at least try a ribeye steak dish—new to the menu since my last visit—which serves with caramelized onions, garlic mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.
As usual and as expected, the entire dish is a welcomed success. A nicely sear ribeye steak still cooked to a winning medium rare, maintaining its natural juicy sweetness while being properly balanced with the right amount of salt, pepper, smoke, and little else besides the subdued punch and heightened aromatics of the cooked onions. The garlic mashed potatoes were firm yet still light, rustically evocative; the Brussel sprouts lightly tossed in oil and cooked to a pleasant crispy char on the edges while releasing its floral notes and maintaining a toothsome bite.
Since I knew I'd be taking pics for the KAC Food (and possibly for the Balon website), I included a glass of wine in the shots to capture the full scope of the dining experience. Which is still one-of-kind in a neighbor no longer overwrought with just "frat boy" bars but with Millennial "hot spots" as well.
Balon is for the special occasion, the special company, the special feeling. The atmosphere, wines, and menu are all special, making the patron feel special from the moment they walk in until long after they leave.
And until they return, as all of us happy, loyal customers hope they never leave, so that we may enjoy many more days and nights of feeling special.