First Look: BalMar
M and I visited BalMar last night. They’ve only been open a couple of weeks and normally that’s not a really great time to visit a new place but we were in the neighborhood and thought we’d give it a shot.
The space is really great. Lots of banquette seating, a few booths, and a nice long bar on the first floor. I noticed stairs but didn’t go up and I’m not sure if it’s even a public area upstairs. The whole space calls you to linger for awhile, hopefully in the company of friends.
The menu is all over the place. Chinese-style ribs, risotto, a nod to Ballard’s Scandinavian history with lingonberries, lots of seafood – a bit of everything. The cocktails however, seem to be serious cocktails. I had a Capri Martini and it was a very grown-up drink! M had something with Tequila and grapefruit which was another good option.
The food however was a bit lackluster. We tried the aforementioned ribs and risotto. The ribs were covered with a beautiful sweet-sour tangy sauce – yummy! They were also accompanied by a little salad of citrus fruits and (we think) pickled rhubarb. My only complaint about this dish was that there were three ribs, which I always think is bad form for a dish meant to be shared. Please, please have an even number as most appetizers are shared by two or more people. Especially, when it’s something like ribs that the odd piece can’t be split. With something like Bruschetta you can cut it in half but not with a tiny rib! And if you must have an odd number make it five, it’s just much more democratic that way.
The risotto was another story. It was a wild mushroom risotto but there was really no flavor. Both M and I added salt and pepper and both of us are generally no/low salt people. Even with the extra seasoning the risotto was flat. I tried adding some of the sauce from the ribs but that just ruined the sauce! :-)
One other thing that bothered us, was that at one point, the chef went out for a smoke break and took it right outside the front door. That is just bad form, I don’t care how good the chef is. And it’s irritating when the food is sub-par.
Having said all this, it is just their second week and I think the quality of the drinks, as well as the attention and care taken with the space itself is a very good sign. I will definitely try the place again after the first of the year. I think they have loads of potential. They just need to work out the menu. Maybe a little practice, maybe a little fine-tuning, maybe just a bit more focus but something to refine it and bring it up to par with the rest of the operation.