Long before shakshuka and pomegranate molasses dotted the menus at New York’s hottest restaurants there was Balaboosta, an Israeli restaurant that strikes that rare note of feeling special without any pretense. At the end of next month, the cozy space on Mulberry Street will close its doors, The New York Times reported today.
In 2010, Israeli-born chef Einat Admony and her husband Stefan Nafziger opened the restaurant helping expand New York’s idea of Israeli food beyond hummus and falafel. Admony’s cooking more closely matched what one would find in Israel: kubbeh hamusta, or delicate meatballs wrapped in crushed bulgar and plunged into a sour chicken soup, rotating crudos of whatever fish was freshest at the market, and addictive fried green olives served in a mound atop creamy labneh all appeared on the tables at the restaurant.
Admony’s cooking, along with the influence of Zahav’s Michael Solomonov and the success of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook ‘Jerusalem’, spurred a wave of Israeli-inspired restaurants that opened in New York in recent years. Meir Adoni, one of Israel’s most acclaimed chefs opened the high-end Nur on 20th street, Gabriel Stulman launched Studio at the Freehand Hotel, serving an Israeli brunch that wouldn’t feel out of place in Tel Aviv, and Eyal Shani debuted a long-awaited outpost of his fast-casual Miznon in Chelsea Market. The growing interest in Middle Eastern flavors isn’t limited to Israeli-only restaurants like these. Pomegranate molasses, za’atar, and freshly-milled tahini have found their place in the pantries of “New American” restaurants around the city as well.
The interest Admony helped create has forced her and Nafziger into a competitive market. “The neighborhood is saturated, and there are so many Israeli restaurants now [and] business has fallen off a bit,” she told the Times. It’s not just competition, she says, rising costs contributed to the shutter as well.
Fortunately, Admony who still operates three locations of her hit falafel shop Taim (which is in expansion mode) as well as her upscale West Village restaurant Bar Bolonat, isn’t halting her cooking. Kish-Kash, her long planned hand-rolled couscous restaurant, will open next month.
As for Balaboosta, Admony says she is already looking for a new location. Hopefully, once she finds it, she’ll bring the fried olives with her.