It goes without saying that some NYC neighborhoods just have tons of character but it’s especially the ones that still have most of their original low rise buildings from 100 years ago that really feel romantic and cozy. Now take this setting, add in a fabulous corner storefront resto with some of the city’s best Argentinian fare and you’ve got the perfect dinner spot for a leisurely meal! Balvanera is on the NW corner of Stanton and Suffolk Streets in the heart of the Lower East Side making it in great proximity to some really cool art galleries. There are also great people watching opportunities, especially from the outdoor seating area.
My dining partner Gail and I started out with hearty pours of the recommended house Malbec from Mendoza that has a fruity vibe and is the perfect pairing with authentic Argentinian steaks. If you go to Yelp, you will see numerous photos of and accolades for Balvanera’s marinated skirt steak which is great for sharing as it comes in both the 10 and 20 ounce sizes. The highly regarded steaks and empanadas at Balvanera are available for nationwide shipping on Goldbelly, which in itself is a statement of how good their food is. (Goldbelly only sells products that they consider to be worthy of the title “the best of New York.”)
We started out with the empanadas which are available with a few different fillings but we tried two types (and just for the record, you get two empanadas in each order). We got the type filled with the combo of corn, Provolone and roasted red pepper and then another type filled with ham, cheese and egg. These empanadas are baked to a perfect golden brown color as you can see from the photo above and served with a lovely creamy garlic sauce in a small bowl. I understand that they add in some new empanada filling flavors here and there and I will be back to try them. Eating two of Balvanera’s empanadas are pretty much are as fulling as a whole meal so eat them slowly–you need to have room for some of the remarkable grass fed Argentinian beef!
There is a lot of Southern Italian overlap into Argentinian cuisine and Balvanera’s homemade buratta served with peaches, almonds, fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil is amazing. The cheese is so fresh and it is a large enough portion for two to share. I have never had buratta with peaches and almonds before and was just blown away!
It was then time to share two large, dreamy steaks cooked perfectly in between medium and medium rare temperatures. Pictured above is the pickled pepper topped hearty ribeye also known as the Ancho (which is about 1.5 pounds in my estimation). This was thick and juicy but the buttery texture was the quality I most admired. It is a marbled piece of high end meat that you will make you want to come back to Balvanera time and time again.
The skirt steak (also known as Estrada) is a thinner cut of meat. It is just under an inch thick and as tender as the ribeye. The ingredients in the marinade really stay in the meat and give off the wonderful flavors of oregano, red wine vinegar, bay leaves and garlic. All of Balvanera’s steaks come with several lovely sauces including a fabulous house sauce made with whole cooked garlic cloves and the all time Argentinian steakhouse classic, chimichurra sauce. There was also a nice red sauce made with red peppers and garlic put out on our table. Skirt steak is a less marbled cut of meat than a ribeye but the juice still flows out onto your plate. Delicious! We ordered some deep golden French fries to share along with our steaks. The fries were firm when you initially bit into them but the centers were moist and steamy.
Balvanera’s desserts are something that you do not want to miss–they are as spectacular and authentic as the menu’s savory items! The dessert menu tends to change from time to time but the Tarta De Chocolate is a constant favorite. I read about it online before I ordered it and then wanted to see what all the great reviews were about. This is a stunning large tarte/pie, and it’s made with marscapone and dark chocolate then topped with plain whipped marscapone. The richness of the chocolate filling is heavenly. The crust is made with cardamom and the combo of cardamom and chocolate in a crust is very satisfying.
My, my, my! Balvanera’s flan might just be the best in NYC! It’s got the smoothness and bounce that only perfect flan has and the generous scoop of homemade caramel sauce aka dulche de leche on the side is just the kind of thing to make your day if you are a big caramel lover like I am. The resto also has homemade Argentinian gelato from a store on Bleecker Street available in both common and unusual flavors. When I go back to Balvanera, I would like to try the Torrejas Lola which is a sweet milk brioche with the aforementioned dulche de leche and fresh berries. This dessert has gotten some nice words from the food press.
Balvanera is also considered a wine bar so feel free to mosey on in and get some great recommendations of Argentinian wines from anyone on the staff. They all seem to really know wine! I like that the pours as so generous, too. The bar area is strictly “no rush” which is another attribute of this cozy eatery. For more info on this authentic and unique place, go to www.balvanerarestaurants.com. Prices are in the medium price range and dinner with a glass of wine will run $50 to $75 per person. Reservations are suggested but not necessary.