Resident Foodies say: We tried out the new restaurant Balena (meaning whale), the next in the line of Boka group restaurants. The restaurant has a rustic, but chic decor, with open beams and modern lighting in a spacious room that combines a bar and dining area with a very open feeling.
Chef Chris Pandel has put together an impressive menu of homemade Italian pastas and pizza, which are meant to be shared. We tried the black squid ink pasta (Tagliolini Nero), with crab and sea urchin. Gotta love black pasta, especially when homemade! The crab and sea urchin were delicious, too. The dish was a winner, although didn’t need the basil.
Perhaps even more yummy was the Heritage Polenta with butter, Dante cheese, and tomato sauce. Putting tomato sauce on polenta is a match made in heaven–providing a tasty comfort food that is downright irresistible. The arugula salad to start the meal was also pretty amazing. Our only other quibble is that the basket of “Peter’s bread” (Walnut Bread, Ramp Crostini, Roast Garlic Semolina, Lemon Pepper Challah) that is homemade and heavily touted by the server was not complimentary. What other Italian restaurant charges $5.00 for bread?
Bottom line: Balena is even better than the hype. We loved it.