Balaka's Best Dish: Lamb Achari
We finally had a chance to check out Balaka, the new Indian restaurant on Sixth Avenue in South Park Slope. Of three dishes, the papri chaat was good, the Bengali crab disappointing, the lamb achari excellent. But it's hard to evaluate a restaurant based on three dishes, especially when those dishes are such a mixed bag. And so, let's talk about achari.
Indian pickle is spicy, bitter, and tart
South Asian pickles, called achar in Hindi and Urdu, differ from Western pickles in that they are often (but not always) very bitter and salty, and usually marinated in vinegar or lime juice, spices, and oil. A small pile of pickle is often used as a condiment in a meal, or as something to eat with bread, but not as dish to snack on on its own. And anything can be pickled--green mango, lime, garlic, onion, chiles, radish, lotus root, tomato, eggplant, bitter melon, and so on. Develop a taste for them, and you'll be hooked for life.
Balaka's lamb achari is a Northern Indian dish combining tender stewed lamb and lotus root with various hunks of pickle in a tomato-onion sauce. It's a pleasure to get a mouthful of rich lamb with the unexpected sharpness of tart-bitter lime pickle, or with what seems to be bitter melon pickle. It's a very nicely made dish, hearty but not heavy, with big but balanced flavors. Get it with the very fine garlic naan.
522 Sixth Avenue, Brooklyn