Many people often ask about my favorite cuisine, and I will mention here that my taste buds can always go for Mediterranean. That could be a pasta dish piled high and topped with savory tomato sauce from Italy, decadent spanakopita from Greece, refreshing tabbouleh from Lebanon or a classic tagging from Morocco.
At Baladi Mediterranean Cafe in Hilltop in Virginia Beach, the flavors are decidedly Mediterranean, with an emphasis on the Middle East. We’ve enjoyed Baladi for years, and now, with an expansive dining room, robust patio and marketplace to pick up treats, there’s even more to enjoy.
Shawarma is an ancient, classic Middle Eastern dish, traditionally made with seasoned lamb slowly cooked on a rotisserie or spit. The offerings at Baladi honor this tradition with its Shawermah platter.
Here, grilled lamb (the dish at Baladi is also available with beef or chicken) is marinated in organic olive oil and Middle Eastern spices and thinly sliced. The tender meat is served on a bed of crispy romaine and organic mixed vegetables. In addition, there are plump, delicious grilled plum tomatoes. Pita bread is served with it. My partner, Doug, and I shared the large platter.
The lamb was cooked perfectly. The slices cut easily with a fork and were full of flavour. Served over the lettuce, each forkful made for a wonderful dichotomy of flavors and textures, especially when followed by a bit of the soft pita. Every bite was enjoyed.
Our meal started with fatayer, a Middle Eastern style pizza. Nutty feta cheese, sweet tomatoes, fresh oregano and a delicious lemon-olive oil are baked on an airy flat pia. A small green salad and spicy tzatziki accompany the meal. Tzatziki is a delicious yogurt-based sauce with grated cucumber and a variety of ingredients, such as garlic and herbs.
We also enjoyed a great cup of lentil soup, rich and thick and full of flavour. Like many people who loved the now-closed Pasha Turkish restaurant (which started in Chesapeake and moved to Norfolk), good lentil soup was elusive. The offering at Baladi is a worthy sequel, full of split red lentils, grated carrots, fresh cumin and lemon juice.
Baklava was a sweet end to the meal.
Hibiscus is one of my favorite flavors. The dishes and drinks derived from a beautiful red flower share the same brilliant color and a pleasant puckering taste.
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It’s the essence of the addictively delicious Hibiscus Collins at Baladi. Premium Beefeater gin is infused with hibiscus and mixed with simple syrup to offset the tartness, fresh lemon juice that accentuates the botanicals in the gin, and club soda to make this tall drink fizzy.
Baladi Mediterranean Cafe is located at 626 Hilltop West Shopping Center, Virginia Beach. Call 757-425-8877 or visit www.BaladiCafe.com
The 10th annual 757 Battle of the Beers will take place on September 24. The event will run from 1:00 PM to 6:30 PM at the State Military Reservation, just off General Booth Boulevard and the intersection of S. Birdneck Road. Ticket prices range from $20 to $90.
Enjoy tastings of over 80 beers from over 40 local brewers, live music and food. There is also a silent auction. There is a brewery competition for Brewer’s Choice, People’s Choice and Battle of the Brewers.
Beach brewers include Back Bay Brewing Co., Deadline Brewing Co., Farmhouse Brewing Co., New Realm Brewing Co., Reaver Beach Brewing Co., Thin Brew Line, Vibrant Shore Brewing Co., Wasserhund Brewing Co. and Young Veterans Brewing Co.
For more information, visit www.757BattleOfTheBeers.com
Patrick Evans-Hylton, PatrickEvansHylton@gmail.com