It's been ages since I last visited Balboa International Market. It took one of Cathy of Mmm-Yoso's relatively recent post on them and a near week long craving of lamb to finally nudge me. Thanks Cathy!
You order at the deli counter in the back and the food will be brought to your table, just be a little patient. On extra busy days the tables can become semi-communal which is kinda fun especially when you get to sit next to someone of Iranian descent and learn more about the food (I admit not knowing much about Persian cuisine).
Me: "..and what are you having?"
Gentleman 1: "Chicken with Bones, it's grilled cornish hen."
Me: "..and you sir?"
Gentleman 2: "This is Okra Stew with Beef.."
The conversation went ki~nda like that but anyhow, first up Lamb Chops ($12.99). Loving the retro look of the tray.
Very moist and tender chops with a mild marinade. Amazing char. I pick each up like candy..
Personally could've benefited from having a bit of fat on them but all quite wonderful and a very fair deal I thought.
Loads of basmati rice and huge pieces of grilled veggies (tomato, bell pepper, onion). The coarsely chopped salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage and onions has a simple tangy mustard dressing. This day also got the noodle soup ($3.99). Thick and delicious with lots of dill flavor, filled with lentils and kidney beans.
The Lamb Shank is very popular and I feel a nice bargain at $8.99.
The stewed meat is much more gamey in flavor compared to the chops and kabob. Wonderfully fall-apart tender with nice bits of gelatinous fat here and there. The small bit of stew broth shown with is crazy good.
The dill rice with Lima Beans was great and I definitely prefer it more to the regular rice. Seemed paired to particular dishes though. The Lentil Soup was pretty good if not the seasoning fairly ordinary so I'll probably stick to the noodle soup when in the mood for something different.
I also learned about the Tahdig from fellow diners. That's the awesome burnt rice crust that they give you. Most of the time anyway so best to request it to be sure since it's limited in quantity. I think it's pronounced "Ta-deeg" if I heard the nice lady clerk right.
Crackly, buttery. It's a good thing. Reminds me of those guilty fried pita chips in some way.
The Lamb Kabob at $15.99 was the most expensive meal on the menu.
But the lean pieces were super tender like lamb filet mignon.
My trio of guilty pleasures.. Buttered rice, veggies with crazy grill char..
..and Lavash bread soaked in juices of grilled meats. Yummus.
I enjoy the grilled tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and Sumac. The onions I can usually get through only the first few layers though.. :P
Last meal of this post, the Cornish Hen Kabob w/ Bones ($10.99) that I had to try. ;)
Marinated in olive oil and light spices. Very tender and juicy and the lavash bread underneath later was killer.
Oh, I tried the Okra Stew (~$6.99) as well, haha.
You gotta love the slimy texture of Okra to enjoy this which I do a lot. The tomato based stew had a deep long simmered flavor and there was enough beef in it to be a meal in itself.
I deeg, the Tahdig. I got an extra piece today. BONUS.
You can't go wrong with the ground beef Koobideh and the filet mignon is the only others I had tried in the past. Anyone try the Zereshk Polo baked chicken? I might get that next if I can resist the temptation of getting the lamb shank again.
Balboa International Market, 5907 Balboa Avenue, San Diego, CA 92111