Upon the recommendation of one of his friends, AV and I paid a visit to Balon Wine Bar on the UES Friday evening. It's pretty much the perfect first date place: Incredibly cute and romantic with a beautiful back garden, low lights, and well-groomed people. We chose a table near the back, each got a glass of red wine, and settled down to chat and relax. But of course, one can't really have wine, conversation, and relaxation without food, right? So we resigned ourselves to the fact that a cheese plate was in our future.
The food at Balon uniformly looked and smelled delicious, but it was relatively expensive. Our cheese plate was no exception. They have a relatively large selection of cheeses of all kinds, and I chose manchego, brie, and taleggio to bring us on home. The plate provided olives (delish), some sort of cherry-tomato-and-balsamic salad (a little weird... I would have preferred some sort of fruit), and two kinds of olive-oil soaked bread. The olive oil was of such high quality that even soaked into the bread, you could taste the nuances. And the cheese, of course, was creamy and soothing and fresh. Well done.
With our cheese polished off and our wine thoroughly sipped, we grabbed the check and made our exit. The final verdict? Balon was incredibly cute, bordering on precious, but somehow not all that comfortable-- we could never really envision Balon becoming our regular hangout. Plus, it was a bit too expensive to be a weekly destination (two glasses of wine plus a cheese plate came to ~$50 or so). But if you're looking for a lovely place for a date or a girls' night (there seemed to be quite a few girls' nights going on while we were there), and you're in the neighborhood, Balon is your bag.
245 East 81st Street, between 2nd and 3rd