Balaka, a kind of Punjabi-Bengali hybrid, opened on December 22 in the space on 6th Avenue, Brooklyn, that recently held the short-lived train wreck called Park Slope Bistro Restaurant. There are plenty of generic Northern Indian restaurant dishes on the menu (chicken saag, anybody?), but there are also more regionally specific offerings, like Bengali-style crab. We have not tasted the food yet, so can’t speak to its quality. However, only Kinara on Fifth Avenue currently supplies this area with passable Indian food, so Balaka may fill a niche.
Owner Ataur Miah, who also owns Bombay Dream on Smith Street, comes from Bangladesh, which was a part of the larger Indian region of Bengal until the partition in 1947, when the area was split into the Indian state of West Bengal and the Pakistani province of East Pakistan. In 1971, the region became the autonomous state of Bangladesh. All this is to say that Bangladeshi food has much in common with Indian Bengali food, as it was all one region in the relatively recent past. Both sides of the border rely heavily on fish and mustard oil, although many regional and religious variations exist.
Although about half of Balaka’s menu is dedicated to standard Punjabi stuff, there are also Bengali/Bangladeshi offerings. Miah says that the dish that most reminds him of home is the Bengali-style shrimp or lamb bhuna, which is not on the take-out menu, but which can be requested. Actually, Miah claims that any Bengali or Punjabi dish can be requested, and either he or his chef will be able to make it.
The restaurant is named after the national bird of Bangladesh.
522 6th Avenue, Brooklyn