Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Mary Bilyeu

COMMENTARY

Bringing new Balance to downtown dining options

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    Balance Pan-Asian Grille in Toledo, Ohio on February 18, 2013.

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Balance Pan-Asian Grille at 215 N. Summit is a happy addition to the downtown renaissance.

“I’m really excited,” said co-owner Prakash “P.K.” Karamchandani at the media preview May 4.

“We’ve always talked about downtown,” agreed fellow owner, HoChan “C.J.” Jang.

Not only do the business partners have a prime corner spot across the street from the Maumee River, they also hope to benefit from the buzz of activity that comes with springtime, as those who work and live near the new restaurant are out and about more in good weather.

The new place also has an aquaponics setup, Balance Farms, to grow vegetables. It’s an 8,000-square-foot organic urban farm that will grow produce and could even nurture shrimp, P.K. said, his face lighting up as he talked about the potential.

“I geek out over the science of it,” P.K said.

C.J., on the other hand, is looking forward to selecting ingredients to grow and is especially excited for extra-hot pepper varieties for making kimchi.

Having this setup eliminates risk, with the ability to grow specific amounts as needed year-round. And it eliminates waste, as well, which is a great concern, as only necessary quantities need to be harvested.

“It’s highly effective in the size we’re doing it,” P.K. said.

The community downtown is excited to welcome the fast casual restaurant, which has already established itself in Maumee, Perrysburg, and Sylvania.

“Having that kind of support — it’s unbelievable,” C.J. said, remarking on how quickly Balance Grille’s popularity has grown and the warm welcome its newest spot is receiving. There doesn’t seem to be a sense of competition but rather one of camaraderie.

Balance Grille’s downtown place offers all the favorites, from tacos filled with Korean, Indian, and Thai inspirations to trendy bowls that let customers choose vegetable and sauce mixes, proteins (chicken, steak, tofu), and starches (brown rice, greens, or noodles) to suit their own tastes. The recipe for orange-glazed brussels sprouts is so good that even vegetable haters fall in love with it. And to complement a meal, or as a warm weather refresher, there’s also bubble tea in a variety of flavors from Fruity Loops and sweet red bean milk teas to fruit teas like my own personal favorite: passion fruit with strawberry bubbles.

And C.J. is always thinking of new creations, too.

“I have an obligation to feed my customers what I would feed my family,” said C.J., who is deeply committed to the quality of the ingredients and the dishes. The ever-evolving menu factors in nutrition, freshness, flavor, and, especially, customers’ needs. It’s a favorite for vegans/vegetarians as well as omnivores and is respectful of a wide range of diets. It’s also respectful of time, with friendly and fast service that allows people to enjoy their lunch, P.K. said, rather than spending a lot of time waiting either to order or to eat.

But C.J. and P.K. are always looking for ways to make things even better at Balance and have even designed the stainless-steel kitchen area for greater efficiency after learning from their experiences at the first three establishments.

“It’s all about constant improvement,” said P.K. And it’s also about “food that we’re really passionate about making,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make food that tastes good.”

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/​thebladefoodpage, bladefoodpage on Instagram, or @BladeFoodPage on Twitter.

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