Albasha Greek and Lebanese- The Fried Cheese is a Must
by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon
I have been to Albasha far more times than I can count. It is always quick with good service and the food is remarkably consistently good. I am not sure I have ever had anything here I disliked but there are a few menu options that stand out above the rest.
They have some items on the menu that will bring me back time and time again. These dishes are the sort of food that sounds good on the kind of day where nothing seems to sound good and you can’t decide what to eat.
First of all, and most importantly, fried cheese. I am not talking about some stringy mozzarella crusted in a thick layer of bread crumbs and deep fried. I am talking about halloumi. This cheese has a briny flavor and a high melting point that allows it to be pan fried (with no breading) in olive oil and garlic. Crusty brown bits develop but the cheese maintains its solidity. It has a texture that is almost meat like when it is finished. They serve it alongside pitas, cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes in a pool of the garlic laced olive oil it was fried in. I order this cheese every single time I eat at Albasha. It is a must try for any cheese lover or really for anyone at all. I have made it at home a handful of times but theirs is far better than anything I have yet managed.
For an entree, the mixed platter of chicken shwarma and gyros is ideal. It gives a huge portion of both meats along with rice, a salad, pitas, and hummus. I always order an extra side of the tzatziki, which they refer to as Grecian sauce, to spread on my pitas before I fold up the pieces of meat. If you are not fond of the salad, for a slight extra charge they will replace your salad with falafel. If you opt for this, the grecian sauce is also a great dip for the falafel and I would really recommend getting some on the side in that case. This dish is the bread and butter of the restaurant featuring both their very well done shwarma and gyros and it is commonly what I get but there is another entree that always tempts me as well.
The lamb shank is- in a word- divine. It is so tender as to fall to pieces under one’s fork. This flavorful slow cooked lamb is served over a rice pilaf. A salad probably comes with it but to be honest I can’t recall- the lamb is so good it dominates my memory of every time I have ordered it. It is a very richly flavored dish and not something I want every time I go to Albasha but it is certainly a dish I will go back to over and over. The deeply spiced lamb has a warm and exotic flavor which when combined with the tenderness makes for an excellent dish.
Alongside the cheese, there is one other thing I have every time I go to Albasha. The Lebanese iced tea. This mixture of lemonade, ice tea, and rose water with pine nuts sprinkled in is well balanced and appears (best I can tell from googling) to have originated in the Greek and Lebanese restaurants of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It offers a unique cultural fusion of sweet tea with the rose water flavor of the Mediterranean.
Albasha is a good place for reliable good food and one of the places I always recommend to people new to the city. They have a few locations as a local chain but I only ever go to the Sherwood one so I can only speak to its service level – which is very good.