Sometimes you want a quick and simple
lunch or dinner that’s got a little kick to it and doesn’t
cost much. Let’s also say you’ve met your burger and
pizza quotient for the month, so something different is a plus.
This is where a place like Al Basha, a
new Mediterranean restaurant and grocery store in Broad Ripple, comes
Al Basha is located in the Broad Ripple
strip mall that, for years, has been home to two of the Village’s
most stalwart dining establishments: the Thai Café and
Shalimar. In the years since those two fixtures opened, this strip
has become home to a variety of other eateries and, now that Thr3e
Wise Men has opened by the entry to the strip’s parking lot,
this swatch of Broad Ripple real estate has become more popular than
ever for hungry folks.
Al Basha makes a simple first
impression. The unadorned room is scrupulously neat and clean. A few
tables share the space with a surprisingly extensive array of Middle
Eastern foodstuffs. Here you’ll find chilled baked goods and
Labna, a yogurt-type spread, along with canned goods, spices and such
basic building blocks of Mediterranean cuisine as chick peas, farina,
semolina, sumac and bulgar wheat.
When ordering at the counter, you’ll
find that Al Basha offers all the classics – Hummus ($4.50),
the disconcertingly named but tasty Foul Mudammes ($4), Stuffed Grape
Leaves ($7.99), Falafel ($6.99) and Gyros ($5.99) – as well
some all-American options like a Ribeye Steak sandwich ($7.99), a
Chicken Philly ($5.99) and, yes, a Hamburger ($4.99). You can also
order fish dinners made with your choice of catfish, tilapia, ocean
perch or whiting as well as chicken wings.
We stopped in for lunch and started
with a Mazza Combination appetizer platter ($10.99), consisting of
hummus, Baba Ghanouj, two stuffed grape leaves, three falafel
patties, a sprinking of feta cheese and pita bread. Of this array, I
found the falafel and grape leaves particularly good. The falafel
patties, often overcooked and dry, were crisp but pleasingly moist
and flavorful at the center. And the grape leaves, stuffed with
finely ground beef and rice with seasonings, had a hearty, smoky
taste. The eggplant-based Baba Ghanouj was refreshingly tart and,
though I would have preferred a little more garlic, the hummus was
whipped to an almost creamy consistency. Everything was fresh and
tasted made from scratch.
We followed up these familiar
appetizers with a variation on a standard Mediterranean theme.
Al Basha offers a hot or extra spicy
version of the Gyros Sandwich ($6.99), a large pita pouch stuffed
with flakes of rotisserie lamb mixed with grilled onions and a Greek
raita, or cucumber yogurt-type sauce. In this case, the meltingly
tender, bite-size flakes of lamb were infused with a bright orange
hue thanks to having been marinated in a kind of chili sauce. The
meat carried a delicious burn that echoed through the cool raita.
This was gyros with a difference. If you love wings, you ought to
give this sandwich a try.
My companion opted for the Spicy
Chicken Ragin sandwich ($5.99). Here was a juicy pile of shredded
chicken tenders sautéed with onions, green peppers, tomatoes
and mushrooms, then topped with mozzarella cheese and a spicy chili
sauce, and served on a soft sandwich roll. Taken together, the
ingredients made for a robust, rather creamy mouthful, with some heat
around the edges.
Al Basha has a nifty way of taking
familiar Mediterranean dishes for a spicy spin. If you’re
looking for fresh and simple dishes with a kick, check it out.