Western Ave., Albany, 452-6342. Serving 11-9 Mon-Sat. AE,
price range: $10 (various wraps) to $23 (Mediterranean
needed an antidote to Thanksgiving madness, which in my house
is a festive blowout of a meal. Even while sidestepping some
of the traditional courses, I felt weighed down by turkey
and potatoes and a casserole array, so I sought solace in
Mediterranean fare, as prepared and presented by BFS Restaurant.
I’ve been writing about the place long enough to know it wasn’t
always thus. Before there were comfortable seats in a nicely
appointed restaurant with a deli counter, there was—just a
deli counter. Twenty years ago, owner Shaw Rabadi purveyed
his own popular concoctions alongside an array of other specialty
food. He’d been an accountant, but his friends thought his
career move a good thing—suggesting that it was “Best for
Shaw,” he told me way back then, “or maybe that I’d offer
[the award for] Best Friendly Service.”
Fifteen years ago, he opened the present location, which provides
table service in two rooms. What’s remarkable about the current
state of the place is that it looks as fresh as it did back
then, which is part of the attention to detail that also informs
the food presentation.
For example, I started with a Greek salad ($11), nothing surprising
in itself, sporting olives, feta and cucumber over greens,
but those greens were surprisingly fresh and attractive looking.
Rabadi later explained that much of his salad work is done
by a woman who also works as a seamstress, “so she’s very
Nutrition is also a focus of his, and the menu highlights
such heart-healthy selections as hummus, baba ghanouj, taboleh,
fattoush salad, roasted zaatar or Moroccan chicken
and several seafood items.
Many of the appetizers have meal-in-themselves potential,
such as the Lebanese Mini Maza (salads or servings of hummus,
baba ghanouj, taboleh and cucumber tomato, $10), spanakopita
($8) and a sampler plate called mezedes that includes
a spinach pocket, stuffed grape leaves, hummus and a kibbe
ball ($12). There also are items like baked brie ($9), crabmeat-stuffed
shrimp in puff pastry ($8) and grilled portabella mushrooms
($9), which we sampled, and which included goat cheese in
addition to the marinated mushrooms, on a nicely assembled
The salads list includes Caesar ($9, toppings $4 extra), Greek
($11), antipasto ($11), spinach ($11) and a meat-rich chef’s
($11). Also look for the Lebanese salad ($11), which features
lemon and mint, and a falafel salad for $11.
For a lighter meal—or if you’re dining with a portion-fussy
spouse—a list of wraps ($10 each) covers all imaginable meat
and veggie bases, from tuna salad to several chicken preparations
to grilled eggplant, portabella or veggie array. Sliced leg
of lamb is paired with garlic sauce. Lentil sauté includes
red pepper hummus and feta. The “Little Italy” is a mixed-meat
array, and battered eggplant, our visit’s spouse- pleaser,
is a fat pocket that includes roasted red peppers and mozzarella,
served with a small side of pasta salad.
Vegetarian items are an important component of the BFS menu,
and are highlighted as such, but some of the highlights are
the entrée-sized spanakopita ($19), served with grilled vegetables
and baba ghanouj; a dolmas platter that puts stuffed grape
leaves over greens with hummus and pasta salad ($18); eggplant
parmigiana with homemade marinara ($18); vegetable lasagna
($18); and eggplant kabobs ($18) with skewers of eggplant,
peppers, mushrooms and onions.
It wouldn’t be Mediterranean without pasta, so look for $19
entrées with the macaroni prepared with grilled eggplant,
roasted red peppers and feta; alla pesto, with grilled chicken;
with sun-dried tomatoes and capers, or alla puttanesca, with
a bitchin’ array of fresh tomatoes, calamata olives, artichokes
Seafood entrées include swordfish, tuna, sole, salmon and
shrimp in the $21 range. We enjoyed the baked shrimp casserole
(karides kusadasi, $22), which is served over spinach
and features fresh tomato, artichokes and feta. Its casserole-ish-ness
notwithstanding, it showed the same attention to presentation
detail as everything else we ordered.
As much as I’d like to sample my way across the menu, I always
come back to the same entrée, the Mediterranean sampler ($23).
It really is a best of everything, with a slice of crunchy
spanakopita, two contrasting hummus preparations, a lamb-rich
chunk of kibbe that contrasts with the creamy, béchamel-topped
moussaka, a couple of stuffed grape leaves, and a few different
salads as underpinnings, so to speak. Even with my ferocious
appetite, I couldn’t get through it all. Otherwise I’d go
for the roasted zaatar chicken ($18), which is cooked
in a zesty spice blend of sumac, sesame seeds and oregano,
or the shawarma platter ($18), which features a broiled
lamb and beef loaf.
Eggplant, lamb and chicken feature in other entrées, including
a three-meat lasagna ($19). And, of course, there’s moussaka
($21), one of the best cold-weather casseroles.
If you’re not steering a heart-healthy course, there’s a display
case of toothsome desserts. Because I suspected I’d already
done too much dietary damage to myself, I courted virtue by
avoiding the cakes. I suspect that restraint will evaporate
by the time of my next visit.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
World Bistro Bar (300
Delaware Ave., Albany) was one of only 16 restaurants
in the United States to win a 2010 Santé Restaurant
Award in the Innovative Food category. The 13-year-old
Santé Awards program is the only peer-judged national
restaurant competition in North America. Chef
consultant Ric Orlando previously won a Santé
Award in 2006 at his Saugerties restaurant, New
World Home Cooking. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland.