Al-Basha is already a neighborhood favorite, no secret to anyone in Paterson. Along with the many middle eastern families and business lunches we saw on a Tuesday, locals of all stripes were coming in to enjoy what we discovered was a fantastic restaurant. The awning reads "Middle Eastern & Lebanese Cuisine" while the owner hails from Palestine. Their menu runs the gamut.
They were a little overwhelmed at the peak of lunch time, but this may have been due to a surprise visit from the health department that some of the employees had to cater to in the kitchen. Regardless, they handled it well and were always friendly. Our meal was only delayed slightly, and well worth the wait.
Lunch seems like a great time to come here, as they have a daily rotating specials menu that has interesting items each day. The national dishes of many countries of the Levant make an appearance. On Mondays, Palestinian dajaj musakhan, Tuesday has Saudi kabsa and Egyptian mloukhieh, Friday has Jordanian mansaf. While not national dishes, Yemeni mendi and Palestinian makloubeh show up on different days. While these versions may not adhere strictly to the cooking styles of each of those countries, you get the point. I actually looked at AirBnB listings in the area, thinking I could stay for a week and try everything.
Before our mains arrived, a plate of pickled turnips came, along with lovely bitter green olives. Seen above is also our plates of tabbouleh, one of which was not ordered. Generosity was not in question throughout our meal.
The restaurant has a fresh juice bar at the front and my ayran came in one of their cups.
To get a general sense of the restaurant's "regional" appeal, we ordered one relatively unadventurous and ubiquitous plate, the beef shawerma ($11.99, below) which comes standard with hummus, baba ghanouj, and Turkish salad. Even without tasting anything else, we would have known the place was special. The hummus is drop dead delicious, smooth and glorious in every way. Also smooth and creamy, the baba ghanouj has a slight tang that might be mistaken for sour cream but certainly could not be.
The meat might have taken second fiddle to these meze, but even it warrants praise. The knifed-off slices from the spit come with charred crispy ends and plenty of juiciness inside. The marinade is wonderful. I'm running out of superlatives with an even more delicious plate still to come!
Tuesday specials had three options, but I was most struck by the kabsa ($11.99, below), a dish named for the rice and spices and served throughout the region. It's origins are in Saudi Arabia, where it is considered the national dish.
The rice is infused with plenty of cumin and even pine nuts for a slight crunchiness that is excellent. They serve the dish with chicken here, a full half bird. The spices used are also superlative heavy, and the skin comes crisp. The only problem is getting pieces of that skin in every bite, but even without the meat of the bird is somehow so moist throughout. A really amazing dish.
I specifically remember the words "Holy Shit!" coming from my mouth after the first few bites.
[UPDATE: A couple photos from a January 2017 visit]
Al-Basha mazzah $15.99 around eggplant salad $6.99 (center)
If you have never tried mhamarah (above, bottom center), a hot pepper dish using Aleppo peppers and originally from that city, please try it here. It is divine.
Al-Basha small platter $17.99