We noticed the Albasha Greek and Lebanese Restaurant in Gonzales did a lot of takeout business the Saturday evening we were there.
But, really, the place is one where it’s nice to sit and savor a meal for awhile.
It’s comfortable and spacious, with touches of color in a restful, mostly beige interior; there’s a bar in the back and TVs here and there for entertainment. Middle Eastern music plays overhead.
We began our meal with appetizers of meat-stuffed grape leaves ($6.50) and baba ghanouj ($5.95).
The grassy flavor of the grape leaves was an exotic accompaniment to the meat dressing inside.
And that baba ghanouj, which we ate with pita bread, had a wonderful smoky flavor. It’s a creamy blend of broiled eggplants, garlic, lemon juice and tahini sauce, a paste of ground, hulled sesame seeds.
The guest who had the meat mousaka plate ($11.50) found himself taking smaller and smaller bites of the mousaka; he didn’t want the delicious dish to end.
The layers of sautéed potato, eggplant and ground beef, topped with a creamy white sauce was served with rice, feta cheese salad and pita bread.
Other diners enjoyed two different kabob plates, one with chicken ($12.95) and one with shrimp ($13.50).
The chicken was moist, tender and flavorful; the shrimp, broiled in butter and garlic, were excellent, too.
We missed the grilled pieces of vegetables we generally expect with kabobs, but maybe that’s Albasha’s take on it.
Each of those dishes came with feta cheese salad, pita bread, hummus and rice.
A fourth entrée was one of the house specialties, Albasha’s platter ($14.95), which served several traditional side dishes of grape leaves, kibbi, hummus and rice, along with two choices of meats.
One could go with either kabobs or with chicken shawarma. I went with the shawarma and found the spicy, delicious flavor it’s known for. The thinly sliced, boneless chicken, marinated in garlic, olive oil and Lebanese spices, is always a favorite.
By a miscommunication between the wait staff and kitchen, I also was brought a beef kabob. I wasn’t billed for it, which made the tender beef tenderloin even easier to enjoy.
We absolutely loved the ashta ($3.50) that we had for dessert. One of four dessert offerings, the ashta is wrapped filo dough filled with cream cheese. It’s a new favorite.
For the little ones, Albasha serves children’s plates of hamburger, gyro, chicken tenders or chicken shawarma, with either french fries or rice, for $5.
The restaurant also offers a large lunch menu, priced down a notch from the evening selections, on weekdays.
This location of Albasha has been open in Gonzales for about a year and is one of eight for the company in the state. Three of the locations are in Baton Rouge. The one farthest from “home” is in Shreveport.