Food & Drink
Jebreel's Mideast buffet delivers a healthier 'comfort food' alternative
Published: January 23, 2012
Albustan is not a heavy-on-the-gravy, stick-to-your-ribs, or clear-your-stuffy-head sort of joint. But walking away from San Antonio's first all-you-can-eat Mediterranean buffet left me feeling buoyed by another kind of comfort food. Taufeiq Jebreel says he opened the place last September with the goal of bringing a wide variety of fresh, affordable, and tasty Mediterranean food to San Antonio at a reasonable price. Mission accomplished.
Current readers have long fawned over Pasha down the street and around the corner, but if they stretch out on Fredericksburg a wee bit (say, as far as Graham Central Station) and tuck into a serene corner just out of eyesight of the traffic, they're in for a treat. Walking into the restaurant, large windows stretching the entire length of the wall deliver an abundance of natural sunlight, bathing the restaurant in a soft, comfortable glow that sets the ambiance for the meal (and provides a dose of vitamin D).
Walid Kanakrieh, Jebreel's business partner and manager of Albustan, enthusiastically greets me and directs me toward the buffet tables, where I pause to allow my eyes to wander over variety of foods available, separated here by hot and cold. I count at least three soups, three different types of rice, and a rotation of six main courses spanning from tried-and-true favorites such as chicken schwarma and falafel to a mediterranean twist on Greek moussaka, a decadent eggplant cooked with ground beef, onions, and simmered in a homemade tomato sauce.
Koobideh kabob, a skewer of finely minced beef mixed with parsley, onions, and assorted spices, is grilled to order and served to every patron in the house piping hot. The koobideh is a highlight, the kabob perfectly salted and moist, with bold flavors that are sure to please any San Antonio carnivore. The lentil soup is also a must try — perfectly textured; this isn't your typical chunky lentil stew. In fact, the yellow lentils are among the most savory that I've had, and I found myself going back for thirds.
At the salad bar, the variety continues with eight different types of salads and dip. Hummus, tabouleh, baba ganoush, and greek salad are offered, in addition to a variety of pickles. I sampled each and every dish and I found everything to be fresh, with the baba ganoush standing out with a perfect touch of acidity. The rice pudding was a perfect close to the experience, the combination of rice and brown sugar perfectly cleansing the pallet and refreshing the senses.
Jebreel informed me that all food served daily is fresh, never frozen. As a bonus, all food is prepared halal, with an attention to detail that is not usually shown in buffets. It's a rare achievement, but Albustan made me feel that I had just enjoyed a home-cooked meal at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Mediterranean comfort food, welcome to San Antonio. •
Albustan Mediterranean Restaurant
4841 Fredericksburg Rd
San Antonio's first all-you-can-eat Mediterranean buffet offers big variety without sacrificing a home-cooked touch.
Koobideh kabob, yellow lentil soup, falafel, rice pudding
11am-9pm, Mon-Thur; 11am-10pm Fri-Sat; noon-9pm Sun
$8.99 Lunch, $10.99 Dinner, price includes buffet and refillable soft drink
> Email Will Lee