Dining In Bosnia: A Review of Chef Alisah’s Restaurantby Jim Gressinger on Feb. 13, 2013, under Restaurant Reviews
I had heard good things about Chef Alisah’s Restaurant and finally had the opportunity to dine there. It’s billed as “European & Bosnian Cuisine”. I think I have dined at every other kind of restaurant available in Southern Arizona, but never Bosnian.
On this chilly Sunday morning in January I had gone to Saddlebrooke, and joined about 300 other skeptics, to experience AZ Daily Star editorial cartoonist, David Fitzsimmons.
Fitz gave us an incisive and very funny talk on the most pressing issues of the day, accompanied with drawn-on-the-spot cartoons, that would have made any seasoned standup comedian envious. If you ever get the chance to experience Fitz, just do it.
Afterward, Dr. Gil, his lovely wife Karen, and I headed back south on Oracle in search of Chef Alisah’s Restaurant. I knew it was roughly at Oracle & Rudasill but it was harder to find than one might think. It’s tucked under some offices in what must have been an old motel a few yards south of Rudasill on the west side of Oracle.
The place was not busy and we were seated right away. Our hostess/waitress was the Chef’s wife. I understand that a son also works there. A couple seated at a nearby table was mid-way through their meal, so I inquired as to what they had ordered and asked if it was any good. Answer: “Sausages,” said one. “Goulash,” said the other. “Excellent!” they declared in unison. Obviously carnivores.
The menu included an assortment of seasoned meats, particularly homemade sausages, and pure vegetarian dishes, such as grilled eggplant with red bell peppers, olive oil, salt & pepper.
Apparently cabbage is big in Bosnia. Many, perhaps most dishes were served with cabbage salad. There were also a number of cabbage dishes, such as cabbage leaves stuffed with ground beef, rice, onions, peppers & sauerkraut. Salads included cabbage with sheep’s milk cheese, rather than feta.
I think all dishes come with fresh-baked bread, but while the bread was good, and indeed hot-just-outa-the-oven, it was also different from any I have tasted. Sorta like pita, but not. Must have been Bosnian bread. I should have asked.
I ordered the lamb with white beans. The chunks of lamb came in a heavy brown sauce that was very tasty. The meat itself was quite tender.
A salad preceded the main meal and it was OK, but nothing special. However, full disclosure, I’m just not into cabbage or cucumbers. Karen really liked hers. I had all the cucumbers I ever want to see when Ms. Karen & I spent almost a month in the Middle East. Wanting to experience all I could of Bosnia cuisine, I ordered a glass of Cockta, which is some sort of Yugoslavian cola, similar to Pepsi & Coke, but oddly different – more like a mix of Dr. Pepper and cream soda. Way too sweet for my taste, but I had to try it.
Dr. Gil ordered the gulas (Bosnian-Style goulash): seasoned beef squares in a rich sauce and served with white butter rice. I helped myself to a bite. Very tender beef, pleasantly seasoned.
Dr. Gil’s Karen ordered the piletina u sosu od gljiva. You know, chicken in homemade mushroom sauce. Like all of the main dishes, hers came with the ubiquitous cabbage salad and fresh bread.
We all agreed the food was not only very good, but delightfully different from any other place in Southern Arizona. The proportions were ample and the presentation eye-pleasing. The main menu items range from about $12 to $19.
They do have a kids menu and four kinds of desserts, including my favorite, baklava.
Chef Alisah serves no alcoholic beverages. It’s strictly BYOB, but no corkage fee. So, if you don’t like the wine, you know whom to blame.
My understanding is that all the food is prepared from scratch right there in the kitchen. For the benefit of his customers, Chef/Owner Ahmet Alisah is a bit of a control freak. His motto, printed right on the menu, reads: “The only way to have control over it [quality] is to do everything yourself, right on the premises.”
His wife, our waitress, was gracious and attentive. The atmosphere is informal and relaxed, but nice enough to have clean table clothes and clean restrooms.
Chef Alisah’s is not open 24/7. Closed Mondays, they serve lunch Tuesday – Sunday 10:30 to 1:30. Dinners are served Tuesdays – Sundays 5:30 to 9:30.
If you’re looking for a different yet pleasant dining experience, Chef Alisah’s is highly recommended. I will be adding Chef Alisah’s to our 2012 List of the Best Restaurants In Southern Arizona as I update for 2013.