You may have noticed the old Bruegers location on the corner of Madison and North Allen in Albany undergoing a transformation over the past couple of months. And all of that work has finally paid off with the opening of Kismet Mediterranean Grill – a much needed casual dining addition to the Pine Hills neighborhood.
I expected to find mostly gyros and pita sandwiches with a handful of appetizers, but was pleased to see that the menu is actually quite lengthy. Sandwiches and salads give way to full entrees with chicken, shrimp, or lamb, as well as the addition of a modest wine list.
An appetizer sampler allowed us to pick three items from a tantalizing list of options – always a must when trying a new restaurant for the first time or for the ever indecisive diner like myself. We opted for baba ganoush, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), and sigara borek (aka “turkish cigars,” fried phyllo rolls filled with feta and dill).
The baba ganoush had less of a tahini base and hummus texture than I was expecting, with more of a creamy yogurt presence and bits of walnuts. It was mild and smooth and definitely worthy of seconds. We also loved the stuffed grape leaves, which were perfectly seasoned with a heavy dash of lemon and just the right consistency in the middle (not too mushy and not too dense). The little dish of tzatziki was a nice addition to dip the cigars and extra pieces of pita into, but we thought it was a little too thin and watery. My personal preference is for a much thicker tzatziki, like the one served at Athos.
A vegetarian wrap was calling my name from the menu, with a filling of eggplant shakshuka, hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, and tzatziki. There were a lot of messy components in this sandwich, but it held together beautifully because of the strength of the crispy pita. I loved all of the ingredients, but I found myself picking off bits of the pita to eat on its own – it was lovely and crunchy and I could probably eat it with anything.
We also tried one of the larger entrees – a lamb kavourma plate, served with chunks of sauteed meat, peppers, mushrooms, and rice on a hot plate. At first this seemed like a lot of food, but it was seasoned with nice rich flavors and the chunks of lamb were so very tender – so in other words, it didn’t end up lasting very long.
Service was very friendly, including the owner of the restaurant, who made a point to walk around and check that all of the customers were satisfied. The menu had a good mix of options, including lighter sandwiches as well as full dinner plates. And on top of all of that, the interior is really an amazing improvement from the old Bruegers days – everything was clean and modern and stylish. I have a feeling that Kismet is just what the neighborhood needed, and it will do quite well in this location.