All photos by Scott Lynch
Nov 15, 2021
Albadawi is a new hotspot in Brooklyn Heights from the owner of Ayat
Inside the new Palestinian restaurant on Atlantic Ave from Ayat's Abdul Elenani and the team behind Yemen Café
Abdul Elenani is on a mission. To feed people, of course, heartily and well, as anyone who’s eaten at his acclaimed Bay Ridge counter-service spot Ayat can tell you. And now, to play host for your next night on the town, particularly at his new Brooklyn Heights restaurant Albadawi, with its oversized tables, convivial vibe, bouncy soundtrack, BYOB policy, and massive, family-style platters of food. Throw in an insane amount of plastic flowers, a lengthy menu with plenty of choices for everyone, and this place is engineered for fun.
But there’s also something deeper at work here on Atlantic Avenue.
“After opening Ayat I realized a lot of people didn’t really know what Palestine was,” Elenani tells Brooklyn Magazine. “Was it a country? Was it a country at war with other people? They didn’t seem to know that there’s an actual culture, tradition, and cuisine behind Palestine. It kind of triggered this part of me that wants to make it obvious and clear to people that Palestine does exist, Palestine does have a culture, Palestine does have beautiful traditions, and Palestine does have very good food.”
The core of the Albadawi experience are the platters of traditional dishes, which you can get in two sizes: huge (serves 1-2) and super-enormous (serves 3-4). There’s the heavenly stew mansaf, a signature dish at Ayat and just as delicious here, with its glistening hunks of fatty lamb on buttery rice and layers of saj flatbread. Don’t be stingy with the tangy fermented yogurt sauce.
Two other Ayat favorites are available here as well, both six-layered beasts. Fattat lahma stars strips of beef, rice, chickpeas, crisp pita chips, almonds, mint, and lots of garlic tahini for plenty of bite. Maklouba features chicken, eggplant, cauliflower, and potatoes.
But with a larger kitchen and greatly increased seating capacity at Albadawi, Elenani has room on the menu for more of these jumbo-sized entrees, including fasolia and bamia, a tomato and beef stew peppered with, respectively, fresh green beans, and okra. Three versions of the also-rice-based ouzi are served here, one with beef, one with chicken, and, pictured here (and gleefully eaten there), one with a Flintstones-worthy lamb shank plopped on top.
Also new to Albadawi are the pizza-like Middle Eastern flatbreads, topped with things like chicken and zaatar, goat cheese, shrimp and cheese, or chewy and deeply satisfying pistachio, for which the nut is ground to a dust and strewn over melted mozzarella. There’s also a seafood bar, with market-priced fish roasted to order, as well as salmon, shrimp, or swordfish kebabs.
For more casual, smaller-portioned meals (if you go by yourself, or it’s lunchtime, or your table wants to try a bunch of things), there’s a whole long list of appetizers, spreads, and snacks. The two I tried from this section of the menu were terrific: a garlicky, lemony hummus; and the malfouf, a stack of meat-stuffed cabbage leaves each rolled to the size of a decent spliff. An impressive lineup of shawarmas, kebabs, and roasted meats round out the expansive offerings. Perfect for a party.
Elenani co-owns Albadawi with his longtime friend Akram Nassir, whose popular Yemen Café is right up the street. Like Elenani (who also runs a construction company, among other things), Nassir wears several hats; in addition to being a restaurateur and father of three, he’s an active commercial pilot for Delta, and has been for 18 years.
Their partnership at Albadawi came together in a hurry. As Nassir tells it, his 100-year-old father ate at Ayat, loved it, insisted the two do something together in the empty space Nassir was holding on Atlantic Avenue. One month later, Albarawi opened its doors. Two Brooklyn boys getting it done, making people happy.
Albadawi is located at 151 Atlantic Avenue, between Clinton and Henry Streets, and is currently open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily.
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