First noted for its potential healthy benefits in 1945 by American military doctor Ancel Keys, the olive oil-drenched and fruit-and-vegetable-heavy Mediterranean diet gained notice by the general public in the 1990s thanks to articles from experts like Harvard’s Dr. Walter Willett and others. My partner-in-crime and I visited local restaurant “Alsham” to try out a Salem establishment’s interpretation of the diet.
Alsham is located at 145 Liberty St. NE, above the DownTown Market & Deli, which offers a bunch of ethnic food options as well as standard products you’d find at a minimart. To access the restaurant, patrons need to walk through the market and back to the deli to find the stairs that lead up to the restaurant.
Alsham’s dining area is an open second level, overlooking the business below. All of the seats either have a view of the market or the street outside. It was a sunny day, so my guest and I chose a window seat overlooking Liberty Street. The service was initially prompt, but it was clear that our server wore many hats at the business, so we had to wait a bit at times. Despite this, the server was friendly and helpful, assisting my companion in what to select for an entree.
For an appetizer, my guest and I ordered the Babaghanouge Dip, with a mix of ground, roasted eggplant, chopped tomato, onion, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and Mediterranean spices, served with pita bread for dipping ($5.95). Alsham’s variation of the eastern Mediterranean-region classic was tangy and full of flavors that complemented each other well.
We decided to select a meat-based dish and a vegetable-dominated dish for the two entrees. I picked the Fateret Sabanh, a spinach bite with homemade dough, and rice, vegetables, pita bread and tzatziki sauce on the side ($10.95). The dough on the bite was fresh and hearty, and though the entree was carb-laden, it didn’t feel like a heavy dish. As with the appetizer, the star of the entree was the seasoning and flavor pairing. A hallmark of the Mediterranean diet is variety and portion control, so seasoning plays an important role in the diner being satisfied.
My partner picked the Fateret Lahma, with marinated and spiced ground lamb and beef, and vegetables, tzatziki sauce and pita bread ($10.50). She noted how well the meat was seasoned, and that the sides complemented the entree well. She was also a big fan of the tzatziki sauce, saying that it reminded her of the quality she had on her trip to Greece years back.
Our trip to Alsham was a quaint and enjoyable one, and I’ll likely be back soon to try one of the restaurant’s gyros (lamb $12.95, beef $10.95, chicken $9.95) and some zhartar dip ($5.95).