THE BITE: Looking for a new place for lunch? Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II (2556 Coney Island Avenue) is trying something new; the hot table. Hoping to rebuild its customer base after the hurricane, Sarajevo II is offering up a hot steam table of home-made dishes for your mid-day indulgence.
Choices vary every day as the offerings of the hot table are created by a former employee who was coerced out of retirement after cooking for the highly praised Cevabdzinica Sarajevo Restaurant in Astoria. Hey, it’s all in the family. Cevabdzinica Sarajevo in Astoria is owned by Saed’s father. Saed is the owner and manager of Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II.
This woman, whose name escapes me, creates eight or nine different dishes for the “Hot Table” each and every day. There are three or four standards, from soups to rice, and four or five specials that change daily. The hot table ($7.00) is available from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. I was a bit confused by the rules, but apparently you can choose to have one or all of the dishes from “the table.”
“It’s just like eating at home. Eat all you want,” said Saed. Let’s be clear, though. This isn’t “all you can eat” for one price.
On my last visit, we purchased a plate of rice, meatballs in an interesting sweet and sour sauce and Bosnian moussaka. I was intrigued by this Bosnian moussaka. It fit in perfectly for “The Bite.” This is the first time I’ve seen Bosnian moussaka offered in the neighborhood.
I’ve been a fan of the Greek version of moussaka for many years. With its layers of eggplant, spiced ground lamb and bechamel sauce, moussaka has often been described as Greek “lasagna.” But, it’s so much more than that. The only true similarity between the dishes is the layering of the ingredients. Bosnian moussaka, on the other hand, was introduced to me as the Bosnian version of Greek moussaka and here the comparisons are more apt. In Bosnian moussaka, the eggplant is replaced with potatoes, and the spiced lamb is replaced with ground beef.
At Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II, the moussaka is composed by a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, topped with the ground beef mixture, another layer of potatoes and some tomato sauce. A layer of a sauce, which more closely resembles a Hollandaise sauce with the texture and fluffiness of eggs prominent, than the traditional and much heavier bechamel used in most diners and Greek restaurants. And, finally, it’s topped with a layer of potato slices and possibly ribanac, a cheese very similar to Parmesan.
I really enjoyed this dish. It’s much lighter and more fitting for a mid-day meal than either the Italian lasagna or Greek moussaka. I didn’t experience the food coma that those dishes frequently induce.
Some recipes call for the potatoes to be fried prior to building the moussaka, but it appears that at Cevabdzinica Sarajevo either boils or steams the potatoes before using them. There was absolutely no trace of oil in the dish, which may be it’s only failing. The dish needed a little more moisture. The potatoes were cooked perfectly and the meat moist, but somewhere between the combination of the food layers and the use of a microwave to reheat the dish, the moussaka became a bit dry. This is truly a minor complaint in what otherwise is a very welcome addition to the food scene of Sheepshead Bay.
Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II, 2556 Coney Island Ave (at Gravesend Neck Rd), (718) 758-5454
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.