The eatery, which opened on November 5 in the Virginia Vale neighborhood, is one of just a few kosher restaurants in Denver. Because the Jewish community is spread throughout the metro area, Abergel explains that a centralized location was both imperative and strategic. “We knew that this community was lacking options and that it’s not going to interfere with any other crowd. Kosher meat is just like any other meat,” he says.
Past its brick archways and covered patio, visitors to ASLI will see right into its kitchen where two vertical, rotating skewers slow-roast chicken shawarma and veal. The menu appears above the large serving window. It seems concise at first glance, but the opportunities to mix and match are numerous. Any protein such as ground beef kebab, fried chicken, chicken skewers, grilled chicken breast, vegetarian sabich and vegan falafel, can be served in a pita, on a baguette or as a salad or plate.
The menu lists five side options including French fries, sweet potato fries, rice, falafel and Israeli chopped salad. There are also four flavors hummus available: shawarma, sabich, falafel and mushroom. Drinks are featured on the overhead menu, though visitors will likely first spot colorful bottles of Prigat, an Israeli juice, stocked in a self-serve refrigerator.
Sweet sips of this fruity beverage break up the heavy, savory flavors of the dishes, which are influenced by both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. “It is Israeli street food, but it’s the same food you would find on the streets of Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and all that area,” comments Abergel.
Guests are called to collect their entrees from the counter when ready and seating throughout the restaurant accommodates groups of varying sizes.
The atmosphere is casual and family-friendly, and the interior gives nods to the regions ASLI is inspired by. Like the Israeli flag, the restaurant features a blue and white color palette, including a mural that explains the meaning of its name: “ASLI in Hebrew slang means the original, real deal, authentic, no joke,” it says.
Complementary textures appear on each wall: wooden slats, white-painted brick, natural stone and decorative tiles with a traditional Mediterranean style. There’s a subtle coastal vibe to the space, seen in its wood beam light fixtures and a few tasteful pieces of beachy decor.
“We use fresh hummus, garbanzo beans and a lot of greens,” he explains, adding that the falafel is made in-house each morning. “I like when it’s hot, crispy and fresh. That’s the difference between frozen falafel and a real-deal falafel.”
The falafel is served as a set of nine when ordered as a plate, and it is indeed the real deal in terms of flavor and texture. Plates also include one side and two salads — I opted for rice, which complemented the texture of the crunchy falafel, along with a refreshing cucumber-tomato mix and a vinegar-based red cabbage salad. The latter paired especially well with the meal, adding a pleasant dose of acidity.
Despite being plenty full, I did crave something sweet after the meal but currently, ASLI does not offer dessert. I would love to see the restaurant add regionally-inspired cookies, pastries or other confections. But after dining, visitors can drive two miles up the road to try another of Abergel’s concepts: I Scream Gelato in Lowry, which also accommodates all dietary preferences.
“It’s super important to have options for all customers,” Abergel concludes. “We want to make sure that if a family shows up, everyone will find something [on the menu].”