I've been remiss not posting about this place sooner. Whatever misgivings you may harbor about the cross-cultural menu selections at Al-Baraka (154 E. 55th St, bet. 3rd & Lex.), put them aside and go for dinner some day soon. Al-Baraka terms itself "Mediterreanean & Turkish food" - whatever that means. Let's recall that not only is this the cuisine of the Fertile Crescent, home of humanity's most ancient agricultural tradition, but also the cuisine of an area that has been smack-dab in the middle of East-West trade routes all the way back to pre-Phoenician days. Those chefs that go on about "fusion" cuisine like they invented it? Fuhgeddaboudit.
What's really important to know about this place is this: The food is really tasty. Get yourself a platter of the delicious freshly baked naan, some hummus, baba ganoush, grilled eggplant, dolmah, stuffed cabbage, esme salad, whatever. Go to town. It is all beautifully fresh, perfectly seasoned and redolent of the spices that made early Europeans think it would be a good idea to take a little jaunt around the Cape of Good Hope. Don't miss the Istem Kebab either, a braised lamb shank wrapped in a big slice of sauteed eggplant.
There is never a problem getting a table here in the evening. You will leave happy and full. You will pay about $25/person. You may bring your own wine/beer etc. as they are muslim and don't truckle with serving booze. On most nights, you will be served by Hussein who is both friendly and eager to please. Tell him "the chinese guy" sentcha.
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