Share:

Restaurants & Bars 8

kabab cafe!...

astoriaboy | Mar 8, 2003 04:59 AM

since i found this board, not too long ago, i have been thinking a lot about kabab cafe! and how long it's been since i've last been there...so, i decided to head back to visit our old buddy, ali...

i'm proud to say that i was one of his first regulars...yes, i remember those days...the "specials" were hardly what they are today...i mean, maybe he had some egyptian sausages or something weird and funky, once in a while, but back then, when you went into the kabab cafe!, you actually expected to have a kabab...i fell in love with them...he opened up 13 years ago, and i didn't know the difference between a kofta and a falafel...but, after i got hooked, i was even trying to make my own koftas at home, complete with tahini sauce and everything...never did quite measure up to ali's, tho...

as i remember, kc was one of the first arabic/egyptian establishments to appear on steinway...i'm surprised i ventured into the place at all...strange water pipes ("do they smoke opium in here?!?"), cramped (yes...even more cramped than it is, now), dirty-looking...i was always the only gringo in the joint...you would think that i wouldn't have felt welcome...but, those of you who know him, know that ali has an easy time at making you feel welcomed and comfortable...

now, for some reason, i remember ali telling me his name was nick...maybe, that was his "american name" that he gave me to not seem so foreign...or, perhaps more likely, i had been enjoying a water pipe of my own, as i was known to do in my youth, and i'm just remembering for shit :) ...but, by any name, ali is a real treasure...and, my latest visits, really confirmed that for me...

let me talk about the food before i get all mushy...opened up with the "warm salad"...just awesome...a medley of sauteed veggies with some tahini and hummous and his famous baba...then had the "chicken in yogurt" that was on special...chicken marinated in yogurt, lightly curried and spiced...the meat was falling off the bone and just scrumptuous...finished off with the mixed dessert platter, which was so good, i can't even tell you...honey cake and baklava and the other thing with the shredded wheat...topped off with homemade yogurt (consistency of a soft cheese) and drizzled with some more honey...zapped it in the microwave to get some warmth going, and it was sublime...i'm not really a big fan of the arabic coffee, but i always have to have one when i visit ali...

i was thinking about that meal for two days, before i just had to go back for more...this time, we opened up with the mixed appetizer...ali's homemade salads, falfels, and some crisped swiss chard (i think) for flair...can't go wrong ordering that app...then had the shell steak...i don't know...wasn't too enthralled with the steak...it was pretty fatty and a little too heavily spiced...i think when ordering from an artist, you're better off giving him more room to work with than a simple steak...like with the humitas!...wow...they were so excellent...they have been written about before on this board (as has most every other of ali's creations that i have mentioned, thus far) but, this is a dish worth talking about again and again...imagine...an egyptian serving an argentinian (well...my mom is, anyway)the best mendocina-style humita he ever expects to have in his life...then, finished off with the same coffee and dessert platter as before...it wasn't as good, this time...the pastries were a little hard and dry...but, ali made up for by doubling up on the yogurt...love that yogurt...

i was on such a kc high that i went back the next afternoon to re-live the kofta magic that got me hooked in the first place...it was great...but not the same...perhaps this was a winter kofta, as the sandwich consisted of sauteed veggies, as opposed to the lettuce, tomatoes and such, that i remember...the price was not what i remember, either...$6...not a rip-off...but, i'll have to be in a special mood to have it again, when i can just head up to the halal cart on 34th and steinway for a $3 sandwich...

for the uninitiated, i tell you to go pay ali a visit(25-12 steinway street)...you might feel a little intimidated when you first walk in, but don't worry...ali is a master chef and a master host...he'll make you feel right at home, in no time...and, you'll almost definitely be assured of a decent meal--and oftentimes, a great one...but, the place, to me anyway, is about much more than just the food...now, i don't want to sound too corny, but my visit to ali's left me with really good vibes...not the least of which was this vibe of feeling proud to be an american...at a time when it has been a little difficult for me to feel that way, i am particulary grateful...i'd explain my corniness, but i think i've written enough, already ;)

dominick

Want to stay up to date with this post?

Recommended From Chowhound