It began with torture by smell, as kathryn’s group of four waited for their table at Kabab Café in Astoria, tantalized and taunted by the aromas wafting from the tiny kitchen. It ended with a cup of fragrant, honeyed hibiscus tea full of apple slices. In between came an improvised yet masterly procession of dishes, more or less Egyptian: convincing evidence that this perennial Chowhound favorite and its chef-owner, Ali El Sayed, were in top form. A few highlights from an evocative report:

—Meze plate with warm pita bread, comprising hummus, fool, baba ghanoush, and exceptionally good falafel. “Best falafel I’ve tasted in my life,” kathryn says, “and it makes me angry to think of wasted calories on inferior falafel.”

—Lamb two ways, first cooked in lemon-olive sauce (“sweet, meaty, lemony, and gone in a flash”), then lamb cheeks, served in pickled lemon sauce (“[a]n umami explosion on the tongue”).

—Veal sweetbreads in lemon-caper sauce: “Cooked with a light hand and fatty, meaty, tender, like eating meat butter.” With the accompanying eggplant and onion, kathryn adds, this was an “onslaught of deliciousness.”

—Breaded fried brains, served sizzling hot: “Now I know what the zombies of old horror movies crave and why they crave it.”

—Whole fish, cooked with squash and onion: “Moist and tender, sweet, and delectable. Even the onions on the side were wonderful.”

Kabab Café [Astoria]
25-12 Steinway Street (near 25th Avenue), Astoria, Queens
718-728-9858

Board Link: A Night at the Kabab Cafe

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