I have spent too many years lurking here, learning from others and eating well, without giving back. Today's as good a day as any to start giving back.
Two Sundays ago, we were driving back into the city on the L.I.E. when my wife pointed to an Afghan place that we were speeding past - "I've always wondered about that place, and I'm hungry; let's get lunch." Those are always instincts worth following, I think, even if they don't work. This one worked:
Ali Baba (ignore the name), 183-10 Horace Harding Expwy, Fresh Meadows... basically, LIE just east of Utopia Pkwy. The place was empty, but the owner (Hassan?) told us it would be jammed by night. He also said he was about to open a second outlet out on the Island, in Hempstead or somewhere like that. Per take-out menu, phone is: 718.463.7362 and 718.463.7900.
On to the food: we had Khoresh Gheimeh (yellow peas, dried lemons and beef chunks cooked in tomato sauce with strips of potato) -- really nice interesting spiciness; a Lamb Kebab (not sure what to say except that Hassan says the place is known for them, and this was a damn good kebab); an unexpected salad which was dressed with a lot of unexpected ranch salad dressing, a lovely "masto-khiar" (homemade yogurt with shallots, cucumber and garlic) -- think of Turkish haydari; and... I don't remember. Way too much food for two of us. A pleasant enough "Salad Shirazi," I think, which is your basic fresh-tasting no-lettuce Meditteranean salad. A pleasant discovery when we were asked about what kind of rice we wanted: we said "Basmati," and Hassan kindly told us that all of his rice was Basmati. "OK, then; what should we get?" We wound up with a green rice (heavy on the coriander, and great with leftovers) and an orange rice (oranges, pistachios, other stuff, worked well with kebab).
Two key lessons here: (a) when you get the voice that says, "hey, what about that place?", always pull over. (b) if you're not sure what to order, ask... and ask enough so that it's clear that you're not a customer who would be happier with fries and a shake.