A Visit to Ali’s Kebab Cafe

November, 2007

 

Review by Axel Ebermann

The quest for culinary delights once again led us into the vast no mans land known as QUEENS.

Once arrived at Ali’s Kebab House the owner Ali wasted no time laying out the ground rules:

1) There will be no Kebab
2) You will eat what Ali deems best for you
3) Do not under any circumstances question Ali’s authorit
4) …unless you are a blonde girl – then you can do whatever you want

Ali started cooking away only supported by his wine pouring assistant (we kept him busy with that) and what followed were Middle Eastern delights that would make Scheherazade jump out of the pages of ‚1001 Arabian Nights’

The dining experience was always underlined by Ali’s way of serving the dishes: Fresh out of the pan on the plates. Then Ali standing in front of his counter watching you eat the first bite with his entire demeanor saying ‘Yes – I am God bitches – I know…’

And damn is he right…

Mountain Oysters of Lamb served on a Bed of Zatar and Sumac

Even for a group of veteran testicle connoisseurs such as the Gastronauts these little chopped up lamb balls were the tenderest piece of meat ever. The mixture of the sour capers and the spicy zatar mix was simply superb.

Tripe with a Chickpea, Tomato, Garlic, Cumin Sauce

As we all know tripe can be either good or pretty bad. Depending on how you make it. Unless you are Ali – then it is supreme. Some of the best tripe we ever had. Again in a refined sauce that made us fight over the bits and pieces.

Lamb Cheeks SautéedServed with a Poached Egg

The lamb cheeks were competing with the testicles for the title of ‘most tender piece of meat on the planet’.

Veal Tongue with a Tomato sill Onion Garlic Green Pepper Sauce

Veal tongue is always a sure winner. But this one was again top of the line. Just cooked to the right consistency the tenderness of the meat also suggested that this cow did definitely not die of old age. The green pepper sauce had a nice punch, the dill nicely complimented the sour – salty tongue and one can never use too much garlic anyway.

Pate Dumplings of Duck Liver and Gizzard in a Tomato Sauce with Blobs of Lebanese Yogurt

I thought this thing was pretty damn good – until my teeth hit the raisins. GASTRONAUTIC – once again had Ali scored a hit by counterbalancing sweet, salty AND sour in the same dish – without repeating the flavor palette throughout his previous dishes (which is quite an achievement).
Sweetbreads with an Anchovy and Olive sauce

Creamy delight, heaven, nirvana, flying carpets. I’ll trade in a pyramid or two for a plate of that.

Whole Baby Chicken Heads Served with Taro Toot and Swiss Chard

li said that this was the thing he fought over with his siblings back home in Jordan. This was the only slightly ‘problematic’ dish of the evening. First of all it is rather disconcerting to pop something into your mouth that looks at you (like a head with eyes and stuff…). Then the chewing part revealed what a chicken head is made of: Among others – bone, cartilage….In all fairness the flavor was on the upper end of the scale but the texture was to say the least -a little funky…

Naturally Ali would not let us go without some homemade deserts like Baklava and some stuffed delight with fresh white cheese inside that was utterly delicious.

Any body who did not get the message: Ali’s cooking not just good – it is absolutely and mindblowingly superb.

And whatever Ali put in his food – the usually well-behaved Gastronauts had the raunchiest table conversation EVER. Whatever it is Ali puts in his food – this is definitely a place for a date

ALI's KEBAB CAFE

25-12 Steinway Street
Astoria, Queens
Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

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RESTAURANT: ALI's KEBAB CAFE