Alternate title: SEARCH OVER.
I’m so glad I took on this quest for the ultimate chicken pita wrap. I’ve been eating some good food, seeing some interesting places (and taking some inadvertent tours), and meeting some really kind people. My latest excursion took me to a place I’d visited before--Ali Baba, eatery of the angry, hirsute man.
I didn’t dare take my camera with me this time, but it wouldn’t have mattered--the owner wasn’t there this time. The place hasn’t changed at all since my first visit, and I was especially elated to see the wood-fired oven (more on that later). I promptly placed my order for the chicken durum wrap, sauce on the side ($6.45 + tax). I also failed to resist the small appetizer plate, which included portions of five appetizers of your choice ($9.95 + tax). Variety may be the spice of life, but I think my life is sufficiently seasoned--I got two parts hummus, two parts ezme (super spicy tomato dip), and one part barbunya (giant white beans drenched* in olive oil and spices).
*Yeah, “drenched” may be an understatement. I went ahead and poured most of that grease off.
Far and away, the highlight of my day was watching the bread-making process. It began with the Breadmaster (as I’ve taken it upon myself to dub him) hacking off a bit of premade dough and rolling it into the perfect size and thickness for optimum puffing. To give you an idea of its elasticity, I witnessed him pick up the rolled dough and a whip it like you whip a wet shirt to get the wrinkles out. (Amusingly, he did this in the face of the kid hanging around the kitchen, flicking flour all over him.) He must roll out hundreds of those things each day, and he certainly has it down to an art.
Massive, providing many a moment of savory chew-phoria.
After rolling and flicking the dough, he sprinkled on some nigella seeds, placed it on a wooden paddle and slid it into the 460F wood-fired oven. This is the point at which I became mesmerized, spellbound, and completely captivated. The puffing is simply extraordinary--the totally flat disc becomes this perfect round ball of soft, pliable bread. I could be entertained for hours by this process, as long as I was fed a steady supply of said bread.
I’ll be honest--part of the reason I got the appetizer plate was so I could get another piece of lavash. You can imagine my disappointment when I realized it came with a smaller, thicker piece instead. Regardless of that downer, I still enjoyed what I was given.
The thicker bread was actually better for scooping up the hummus (a little bland) and ezme (it set my mouth on fire, so I loved it). The beans were scrumptious—slightly sweet and cooked to the point where they actually melted in my mouth, no chewing required.
Now, the point of my visit--the wrap. Apparently, the man misunderstood my request for sauce on the side, giving me extra sauce while still slathering the innards with it. So much for consistency within my reviews, but it was so darned delicious, I didn’t care. Perfectly creamy and dilled, with just enough garlic to let me know it was there. Although the glorious, matchless bread burst at some point in the making, I managed to devour the entire wrap with no problems. The chicken was moist and only very lightly seasoned, but that just gave me an excuse to use more sauce.
This is one terrific restaurant and I won’t be waiting another year to visit again. In fact, I expect to order exactly the same thing (with an extra piece of lavash on the side).
2243 15th St.
Troy, NY 12180
October 3, 2009
Alternate title: SEARCH OVER.