A Southern Grace: open sesame!

January 1, 2008

open sesame!


Today I ventured into Troy to check out a Middle Eastern restaurant called Ali Baba. I’d read good things about their bread; I was hopeful that it would be comparable to the deliciousness that is More Than Coffee’s pita bread.

I entered to find a lovely decor—very ethnic and homey. I was warmly greeted by a man who turned out to be the owner and also the chef. Once again, I was the only patron and had my choice of seating. I chose the seat with the best view of the awesome wood-fire oven in which I suspected the bread would be baked.

The menu was interesting. Instead of written descriptions of the dishes, there were pictures. It all looked appetizing, but I had no idea what was what! Good thing I had the full attention of the young waiter, who was happy to answer my questions. I was feeling particularly hungry, so I ordered both an appetizer and an entrée. For the appetizer (aka the excuse to deliver the lavash bread to my belly), I got ezme.

What? You don’t know what ezme is? I didn’t either, so I asked and was told that it was a spicy, chunky, tomato-based dip. So, lesson #1: Ezme is like Middle Eastern salsa.

Since I was the only customer, I felt comfortable whipping out my camera and snapping a picture of my appetizer when it came out. In broken English, Mr. Owner-Chef asked me why I was doing such a thing, and I told him it was because I wanted to show my friends and family what I was eating. He looked at me strangely but said, “Is okay.”

That’s yogurt sauce in the back. After watching my bread puff up no less than 8 inches in the oven, I was a little bummed that it had deflated before it reached me. It looked good though, and the black sesame seeds** were a nice touch.

**CORRECTION: I now suspect that they were not sesame seeds, but nigella seeds:

Anyway, it tasted GREAT--I was thrilled. It’s the closest I’ve come to finding MTC wonder-bread in NY. The ezme was tasty too, and by tasty, I mean superbly spicy. The yogurt sauce was the perfect chaser to cool my mouth down.

At this point in the meal (between appetizer and entrée), I took the décor picture seen above. Mr. Owner-Chef did not like this. He told me, “No, no, no, I cannot allow you to do that.” I asked him why he changed his mind, and he said, “Mmm...is okay.” I took that to mean it was okay to continue with the picture-taking, so I got up to take a shot of the fabulous oven. Mr. Owner-Chef said, “No, no, no, no, no. No.” Thoroughly confused and somewhat embarrassed, I put my camera away.

Lesson #2: Do not anger burly men who do not speak your language.

After being rebuffed so loudly and unexpectedly, I suspect that it will be awhile before I break out the camera in another restaurant.

So unfortunately, I have no picture of my entrée, which was called chicken iskender. It was quite good--grilled chicken covered in tomato sauce, with more yogurt sauce, rice, and grilled veggies on the side. I feel that it was quite over-priced—-for $9.95, I would’ve expected at least another piece of lavash. And permission to take pictures.

All in all, I had a great meal. The scolding left me a little hurt and a little peeved, but that lavash made it all worthwhile.

Food: A+
Atmosphere: A+
Service: A+


lil bro said...

Atmosphere = A+ ??? Apparently your male siblings have conditioned you to tolerate (and appreciate ??) loud, burly men.

james said...

perhaps the manager was worried you were a reporter, investigating food safety and standards. i can't tell you how many taco bells i've lost in this city due to those ludicrous regulations.


Albany Jane said...

I don't know if you'll see this, but man... talk about unwelcoming.
And you're right about the prices - I thought they were pretty high for what you got - didn't it seem like everything needed to be $2-3 less?