Monday, December 14, 2009

Alibaba – New York, NY

While M. Giant and I were out in New York City, we got to see GBFN, my dear friend from London who moved to NYC a few years back. He’s moved to a new apartment since I’d last visited him, so I was anxious to see his new place, meet his boy (who is awesome), and meet his new dog Charlie! M. Giant was heading off to do his work stuff later that night, so we decided to grab a bite to eat. We hadn’t had Turkish food ever, so the four of us headed to a restaurant that M. Giant and I walked past earlier that day called Alibaba. When we walked past, it smelled awesome, so we knew we were in for a treat.

The menu is much larger than I anticipated, and oddly enough, there’s no turkey in this Turkish place. Hmmm. Fortunately, GBFN and his boy had been there before and they said we needed to get the Mixed Appetizer to start while we were deciding. Sure, sounded good to me. Done. I decided on the Karisik Pide (Which is sort of like a calzone-type item filled with Turkish Pastrami, Turkish Sausage, Ground Meat, and Kashar (a Turkish cheese). M. Giant went with the Donerli Pide, which is basically a calzone filled with gyro meat.

While we waited for our entrees, the appetizer sampler came out and looked awesome. It had Lebni – thick homemade yogurt with walnut, garlic, and dill; Humus (chickpeas mashed up with garlic, tahini, and herbs); Eggplant Salad (smoked eggplant, grilled peppers, grilled tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings); Ispanak (spinach sautéed with dill, white onions, garlic, and olive oil); and Pilaki (red beans, potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, tomato sauce); and Eggplant with Sauce (eggplant in a moderately spicy sauce of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic, and parsley). It came with a basket of flat bread to dip into the different concoctions. Every single one of these things was amazing. I now know there are 6 different entire meals I could eat here – but I can get them all on one plate and be full. I think my favorite was the Pilaki and then both eggplant dishes. I was really impressed, considering I had no idea what I was eating until I wrote this review and looked at the menu.

My meal came out and looked awesome. Not at all what I expected, but it did look awesome.
I think they cut it diagonally and then when it didn’t fit on the plate, they moved the middle sections to a different spot. It looked totally intentional though – well played, Turkish chef guy. It really did taste like a bizarre calzone with a very different meat flavor than what I’m familiar with. The Turkish sausage is a beef sausage as it turns out, and is seasoned with all kinds of stuff that blew my taste buds’ collective hive mind – in a good way. Really, I was very impressed with this. The only downside, and it’s a SMALL downside is the dough and cheese flavor overpowered the meat flavor a little bit. When I just ate the meat pieces, I was very impressed, but when I had the whole thing in one bite, it was just good. (And when M.Giant left for his business meeting, I nicked a pieced of his gyro Pide. His meat flavor was stronger, but not as tasty as mine – I think I got the right thing.)

If you haven’t tried Turkish food, you really need to. I know GBFN wasn’t thrilled with what he got, but he did order something that said it was like ravioli, so how good could it be? Chef Boy-Ar-Dee wasn’t Turkish. Everyone knows that, right? But the seasonings and flavors are VERY tasty and you have no reason to be scared of them. I’d recommend the heck out of this place to anyone – even to Coach, and he’s the pickiest eater in the world. Now, I need to see if there’s a Turkish place in the Twin Cities…

Top 5 things about Alibaba
1. Karisik Pide (Turkish calzone)
2. Pilaki
3. Eggplant Salad
4. Eggplant with sauce
5. Lebni

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd never got to meet GBFN and loved to try new ethnic food experiences. I know she would have liked this food, even with a severe lack of cheese or desserts
2. Whatever GBFN got – it was something like raviolis, so if you see that, steer clear
3. They took away our appetizer sampler before I got everything I wanted from it
4. GBFN was amazed at how cheap the meal ended up being, but then realized we hadn’t had any drinks or wine (we picked up a bottle on the way home… heh heh heh)
5. The staff seemed more surly than most New Yorkers

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