pictures from @jaymc
Last weekend a bunch of us went to dinner with Jan (@jaymc) to achieve one of his 101 Goals in 1001 days: Eat a dish made with animal brain. The restaurant he found to achieve this was Ali's Kabab Cafe in Astoria. Given the goal and the random hole in the wall place we ended up at, I had low expectations for actually enjoying the meal. By the end, though, I can say that Jan's adventure gave me one of my favorite (and most delicious) eating experiences in a while (minus the brain, which I'll never do again).
What makes the Kabab Cafe so great is the personal experience with Ali and his cooking whims. When we sat down, Ali came over to say hi and to introduce himself & his restaurant. He asked if we would like to start with some platters to get an idea of his flavors, while we think of what we might like. He also asked if we had any particular allergies or aversions, or if we were open to sampling his fair. The first few dishes were minced lamb & egg, fava bean falafal & hummus, and an avacado apple salad. After we began eating, Ali returned to ask which meats we'd prefer, and if there were any particular tastes we were interested in. We asked for pomegranate, lamb, and chicken; he came out with marinated lamb chops & chicken, both made with variations of pomegranate, and a plate of mixed vegetables & rice. All of the food was incredibly delicious.
I really loved getting to speak with the person cooking the food, and getting to eat the dishes he really wanted to make. I didn't have to worry about what to order, and I got to be suprised by the flavors with each dish. I would gladly return and expect a different but equally delicious meal.
Oh, and the brain dish? I can say I tried it and cross it off the list, but I won't be doing it again.[my review on Yelp] [Kabab Cafe on the Map]