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Apr 11, 2001 03:58 PM

Kabab Cafe

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So I paid my first visit to the Kabab Cafe last Saturday. (And yes, the irony of a jew leading a group of people to an Egyptian Restaurant on the first day of Passover was not lost on us.)
Unfortunately I wasn't as hungry as I would have liked to have sister insisted on visiting the 5 Star Punjabi buffet a few hours before. But once Ali's food got rolling, my hunger came roaring back.
We started (on Ali's recomendation) with the mixed appetizer plate, and we all fell upon his heavely baba ganouj. So wonderful. So smoky. I've been having baba ganouj cravings ever since. I actually decided to indulge myself at lunch today and take an express train to Rainbow Falafel. But what the hell? The non-Kebab Cafe baba ganouj really isn't even the same species,is it? God did it fall flat on my plate. But I digress...
I got the calamari, which I can't say was the star of the meal, but it was good. My friend got the mixed kabob...I can't really vouch for what it tasted like since he made that disappear in about three seconds. Ther other two dishes at the table was braised lamb with fava beans, and an improvised lamb dish (my sister couldn't decide so Ali surprised her).
I can't to go back. This time I'll skip the Indian buffet before.

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  1. there will never be another babaganoush for me like the one at ali's cafe. how does he infuse that delicately smoked flavor into the eggplants? tooo delicious for words. he prepared a grilled salmon for me resting on a bed of roasted pepers, red, orange and green. those spices are just so well balanced-whatever they may be. and what a sensation when the deep fried swisschard vegetable hits the palate. yum

    10 Replies
    1. re: livasnap

      I have no idea how he gets his babaganoush so smokily delicious but I've been conducting an informal taste testing around the city in an futile attempt to recreate it--Alfanoose, Sahadis, Kalustyan's.
      Does anyone know if I can get it to go at Kabab Cafe?

      1. re: AbbyLovi
        steve drucker

        you wrote:
        "I have no idea how he gets his babaganoush so smokily delicious"

        here's how:
        roast the eggplants over a char grill until they are weepy flat and the skins are almost black. You can do it in an oven too by laying out the whole eggplants in a pan lined with baker's parchment or wax paper, although you won't get quite the smoky dimension you get on the grill.

        Let them cool. Scrape the roasted flesh from the skin and discard the skin. Then proceed to add tahini dressing, garlic, lemon, salt etc--whatever your recipe calls for.

        1. re: steve drucker

          If you don't have a grill, but still want the smoky flavor, there's another (though messy) method, which is to roast them directly over the flame of your gas range. Set the flame to medium-low, prick the eggplant once or twice so that the steam can escape, and lay it right over the flame on the range's metal fixtures. Let the eggplant get completely charred on one side and then turn it over. You may have to maneuver it around so that it get charred all over. Once it's flat and the skin is charred all over, remove from the flame and let it cool. Peel off the charred skin and continue from there.

          1. re: yig

            Yes, I've tried a variation on that...doing all you mentioned except wrapping the eggplant in tinfoil and placing the whole "package" on the gas burner. I wonder if removing the tinfoil would produce a better result.

            1. re: AbbyLovi

              Definitely remove the tin foil. It will give you a much smokier flavor, although the juices will run all over your stovetop.

        2. re: AbbyLovi

          Steve Drucker's recipe is correct. That's how Ali does it.

          Other good smoky baba is at Sahadi in the refrigerator case (NOT the big bowl in the takeout counter, which is unsmoked, or was last time I checked). It's made by Laila Restaurant in south park slope (7th ave and like 13th street, very roughly), a Lebanese place that's sort of the Brooklyn version of Kabab Cafe. Characterful bohemian chef/owner, inconsistent food that can reach breathtaking heights on good days. Though Ali's bad days are still pretty ok, and Laila can really stink when they get lazy.

          Oh, and yes: Ali will sell anything to go.

          1. re: Jim Leff

            "Other good smoky baba is at Sahadi in the refrigerator case (NOT the big bowl in the takeout counter, which is unsmoked, or was last time I checked)."

            Ah-ha!! I did get it from the Sahadi takeout counter. know what? I actually did go to Laila about a month ago (yes, I am going through this mad Middle Eastern food phase craze) and I don't remember being wowed by the baba. I do remember the surly service, though.

            "Oh, and yes: Ali will sell anything to go."

            Thanks. And thanks Steve, for the recipe. I sort of suspected that grilling would do the trick but I just didn't want to believe it since I don't have a grill. I've broiled and oven roasted eggplant before and it just isn't as magical as grilled.

            1. re: Abbylovi


              The stuff he makes for Sahadi tends to be more consistent than the stuff he does for his own restaurant.

              Sorry you had bad service and ho-hum baba there. Sometimes the service is wonderful. obviously, you don't hear me recommending this place...but it's a shame, there's such potential.

            2. re: Jim Leff

              Went back to Sahadi last night for baba and I was told that all they have is what's in the take-out area. Curses, foiled again.

            3. re: AbbyLovi

              Hello Abby, fellow babaganoush fan. If you're willing to come into Manhattan for take-out, may I recommend Bennies babaganoush on Amsterdam - I think between 74th and 75th St., East side of street. It is as you like it - "smokily delicious.' It's also nice and lemony. Their hummus is another treat - as are most of their salads (and some of their hot dishes).