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Jul 4, 2008 07:04 AM

Ali Baba Name Change?

We drove by Ali Baba in North Cambridge last night and I noticed that a sign in the window had some name like "Anna Something or Other," but it still said Ali Baba on the side of the place.

Anyone know what's going on there?

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  1. I dunno, I too saw the name change. But no matter how hard they try to pretend they're a brand new restaurant, their constant name changes will not fool me into returning to the site of one of the worst meals of my life (um, eggplant is supposed to be *cooked*). As they say, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

    I ain't gonna be no two-times-fool.

    1. Annapurna, that is. I was walking past so I checked out the new menu. They are advertising themselves as "Cuisine of the Himalayas offering a taste of Nepal, India, and Tibet." The new menu still has a bunch of Afghan dishes, too.

      Their website is . (The 2088 comes from their street address: 2088 Massachusetts Ave.)

      3 Replies
      1. re: maryv

        WOW, Boston's FIFTH Nepali restaurant?!

        1. re: Prav

          Maybe more like four-and-a-halfth :-)

        2. Well, it looks like the Globe beat us to the chow this time! Nice review in Cheap Eats today...

          3 Replies
          1. re: fredid

            Ok, I repent! It really IS a wholly different restaurant, under different ownership. And from the Globe review, it looks very tasty. I may not be no two-times fool, but I will overcome my bad associations with that particular geographical location and go give Annapurna a real try. We'll report back!

            1. re: litchick

              I gotta say, though, retaining those Afghan dishes on the menu when it's really a different restaurant and owner altogether is pretty confusing. Though, I enjoyed the few times I grabbed takeout from Buzkashi, er, Ali Baba - everything I ever had there was very tasty.

              What's interesting is that it is very difficult to find all of these interesting Nepali dishes in Nepal itself - even in Kathmandu you are overwhelmed by Western cuisine catering to the tourists, and out in the mountains you're unlikely to find anything other than plain dal bhat or simple soups. So interesting that we can eat better Nepali food in the US than you can typically find in Nepal!

              1. re: litchick

                Interesting. I had walked past the place dismissively also, and the fact that some of the decor (those weird ocean-blue photographs that were hung in the windows) hadn't changed, I'd assumed it was the same place. I guess the first hint should have been the fact the restaurant was full last Friday night.

                The owner is also collecting signatures for a petition for a liquor license. Will have to go investigate some time soon.

            2. We made it over to Annapurna last night and had a lovely meal. It was difficult to get over the sense memory of our horrible Buzkashi meal there several years ago -- I wish the Annapurna folks had repainted or something (that bright yellow isn't a friendly dining color). But despite my hesitation, we had a really tasty experience.

              The complimentary lentil soup is a good way to start. The flatbread is decent, but not as good as Helmand's (it's the same style), and comes with sauces as you'd get with a samosa (coriander chutney, tamarind chutney, and onion relish).

              We had the chicken momos to start. They came with a gorgeous sauce that was temperature cool (contrasting with the hot momos), but spicy. I think is was carrot/tomato based, but I could be wrong. A nice app, and it was a nice touch for the kitchen to give us two people a plate of 6 momos, even though the menu says an order comes with 5. Made it easier to share.

              For mains, we shared the Lamb Curry and the Vegetable Special. The curry was delicious, with complex flavors and tender chunks of lamb. The Veg Special (which is on the printed menu, and not a special-of-the-day type thing) was a large plate with some rice, and three piles of different veg: okra, cauliflower, and chopped greens (something heartier than spinach, but not as tough as kale). The plate was completed with a small demitasse-sized cup of soupy black lentils and kidney beans. The veg were each cooked and spiced differently, but complemented each other nicely. The cauliflower had caraway seeds in it, which added an unexpected and delicious flavor note to the dish. The lentils were ok -- a good idea that needed more flavor, or at least more salt.

              We saw a sizzling plate of tandoori chicken come out to a table behind us, and it looked delicious.

              So I guess I'm on my way to forgetting the horrors of Buzkashi, and welcoming the tastiness of Annapurna. I do wish they'd redecorate though.

              2 Replies
              1. re: litchick

                Have you been to Kathmandu Spice? Any comparisons?

                1. re: gini

                  I like Annapurna better, but to be fair, we've only done take out from Kathmandu. I don't think take out is their strong suit.

              2. I went to Annapurna for dinner on Saturday night.

                Overall, the food didn't knock my socks off, but it was tasty and I'd really like to return to explore the menu a bit more.

                The meal started with complimentary soup, which was delicious, and flatbread, which was kind of bland but tasty dipped in the soup.

                We started with the Vegetarian Samosa and the Vegetable Pakaura, both of which were quite similar to their Indian cousins. They were pretty good, but not particularly interesting. I really wanted to try the Vegetarian Momo ("A soft wrap filled with onions, cabbage, and cilantro"), but they were out.

                For our entrees we had the Sag Cheese and the Chicken Chili Karahi ("Chicken breast marinated in a fresh tomato base with green and red peppers, onions, and cilantro"). The Sag Cheese was praised in the Globe review for being a lighter, fresher-tasting version of Indian Saag Paneer. It was just that, with really interesting flavors (though quite salty). The portion was disappointingly small, though, and particularly skimpy on the cheese pieces. The chicken dish was also very good. The chunks of chicken were very moist .

                For dessert we had the Kaddo (pumpkin topped with a yogurt sauce). I preferred the flavors of this dish to the version at the Helmand. The pumpkin was a bit gritty in texture, but the flavors were wonderful. I found it much less sweet than the Helmand's version. It's interesting that the dish is on the dessert menu at Annapurna, especially because it wasn't particularly sweet, and had the option of ground meat on top.

                The service was quite attentive. One gentleman, who seemed to be the owner, stopped by the table several times to make sure we were satisfied.

                I actually found the space pretty attractive. Is the decor unchanged from Ali Baba's?