Goodbye, Avellino; Hello, Ali Baba (Cgy)
The underperforming (to put it diplomatically) Avellino's panini on 14 St SW next to Oishii Village has closed and will soon transform into "Ali Baba's Kabob House." I'll post as soon as I know more, but for now, I'm happy. Avellino's was poorly conceived and I love a good kabob!
six weeks later- the "opening soon" signs are still up but today's peering-in-the-window reveals the menu boards are up (looks like counter service- GOOD, I want cheep and cheerful not some attempt at fine dining) and I am happy to say the menu looks like nothing I've seen in Calgary. I can't give more specs because it's hard to make stuff out but there are plates and wraps and for reasons I can't specify I get the sense that this place will be more Afghani than Persian.
More to come, promise.
re: John Manzo
Okay, they opened yesterday and I had dinner there tonight. Very promising. I had a very interesting yogurt drink that I have absolutely never seen before- it comes out of a big bubbler type of thing and it's savoury; added to the thin yogurt beverage is shredded cucumber and a sort of green sauce almost like a salsa verde. It's fresh-tasting and not at all like a salty lassi (which was what I was expecting)- it's sort of like drinking a salad. You'll have to check this out yourself. Anyway I had the Chaplee Kebab plate which came with the kebab (the chaplee version is a slightly spicy ground beef with a roasted tomato on top, but the tomato is sort of worked into to meat- it's not like a Persian kebab with a separate grilled tomato), PERFECT basmati, just heavenly, a very forgettable "salad" of ugly iceberg, ugly tomato slice and some nice, finely sliced onions (these went great with the meat and rice BTW) as well as a rather dry slice of bread, it's called "nan" in Farsi and like an Armenian bread but this one was pretty poor. BUT the kebab and rice (and the yogurt bev) were utterly delicious and more than made up for an uninspired salad and bread. I also had a side of this flatbread stuffed with spiced potato that is almost identical to the Turkish potato burek you find at Crossroads Market.
This was more food than I should have eaten and I left very, very full. The damage was about $15- $8.95 for the plate, $3.25 for the stuffed bread and $2 for the drink. Service was extremely friendly and surprisingly fast for day 2. Order at counter, get food at one of only 5 tables.
Open until 3 AM on Fri-Sat too!
Okay, got dinner there again tonight w/ Brian so we could sample more. We got two dinners- Chaplee Kebab again and the "Sultani Kebab," which is Barg (tenderloin) and Kofta. We also got and order of Boulanee, which is the grilled bread stuffed with spicy mashed potato, a side of Kabelli/Qabeli Rice (it's spelled differently on the menu board and the takeout menu), which is basmati with raisins and shredded carrot, and two orders of this pistachio pudding called Firnee for desert. The total for all this was $35.
I took this feast home and we plated everything, pulliing the meat off skewers (except for the Chaplee which is not skewered) and topped up the regular side rice with the Qabelil... and ended up with a couple of very heaping plates. The Chaplee kebab was as good as last time; the other meats (all were beef this round) were excellent but the spicing on the Chaplee just punches more. Kofta was not unlike a good, lean one from a Lebanese place, and the Barg- well it's hard to screw up tenderloin, so I have to nominate the Chaplee and my favourite for now.
But I have to say more about the rice. As I was entering to pick up my order the owner was just removing a great huge casserole from the oven (all very visible to me) and in it was gorgeous, fluffy, steaming biryani-esque basmati, just gorgeous. To this he added the aforementioned goodies (carrot and raisins), boxed up everything else and I was on my merry way (I live 2 blocks south). This rice... you have to try this rice. A generous side of it is $4.99 and i could happily consume an order with a couple of skewers of meat a la carte and call that dinner most nights of the week. One of the best rices I've had ever, anywhere.
The Boulanee was very good but as with last time we were both too full to finish it... but we did find room for desert, which is light, not too sweet and not terribly memorable either. They sell pastries at Ali Baba as well and one sample of a Barfi cookie was very encouraging, so I think I'll stick with those.
Business appears to be good; there are, as I noted before, not many seats at this place but there were 5 other customers dining when I arrived, and for a space this small that's not bad.
I really encourage other hounds to check this place out.
Oh, the number on the takeout menus is wrong- correct is 403-541-1115.
re: John Manzo
Me and a friend tried this place last week and I do have to agree they have the best Basmati rice I've ever had. I would kill to find out how they cook Basmati that well.
We had their lamb chop combo and the lamb was done extremely well with a nice tasty crust of herbs. Their salad and bread were very average and the next time I go, I would simply have their meat and rice combos.
The salad is worse than sad-- it gets in the way of what would be a perfect plate. And that bread is (I think) the Armenian kind that come in big sheets and would be KILLER grilled- in fact in Germany this is the sort of bread, spit lengthwise, that is used for donairs, and it loved to grilled or at least served warm. But the most important parts of the meal are there.
You can get a "kabob" with meat, bread and salad that is a couple of bucks cheaper than the dinner, so I think next time I'll get the Chaplee "kabob" and a side the the Qabeli Palau. Unfortunately the kabobs can't (yet) be ordered strictly ala carte.