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Dec 10, 2008 03:53 PM

Ali Baba restaurant on East 34th....

My wife and I have been wanting to try some Turkish food and we are thinking of taking her parents here. How is the atmosphere and service, in addition to the food? Thanks in advance!

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  1. First of all, Ali Baba is fantastic, so I hands down recommend that you go here if you're looking for Turkish food.

    As far as the food goes…..

    Appetizers: I love their humus while my husband goes with the cacik , a yogurt cucumber dip similar to tzaziki, or the sigara boregi, sort of like an egg roll - or fried canneloni - stuffed with feta (not my favorite, it’s just a little too filling). The falafel is also pretty good here, and the grape leaves do not disappoint.

    For entrees, I tend to order lamb almost every time I've been here. Whether it be in gyro or kebab form, it always comes excellently marinated and prepared. My favorites are the Doner Kebab and the Cop Shish, which rival some of the best meats I’ve had around Manhattan. Love it!

    I am not crazy about the Yogurtlu Kebabs, just because I don't like my kebabs coated in sauce because the meat here is SOOOO good without sauce.

    Outside of the kebabs, the Homeade Manti (tiny balls dough stuffed with lamb) is out of this world as an entree. The yogurt sauce complements the manti perfectly, and the manti is doughy, chewy, and just right! Yum.

    And finally, the Lamachun is my latest find. It's a very thin, crisp, turkish pizza topped with ground lamb. Highly recommend it as an appetizer.

    As far as ambiance goes, there's quite a bustling atmosphere about the place these days. It's gotten a good deal of press and often has waits in excess of an hour on weekend nights. I highly recommend it for early on in the evening. I find the atmosphere to be a little "festive" for lack of better words, and love dining here and bringing new people here. Service is pretty average. It's a family run restaurant, which I still find pretty special in NYC these days.

    Bottom line is that you shouldn’t miss this place. Hope this will help you and also, I hope you enjoy!

    2 Replies
    1. re: coleyas

      Thank you!! Since it will be our first time there, I will probably go with your recommendations! Thanks again.

      1. re: coleyas

        I agree, I really enjoy the manti. Very healthy portion, just try to finish it after having an app. The manti themselves are nicely lamby-y.

      2. i like this place and was confused yesterday since I remember it being a couple doors down; that strip between 2nd and 3rd is seriously a restaurant row! but ali baba is probably the best on that block.

        we had a small meal, just the small cold mezze platter and the octopus platter (our neighbor had a serious 3 course solo meal and he looked stuffed!); the platter was good; at $12.50, should have been nicer (I prefer the one at Istanbul in Rego Park but that's a whole different universe/arena). the flavors were nice in the various offerings but everything needed a punch of flavor, a squeeze of lemon, some salt, etc. the octopus salad was disappointing in that you don't get nice juicy moist charred chunks but more like . . . . small shreds almost; they had small specimens maybe, but then also cut them in half, so it ended up being small, dry-ish pieces (good flavor tho) under a blizzard of slivered red onions and cukes and tomatoes; very different from a minimalist grilled octopus salad like you would get practically anywhere else. ah well.

        previous meals in the past included the fried liver app (awesome), the yogurtlu entrees (really good too).

        8 Replies
        1. re: bigjeff

          I went with a larger party (six in total) over a year ago and thought it was very good. Two of us went for a more recent visit a couple of months ago. We thought it was *okay*. Fit our needs well enough, as we were already in the neighborhood, but overall it fell short of expectations based on the prior visit. I recall we also ordered the small cold mezze platter and thought it could have been nicer, as you put it, for the price.

          1. re: uwsgrazer

            exact same situation! we were talking in the area looking for a restaurant that I couldn't remember the name of, but remember reading about but couldn't find; lo and behold, it was the khao soi i was searching for at talent thai next door; as soon as I saw the joint, I was like screw it, let's just eat at ali baba. but before, it was definitely a destination restaurant for me; i just liked it better than turkish kitchen nearby and was rooting for the underdogs.

          2. re: bigjeff


            Your mind wasn't playing tricks on you. Ali Baba was originally a few doors west of its current location. Actually, that previous space -- much smaller than the current one -- had been a pizza joint, and when Ali Baba moved in there, decor was still pretty minimal.

            Speaking of pizza, one of the best things on Ali Baba's menu is the Lahmacun, a turkish- style pizza: flat bread topped with ground lamb and chopped garden vegetables.

            1. re: RGR

              I agree. The pizza is an excellent choice. My recollection was that the serving size was also quite generous.

              1. re: RGR

                as the legend goes, they were already making the lahmacun in the pizza joint and it was a "renovation"; interestingly the shape is still similar (long and narrow) but I remember the old joint had a nice spacious dining room in the back.

                regarding the lahmacun I remember ordering the appetizer size and it was already humongous; what was the entree sized one, I can't remember. nice people, humble place. wish them luck on that crowded block (I think they do well though).

                1. re: bigjeff

                  Yup. I think we actually ordered the lahmacun / pizza as an entree, and as our SECOND entree at that! It was an insane amount of food. My recollection is that we took home well over half of that pizza to eat as leftovers the next day.

                  1. re: uwsgrazer

                    Not only the lahmacun, the pides are fantastic--the submarine-shaped stuffed dough item that's like a cross between a pizza and a calzone. Another favorite of mine is the octopus salad. I started eating there when the restaurant was the back room of the pizzeria. Then Asimov wrote it up in $25 and Under and you couldn't get in. Now the restaurant is at least 4 times as big and it's always busy. Great food at reasonable prices is a pretty good combination.


                    1. re: Peter Cherches

                      i had that octopus salad and was totally underwhelmed; it was seriously a blizzard of red onions, parsley, with some cukes and tomatoes thrown in; the taste was alright but almost one-dimensional like it was mostly salt (maybe the simplicity of it?) but the octopus itself was just puzzling; the tentacles were cut into segments but then cut in half again and the texture (while smoky and tasty) ended up stringy; not tender at all. the result is almost like shredded octopus.

            2. i think they have a rooftop there too (or am i confusing it with another)?

              1 Reply
              1. The service was pretty terrible when I went with a dinner party. The food was alright but I thought it was on the pricey side for what it was.

                Then again, I happen to like Bamiyan, the afghani place on 26th and 3rd, which is also pricey for what it is, so I will chalk it up to individual tastes.