Don’t believe everything you read.
When I read a positive review of Afghan Halal restaurant Ali Baba Kabob House, located a block north of 17th Ave. S.W. on 14th St., I was excited to try the new venue, which opened this month.
With seating for about 20, and bare-minimum décor, it’s apparent that the priority at Ali Baba is food and not ambiance. The aromas coming off the grill immediately grabbed my attention, and I didn’t feel compelled to badmouth its interior designer. We were there to eat quick, cheap and tasty food, not to worry about a fancy room.
There’s a pictorial-style menu above the cash register to aid those unfamiliar with Afghan cuisine. It’s a nice touch, giving novice patrons an idea of what they’re getting themselves into.
After a recommendation from one of the chefs, I decided to try the choppan kabob dinner ($9.99), described as lamb chops marinated in different spices. My date had the tikka kabob dinner ($9.49), chunks of tender leg of lamb marinated in fresh grated spices. Each meal came with rice, salad and nan bread.
First off, the salad was barely that. It consisted of iceberg lettuce, two thin slices of tomato, two semi-circles of cucumber and some sliced onions. The dressing, which I believe was cucumber-and-yogurt-based, was quite nice, but it didn’t really have any good ingredients to enhance or work with.
The basmati rice may have been the best part of the meal, which, really, it shouldn’t have been. The nan bread was denser than what you find at most Indian restaurants, was not grilled and was a little chewy for my taste.
My kabobs weren’t really kabobs at all, but rather three chewy little lamb chops that came piled atop the rice. The seasoning was good, reminiscent of tandoori flavours. My date’s tikka kabob was well-received but, regrettably, came with the same complement of sides as my meal.
Overall, the service was very friendly, but a little slow. We weren’t really in a hurry, so it didn’t have a huge impact on our night, but I would have expected this type of eat-in-take-out place to be a bit faster. However, we were offered complimentary cookies and our choice of green or black tea after our meal,, which was a nice treat.
Before heading home, we tried a couple of Ali Baba’s desserts, including firnee — a house special — a sweet pudding that had a light custard taste infused with spices comparable to those in chai tea. We also tried the baklava, which was tasty and sticky-sweet, as expected.
The meal was worth what we paid, but I had hoped for a better overall experience. It’s not that the meal was necessarily bad, because it truly wasn’t, it just didn’t leave any lasting impressions. With so many food alternatives and choices in Ali Baba’s neighbourhood alone, it’s going to be an uphill battle to stand out in the crowd.
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Ali Baba’s Kabob House 1602 14th St. S.W., 403-874-9791.