Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ali Nada

As a food blogger, and someone who dines out a lot, I'm bound to have some less than pleasant dining experiences in NYC. I know not every meal is going to be top notch and receive high praise from me. But, I always feel a sense of disappointment and regret when the experience rates anywhere from mediocre to downright awful. Sometimes this is a result of poor service, ordering the wrong thing, or just bad food.

Dinner last week at Ali Baba was a combination of a few of those things...much to my chagrin. I had been there before and really enjoyed my first experience. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for this most recent one. I have been craving Middle Eastern food a lot recently, and was looking forward to Ali Baba. After the fresh, flavorful pita came out, it was all downhill from there. The service was spotty, either making us feel rushed or neglected. We were seating right next to the area where the waitstaff lingers in between tables, barking orders at each other and bumping into the back of my chair.

Then came the food. I ordered the falafel dinner, imagining falafel, hummus and maybe some salad/veggies to go along with it. What came out was like a massive appetizer and was hardly entree worthy. There was a plate covered in hummus, topped with 6 falafel balls and 3 tomato slices. Disappointing. The falafel was really good...crunchy on the outside and flavorful on the inside. But, I would have been much better off ordering the falafel appetizer and a salad or a side of vegetables.

It wasn't much better for my friend, who ordered chicken kabobs. Can't go wrong with that, right?! Wrong. The chicken was good, but it was served with straight-out-of-the-box rice pilaf...ya know, the kind that your mom has undoubtedly prepared for you at some point in your life. (And the kind my friend coincidentally had left over in her fridge from dinner a few nights before!) There was zero attempt to try to cover up the fact that it was anything but authentic. Neither of us remembered rice pilaf being served the last time we had been to Ali Baba, so we were both pretty shocked when we saw it showing up on everyone's plates. Don't get me wrong...I love rice pilaf, but just not in a restaurant setting, especially in a cuisine that features great sides like couscous.

Ali Baba had always been such a reliable, neighborhood restaurant, but we both left feeling a pretty frustrated. We hoped it was because we just ordered wrong, but when a restaurant skimps on things that much, I'm led to believe that they're looking out more for their bottom line than for their customer satisfaction.

Ali Baba
212 East 34th Street
b/t 2nd & 3rd Avenue
Menu Pages listing

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