Ham, Pastrami, and Turkey (3 of 3).

We went to Troy Night Out last month (July) to see our local-celebrity-artist friend’s work on display at The Captial Region Arts Center.  If you’ve traveled recently, you may recognize Ken Ragsdale’s work from the Albany International Airport’s B-terminal.  We always enjoy looking at his somehow sterile-yet-sentimental works at galleries.  At the same show was another one of Abraham Ferraro’s interactive man-meets-machine contraptions.  The last two pieces we have seen from Abe have been these fascinating and complicated “motion transducers” that create printouts related to his movements (like rock-climbing or signing his name).  This is accomplished via cables and springs that are connected to markers on paper—you gotta see one in action.  If you haven’t been out to a First Friday in Albany or a Troy Night Out, hurry-up and check them out.  Go before these evenings start getting lame by showcasing art from high school and grade school students (as they’ve already begun doing at some venues in both Albany and Troy).  [sigh]

After we checked out various galleries, we headed to Ali Baba for dinner. 

You might think that the dearth of ethnic food in the Capital Region would skew our judgment a bit, but we feel we can say the food at Ali Baba is terrific by any standard.  The owners are from Turkey (Boy, I wonder if they’re from Batman).  The menu features familiar Mediterranean dishes like dolmas, hummus, and baba ganoush, as well as distinctly Turkish dishes like döner kebabs and Turkish coffee.  One of the coolest features of the restaurant is the always-blazing oven from which toasted-sesame covered lavash “beach balls” (my name for it; not theirs) are prepared.  They are served with a plate of yogurt sauce and go great with a large sampler platter.  The lavash bread actually deflates when punctured (watch for steam burns) after which pieces of the bread are torn from the loaf (is it a loaf?) and used for dipping into all those fantastic Turkish delights.   


Cati and I have noticed a few good signs whenever we visit Ali Baba:
1) It’s like a mini-U.N. in there.  The clientele often comprises such a mixed-bag of ethnicities (and languages) that you might think you’re on a subway platform in Flushing, NY; there are people from everywhere in there– it’s great.
2) Students love it.  The food is relatively inexpensive.  Also, they serve no alcohol, which will help keep the bill down.  Not much attention is given to ambience.  I imagine that a large percentage of their business is from the sale of take-out wraps that are devoured during study breaks a few blocks away at RPI. 

The main drawback, if you’re not taking your food to go, is the service.  They are never rude or anything like that (quite the opposite, actually); they are just slow and inefficient.  If the place is crowded, it gets worse.  They just need to spend some effort in systematizing their processes; they are obviously just shooting from the hip.  I don’t think this is atypical for a family owned and staffed place and it hasn’t stopped us from going back– and we go back often.  
On our most recent visit, we ordered the large sampler platter for the table.  Armed with our still-hot pieces of lavash bread, we dipped into the colorful sauces, salads, and spreads– commenting on our favorites all the while. 

For entrees, I ordered the beyti sarma kebab; Cati, the chicken curry iskender; my mother, a beef dish; and my dad, the lamb shish.  My dear sweet mum thought her dish was too spicy (pfft, it wasn’t) so I switched with her.  Her dish– the beef and tomato sauce– was only okay; I thought there was too much sauce, which wasn’t very interesting.  It just seemed like wet steak, but the pickled onions were excellent.  To be fair, she did ask for it “not spicy,” so they probably held back on the seasoning.  Apparently, the lamb was excellent as my dad made quick work of it; I didn’t get a photo.  Cati really enjoyed her chicken curry and thought the spice-level and seasoning were just right.  She also found the pieces of bread that were in it to be excellent flavor sponges for the curry sauce.  My mother tells me that my estranged beyti sarma was as delicious as its presentation was attractive and that she enjoyed it thoroughly.  She did let me have a bite– just one– and she parsimoniously controlled the quantity.  I’m not bitter about it though; really; I’m not; not even a little.  [wink]

If you haven’t heard of this place before, consider yourself enlightened and go.  We were so full when we left, we didn’t buy any pastries from the glass case on our way out (that’s rare for us).  We all just waddled to the car and headed home like a group of stuffed Thanksgiving tur…I think I’ve milked this pun enough; I’ll just stop now.

Enjoy this Middle-Eastern sounding electronica track from some French guys:

5 Responses to “Ham, Pastrami, and Turkey (3 of 3).”

  1. Gina says:

    Why haven’t I eaten here yet?

  2. grace says:

    i love ali baba–i would walk approximately 500 miles for some of that lavash. however, when i went there a while back, i was told in no uncertain terms that i couldn’t take pictures. i guess they’ve loosened up a bit. :)

  3. Lydia says:

    Your entree was great. The lavash and sampler platter were even greater but the company we kept was the greatest. Thank you both for a wonderful time.

  4. Jenn says:

    I used to go to RPI and would eat there often, loved their kebab wrap. Now I’m drooling…yum!

  5. irene says:

    ¡Hola guapos! :)

    ¿Qué tal todo por Albany? ¿Y la futura bebé?

    Siento contestar tan tarde, es que desde que llegamos no hemos parado de hacer cosas. Nos encontramos con la casa pintada (muy bonita, por cierto), pero las habitaciones estaban completamente patas arriba. No ha sido hasta hoy que hemos conseguido que todo parezca mínimamente ordenado. ¿Y sabes qué? Entre los montones de papeles apareció una postal tuya muy mona, de un pez, en la que me contabas que estabas de exámenes y que compartías piso con una compañera tuya. ¡Me hizo una gracia! :)

    Ahora estoy haciendo un vídeo con todas las fotos de Nueva York y Albany; cuando lo tenga lo colgaré en el blog.

    Por cierto, la canción de Sea Wolf me gusta mucho (cómo no :P). ¿Qué tal Pereza?

    Pues nada, espero que vaya muy bien todo por allí. Besos a los 3 (sí, no me olvido de Nacho… :P). ¡Y uno también para la niña! :)