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As my move date gets closer, the pressure is on to EATNYC, and I've constructed a long list of restaurants that I will visit during my final weeks here. The Egyptian joint Kabab Cafe in Astoria, Queens, has been a dream destination for a long time, and a group of us went the other night and had ourselves a mindblowing feast for the senses.


No joke, this was one of the most memorable meals I have had in a long while.

I first heard this place on No Reservations (video clip here), and knew I had to go. Brains and innards- YESSS! There has been lots of heated online debates between Chowhounders and Yelpers about the validity of this place, but it's important to eat and decide for yourself, right?

We were lucky enough to be seated right away- there were 5 of us, and the place literally holds only about 20 people.

They dust each plate with a myriad of spices, which according to Pete Meehan is sumac and the spice mix zaatar. Great attention to detail!


APPETIZERS

Lamb cheeks with poached egg. This was a highlight.


Meze platter with falafel, baba ghanoush (lots of garlic), a fava bean salad (a vinegary delight), sliced apples and FRIED LETTUCE!!! Awesome. We literally licked this plate clean.


Homemade grape leaves with cucumbers and apples.


Little fried sardines. Perfectly fried in fresh oil- a big hit at the table.


Sweetbreads- I've never had them baked, only fried. Really flavorful with red peppers, onions and basil.


Lamb BRAIN!!! Everyone was apprehensive about this, but I wasn't going to leave without having tried it, at least. To everyone's delight, it was fluffy and airy- it doesn't actually taste like anything really, it's not even gamey- it's all about the texture. It was really fantastic.


SALADS


Roasted beet salad with onions. Still warm. Tart from the balsamic. An ace.


Artichoke heart salad with onions and red peppers. The artichoke was dense- almost potatoey. Peppered with requisite spices and fresh basil.


ENTREES

Roasted lamb chops with pomegranate sauce. A bit overcooked, but the sauce was so amazing- really tart, the perfect counterbalance to the gamey-ness of lamb.


Lots of fish on the menu. We got the grouper, which surprisingly tasted like a Thai dish with the limes. I even saw Chef Sayed add in oyster sauce before putting it in the oven. (I have to say here that the Chef is pretty international, in palette and language. His English was mixed with Italian, which made me wonder if he'd spent time there- especially since he used lots of ingredients that reminded me of the cuisine).


A light cheesecake, consisting of a few different cheeses including ricotta (don't remember the others- farmer's cheese?), drizzled with pomegranate sauce. The crust was nutty and smokey. YUM!


The famed chef, Ali El Sayed at work.


Seriously, were I to open up my own restaurant, it would be just like this. No servers, just me, a kitchen, a few helpers, a few tables, no menus, just calling out to customers from behind the counter, winking, telling them what to eat and how they should eat it. It was such an intimate eating experience where you really feel at one with the other diners and the chef himself.

I have done a lot of dining- high and low- and think I may have to put this in my top 5 meals of all time (French Laundry does not make the cut for me, I'll discuss my top 5 at some other time though).

Next time, I'm getting the mountain oysters!

Kabab Cafe
25-12 Steinway Street at 25th Avenue
Astoria, Queens
T: 718.728.9858

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5 comments

  • You’re braver than me—I won’t eat brains. I’ve too much respect for BSE, for reals for reals.

    amy ann on

  • the BRAINS were delicious.
    I just watched a YouTube clip that had Anthony Bourdain gushing over the cow feet—when do we get to try the patas de vaca?! It seemed like the meats Ali was mainly focusing on were lamb and fish, though.

    Tyson on

  • This was an AMAZING meal. The only downside was that I seriously over-ate, and Judson put me on a bus into Manhattan, and when I got off, I had to walk around the block three times before I felt certain that I was not going to vomit.

    ayagwa on

  • They didn’t have testicles when I went, and had just run out of duck liver. Alas!

    But, I loved the brains and sweetbreads though. So meaty and tender. The meze plate is amazing, but I wish there were more falafels. I couldn’t get enough of them.

    Did you have any hibiscus tea at the end, with dessert?

    My report from a while back:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/551058

    kathryn on

  • that’s so awesome that you tried lamb brains! :)

    danny on

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