I personally quite like hole-in-the-wall places, especially when it comes to restaurants. The smokey atmosphere and slightly inadequate lighting inside Alibaba takes you to a street-meat vendor in Tehran. You would expect only the best. The menu is extensive and serves up traditional Persian (and some Afghani) cuisine together with classic arabic fare – shawarmas, etc – for the in-a-hurry customers.
We arrived for lunch and ordered at the counter. It wasn’t busy and we were allowed to sit and pay later while he prepared our food. The display fridges and topping counter were unusually bare and it seemed like the place was in some sort of transition. As we waited for our food the smoke drifted from being ‘exciting to the appetite’ towards uncomfortable.
Our order of Chaplee Kabob, Chicken Tekka and Beef Tekka arrived promptly one after the other. Chaplee Kabob is a ground beef patty, smothered in spices and infused with onions. The onions caramelized on the grill and gave the Chaplee a beautiful lingering sweetness. The kabobs were accompanied by four thick wedges of afghani kabuli pita and a yoghurt dip which helped dampen the extra spicy kabobs. There was an option of getting rice with the meal, but just the pita and the kabobs were more than adequate to satisfy the appetite. The spiciness was just a touch overdone and after the third kabob (and 2 glasses of water) one started to lose the other flavours.
The Chicken Tekka and Beef Tekka dishes were similar in presentation; a single skewer of grilled meat smothered by spiced rice and a small simple salad on the side. The chicken was excellent – tender, flavourful and with a light dusting of sumac for that slight tangy sensation. The beef was very good but one couldn’t help imagine how much more succulent it could’ve been had it not been cooked well done. The only issue of worth was the rice to meat ratio; the meat was devoured long before a significant dent had been made in the rice, leaving the diner disinterested in the rice which was otherwise well cooked and very tasty.
If the meats we sampled are anything to go by, I cant wait to sample the rest of the menu as long as the exhaust fan is on :).
Alibaba Kabob House, 1602 14 Street SW Calgary, AB T3C 1E2 – (403) 541-1115. Map it.