Monday, July 12, 2010

They Aren't Actually Known For Their Kababs

Kabab Cafe has about eight tables (and that's an optimistic estimate). The set up behind the make-shift line more closely resembles the cluttered space of a home cook than it does the professional space of a New York restaurant. There is one chef and one assistant and the chef, donning a green apron and hulking around his tiny restaurant--he's about six foot four and well into the three hundred pound range--takes up a lot of space. When he comes to your table, he lists of a selection of items that he has special tonight. There's no menu and you might not be able to order what you see on your neighbor's plate, since plates seem in a constant rotation of unavailability. Alas, the lamb shank that table is eating is gone, gone, gone, but there are sweetbreads.

Order the sweetbreads.

We told our chef what we did want to eat (vegetables and meat) and what we didn't want to eat (fish, due to a table allergy). He brought us cold mint tea with sugar and green apples. Next, he brought a meze platter with bright hummus, fava bean dip, baba ganoush, and fried lettuce. It's as good as it sounds. Then the sweetbreads arrived. They were lamb, not veal, and carried with them the gamy sophistication of good meat. Sauteed peppers and onions and garlic decorated the plate.

A roasted beet salad wasn't exactly my jam, but I loved the sweet roasted apple that came with them, as well as all the garlic. Lamb chops didn't disappoint, either. We were told to use our hands for the chops and I happily obliged. The potatoes and onions and peppers had been cooked in lamb fat and were dark brown and slick with a pomegranate sauce.

It was late, so we weren't offered baklava and Egyptian coffee (basically the same as Turkish coffee: short, concentrated, served black and unfiltered with sugar in the brew), but we drooled over a neighboring table's good fortune. Their baklava looked flaky and delicious.

Kabab Cafe
25-12 Steinway Street
Astoria, NY 11103