Steinway and 25th Ave
Kabab Cafe is this little Egyptian spot all the critics love. It's one of NY Magazines top Critics Picks calling it "a singular experience well worth the pilgrimage." I first heard of it when I saw Clay's boy Anthony Bourdain and Mazen's boy Andrew Zimmern have a meal there on No Reservations. They spent twenty minutes going on and on about how amazing the food was and how this chef was a genius. Kabab Cafe's main draw is all the "other" meats, cooking up all the parts of the animal so you can enjoy brains, cheeks, kidneys, hearts, glands or as the chef puts it "whatever part you want we cook."
Last night was the second time I've been here after a pretty positive first visit. We started out with the sweet breads (see pic), lamb glands sauteed with vegetables in lemon sauce. Actually quite good. I'd never had any part of an endocrine system and was pleasantly surprised. We then had lamb chops with sauteed vegetables and a half chicken with vegetables in a pomegranate sauce. Unfortunately both dishes were average at best. The lamb was overcooked (although that is sometimes the case at Middle Eastern restaurants as that's their style) and the pomegranate sauce was too sweet and overtook the entire dish. My favorite critic, Gail Simmons, would have had a lot to say about these dishes. In general, just not unique or flavorful and Hard Grubbin does not recommend.
A couple more warnings, this place has no menu. He just asks what type of meat you want and then asks what part of the animal you want, then describing how he cooks each part. Some might like this and it's probably great if you come here a lot and the chef knows you. This place is also really expensive, probably because they have no menu and the chef clearly makes up the price for every table. He obviously knows he's gotten critical acclaim for his eclectic cooking and assumes he can charge as much as he wants. The dishes just did not stand up to what he charges.
Ultimately, I should have ordered the more adventurous dishes rather than the traditional middle eastern dishes. I had assumed that if this guy can make kidneys taste good imagine what he can do with a lamb chop. If you're looking for standard, good middle eastern food there are a million better places in the city. Its a nice little place that serves all the parts of the animal you can't get anywhere else and you should only go if you're looking to hard grub on these parts. But then again there are probably several other places in the city that serve this fare for probably much less.
Stay tuned to HG as I'll be sure to report back the best place to hard grub on a lamb's heart or a chicken's face, as soon as I find it.