912 Washington St.
Photos by Terri Saulino Bish
This Hoboken standby has been serving up its modern interpretation of classic Middle Eastern dishes, using high-quality, fresh ingredients, for more than three decades.
We visited on a chilly Thursday evening. Inside, the atmosphere was warm and inviting as owner Ibrahim Abassi welcomed us. This popular eatery has a colorful décor with a drum and a mandolin hanging on the wall, mirrors, a colorful mural, and other images depicting the region from which Ibraham and his cuisine hail. Pride of place is a framed Jersey Choice Award honoring Ali Baba as the Best Middle Eastern/Turkish restaurant in its 35th annual awards program.
Ibraham suggested we try three of his most popular dishes. First up was the Vegetarian Grand Combo, featuring falafel, hummus, grape leaves, tabouleh, lebeneh, and baba ganoush. This potpourri of Middle Eastern favorites was delicious. The falafel was spicier than most. The dish comes with a really hot sauce, as well as a milder tahini sauce, and lots of pita bread.
Next up was the Fattoush Salad. This too was packed with fresh, healthy vegetables, consisting of Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, parsley, lemon, and olive oil. Sprigs of mint gave it a beautiful flavor, and pita chips offered a nice, crunchy texture.
Last was a superb spicy Chicken Tikka, boneless chicken marinated in spices and yogurt. Tikka means “bits” or “pieces.” It was served with yellow rice and a hefty portion of vegetables.
A scrumptious dessert of honey cake with blueberries, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce was to die for. It was made with semolina, giving it a slightly grainy texture, which paired beautifully with ice cream. Terri ordered a rich, dark Turkish coffee to go with it. A display case of desserts in the back contained date cookies, chocolate chip honey cake, baklava, chocolate almond roll, and pistachio cookies.
A wide range of appetizers, sandwiches, and salads is available, as well as entrees with chicken, beef, and lamb. Visit hobokenalibaba.com for a full menu. Ali Baba also offers takeout and delivery as well as meat, chicken, vegetable, and salad platters for your next party.
Ibraham had just returned from California and was saddened to see the flowers in front of the restaurant long gone. This concern is indicative of the love and care he heaps on his restaurant and those who dine there.
“Feed the eye before the mouth,” Ibraham advises. “Be generous with portions and treat everyone like family.”—Kate Rounds