R at Bay Ridge Ave.
$2 to $22
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
North to Bay Ride Ave. and east to Gowanus Expressway
This venue is closed.
It’s Ramadan, and a short walk from Bay Ridge’s main mosque, Muslims have a brand-new restaurant where they can break fast. Waleed al Jahmi has opened Bab al Yemen with his brother Abdulghani, a chef who came up in his family’s gourmet deli Tudor Café. Waleed, the restaurant’s affable young host, tells us he wants to cater to families and couples rather than cultivating the raucous social-club atmosphere you’ll sometimes find at, say, Yemen Cuisine (one of the city’s few other Yemeni joints along with Yemen Café). So he’s installed a separate entrance for families and women who care to use it (something he says is typical in Yemen and Saudi Arabia) — it leads to an unmarked door that opens onto the back of the restaurant, a few discreet steps away from booths that can be curtained off for privacy. In holy weeks it's used by more than one premarital couple (a no-no in a culture of arranged marriages) to sneak meals at unholy hours. (It’s uncertain whether they also snuck booze in; the restaurant is dry and doesn’t allow you to bring your own). Waleed says the booths serve mainly to keep women from being disturbed by rowdy men.
During Ramadan, Bab al Yemen is open from 4 p.m. till 4 a.m., and offering a 10 percent discount as well as a $10 package for those who want to break the fast in the traditional manner: with a dish of dates followed by small plates of samboosa (similar to a samosa), yogurt with pita bread, barley oatmeal, vegetable-and-lamb soup, and a traditional custard dessert. You can supplement with any number of Yemeni dishes (perhaps the most popular of them, haneez, is a lamb that’s roasted for over two hours), as well as less orthodox (but still halal) chef’s specials such as shrimp scampi, grilled steak, and kibda (a traditional dish of cubed lamb liver) with pasta.