Tue-Sun, 1pm-5pm and 6pm-10pm; Mon, closed
N, W at Astoria-Ditmars Blvd.
Much acclaimed by the media and New York foodies, Kabab Cafe, a tiny Egyptian restaurant in Astoria, lives up to its billing. It is the life’s work of the unassuming chef/owner/philosopher Ali El Sayed, who opened it in 1989 and who continues to garner a loyal following of locals, artsy types, and culinary explorers. Chef Ali’s workstation dominates the dining room, as he chops, dices, slices, and kibitzes with abandon. A half-dozen mismatched tables and varied chairs sit near banquettes covered in woolen blankets; a hodgepodge of pharaonic statuettes, mosaics, mirrors, and paintings line the mixed-colored walls. The Alexandria-born chef specializes in the soulful “mama’s food” of his cosmopolitan hometown, with slow-cooked stews and baked dishes that bring together a panoply of subtle spices. His divine mixed meze platter unites tangy and ethereal hummus, smoky baba ganouj, and foul medamas, a mash of fava beans enlivened with garlic and lemon juice. Greaseless falafel balls dot the plate, as do deep-fried chicory leaves. For entrées, an oven-baked whole striped bass is sublimely moist and fragrant with basil, dill, garlic, and cumin. Kabab Cafe is a singular experience well worth the pilgrimage; come hungry and ready for edible adventures.Recommended Dishes
Mixed meze platter, $10; stuffed lamb breast, $17; roasted striped bass, $24