[Pink Pig Time Machine by Wilfrid: July 16, 2012]
Can it really be ten years since I first set foot in the tiny Astoria storefront which houses the legendary Kabab Café?
Ali El Sayed, deft chef and genial host, has since been showered with television's magic dust, memorably on an edition of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations". Ten years ago, his tiny dining room seemed more of a secret (although, of course, it had been known to hardcore Chowhounders for years: this remains the only place I've actually seen Jim Leff eating).
The feast at Ali's was rather more spectacular:
Beetroot salad wth onions
Tomato and lettuce salad
Veal sweetbreads braised in lamb stock
Fried brains with lime
Two tripes soup with rice
Calf's foot soup
Stewed sheep's head with eyeballs
Liver with onions
Baklava, honey cake, coffee.
You won't find these dishes on the Kabab Café's regular menu -- but if Ali knows you, and likes you, there's no telling what he'll produce, seemingly from a couple of burners behind the counter. The brains with lime were terrific (and have been ever since). The eyeballs? Yes, you read right. They're not slimy, but surprisingly like suet dumplings in texture. I've returned to the Kabab Café many times since -- and, believe it or not, eaten some even stranger things there.
The adventurous portion of the week continued with fish maw -- one of my favorite things to eat -- in congee, and with seafood in soup, at Congee Village, followed by goose intestnes with noodes, pork belly hot pot, and butter-baked crab.
Then back to humble cucina povera to close the week out. Home-made garbure with bacon and pigs tails.
That was New York ten years ago; next week, a trip to Kansas City.