Cafe Society

39 Out of 40 Thieves Agree

How do you order right? I wish the answer were as simple as saying, “Order the simple stuff, forget the complicated” -- or the reverse, “Order the authentic, the difficult to pronounce, and ignore the rest.” But at Ali Baba, it’s not that easy. This place has a learning curve, requires a commitment of trust and time while, through a period of trial and error, you find the things that are done better here, done different here, done only here.

And let me say here that, should you decide to invest the time in Ali Baba Grill (or simply use my own trial-and-error fumbling as a guide), you will be rewarded. There are dishes this restaurant does so much better than any others, dishes it does so much worse. The trick lies in learning your way around the menu, finding your favorites -- and hanging onto them. It took me three visits to begin to get a handle on what Ali Baba’s kitchen does best, and even after trying nine or ten entrees, almost every appetizer, a couple of salads, soups and more baklava than any one man should decently eat, I’ve still got more to sample.

Which is something I’m looking forward to. Certainly, there are restaurants I fell for more quickly and easily than I did for Ali Baba, but now I’m pretty sure my hard-won affection for this place is the real thing.

If you’re not into baklava, there’s plenty more in Café this week. It seems like everyone and his brother has been out and about, opening new restaurants, closing others, eating weird stuff and calling me at all hours to talk about it. And so we have big news about Z Cuisine, some anti-government ranting from baker Michael Bortz, an update on Thai Thai Hibachi, and an out-of-the-blue phone call from Barry Fey about barbecue. Enjoy. –- Jason Sheehan