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Kabab Cafe - Restaurant Review - In Astoria's Little Egypt

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Kabab Cafe

Ali El Sayed at the Kabab Cafe

Photo Credit: © Annie Y. Miller

The Bottom Line

Most food-savvy Astorians have long ago befriended the El Sayed brothers, Ali and Moustafa, the culinary giants of Steinway Street's "Little Cairo" for Ali's famed Kabab Cafe proves that vibrant flavors can still be served up with gourmet verve at unbeatable prices. Ali's personality alone could spice up any room, and is matched by his culinary skill. If you had a carpetbagging Egyptian uncle who loved to whip up tagines and colorful anecdotes in equal measure, he would be here.

Pros

  • High quality food both traditional and innovative
  • Reasonable prices
  • Personal service from start to finish by the chef/proprietor himself
  • Fresh specials of the day
  • Vegetarian dishes

Cons

  • Leisurely dining may mean long waits for tables
  • Seating can be uncomfortable or cramped

Description

  • Address - Kabab Cafe, 25-12 Steinway St, Astoria, NY 11103 (at 25th Ave)
  • Hours - Open Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.; closed Mondays
  • Phone - 718-728-9858
  • Subway - N, W to Astoria Blvd
  • Menu - Meze; beef, chicken, lamb, and kefta kababs; salads; seafood; dumplings; vegetarian.
  • Prices - Appetizers $5-$12, kabab combination platters $15, specials and entrees $13 and up

Guide Review - Kabab Cafe - Restaurant Review - In Astoria's Little Egypt

For more than a decade chef and proprietor Ali El Sayed has offered fresh, aromatic fare in this charming space decorated with pictures of his mother. Hospitality is truly a family affair as his brother Mustafa not only crafted the tables and artwork, but also runs the nearby restaurant Mombar.

You could go with any item off the trusty menu, but regulars know that the magic lies in the often impromptu daily specials.

If you're lucky, Ali will offer the slow-cooked lamb shank. Served in a zesty tomato sauce, the succulent lamb falls off the bone and into the annals of sublime eating. When asked, Ali motioned from the open kitchen for me to come and look at the ingredient responsible for the savory tanginess: the whey from his homemade yogurt mixed into the chunky tomato sauce. Genius.

Order the mixed meze as you contemplate your entree choices. It's circled with slices of apple and large enough for two or more to share. The heart of the dish is the savory fried escarole leaves: hot, crispy, and seasoned so that each bite miraculously melts in your mouth. This should be required eating.

Don't overlook the eponymous kababs, served off the skewer with grilled vegetables. The kefta (ground beef and lamb) is the best I've had in Astoria.

I had declined desert vigorously, but Ali charmed me with his (complimentary) golden semolina honey cake. I've never been to Egypt, but washed down with a cup of mint tea, Ali's genuine graciousness makes Kabab Cafe feel so much like home.

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