Today in cuisine corner, I had the privilege to review Alibaba, the uptown Washington Street restaurant that many Stevens students are likely unfamiliar with. I was told about Alibaba by my former coworker and longtime Hoboken resident, Oliver Mclellan. Oliver swore that the best food, in the opinion of a non-Stevens student, Hoboken resident was found at Alibaba. Weighting his opinion strongly, I decided to check it out for myself. I was joined by Sir Pete Goggi and Dr. Zach Zavoda (PhD) who were both large fans of the middle Eastern food of Alibaba competitor, Mamoun’s.
Entering the building, we were immersed by the Middle Eastern decoration style. There was no confusion in any of our minds as to what kind of food Alibaba was serving. The golden ceiling matched the golden mural on the wall in front of me. On the mural were painted palm trees. I took a seat and waited for my comrades who had left to procure beer for this “BYO” dinner.
Almost immediately, I was waited on by a very friendly waitress who brought out menus and served water. When my friends arrived, we all took a look at the menu. The prices ranged from $8-15 per dish, which was more expensive than Mamoun’s. Pete was quick to point out, however, that at Mamouns, one ordered at the counter, whereas one was waited on at Alibaba. We ordered two dishes off of the vegetarian menu, the Baba Ganoush and the Falafel, and one dish off of the meat menu, Chicken Tikka.
Much to our pleasure, the dishes came out quickly. Additionally, our waitress, who was winning some serious service points with her friendliness and promptness of service, brought out pita bread – a nice touch to the Middle Eastern restaurant. We started with the Baba Ganoush, which was served with a gigantic salad. For those unfamiliar with Middle Eastern food, Baba Ganoush is a dish with a hummus like texture made from eggplant, olive oil, garlic, lemon and spices. To quote Zach; “that was the best Baba Ganoush I’ve ever had”. I had to agree with him. The texture was perfect and the seasoning, something so crucial in Baba Ganoush, was there. Additionally, the salad was fresh and seasoned well, something I do not want to understate. Moving on, the Chicken Tikka was next. It had been prepared differently than what my guests were used to. Normally, the chicken would be tossed in some type of thick curry sauce, but instead it was a much lighter sauce. Regardless, it looked delicious and atop a bed of rice with a side salad, very filling! I dug into the chicken which was tender on the inside but had a nice sear and firmness on the outside. The chicken was spicy, much to the pleasure of my guest, but still packed with flavor. Additionally, there was a large helping of a Tzatziki sauce which paired perfectly and cooled my mouth after the fiery chicken. Finally, I got to the dish I ordered, the classic Falafel. It had a good crunch of the outside, my only minor grip was that the balls were a bit flat which caused them to be slightly overcooked as opposed to a perfectly round falafel. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the meal. In addition, the whole time we were eating and drinking, our waitress was pilling on the piping hot pita bread.
I had a really difficult time writing this review as my colleagues and I could find very little wrong with the restaurant. The service was stellar and above average, even by my critical standards, the food was great, budget was appropriate for the type of restaurant and the atmosphere was beautiful. Overall, if you are looking for a place, to take your significant other, your friend for their birthday, or just have a casual dinner with some drinks, Alibaba is for you.
A note about ratings:
Much like the great film reviewer, Robert Ebert, the ratings are relative, not absolute. The rating must be taken in context with the types of restaurant that I am reviewing. For example, I may give a fast casual restaurant “5 out of 5” stars for quality of food and a fine dining restaurant “2 out of 5 stars”. Does that mean the fast casual place has better food? No, of course not! It just means that in the context of fast casual restaurants, the restaurant is pretty good!