Ali Baba | Lebanese heaven on a plate

Ali Baba is a cultural gateway, opening doors to the world of Lebanon, with a feast of colours, textures and aromas that transport the diner to a different world.

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar
14 January 2013, 12:00am
Lebanese gharajjes – flat breads stuffed with juicy minced lamb or chicken
Lebanese gharajjes – flat breads stuffed with juicy minced lamb or chicken
Lebanese food traditionally uses very little animal fat, with butter and oil only used for a few desserts, making it the ideal eatery for a post New Year celebration - light and waistline friendly.

Ali Baba has always had a reputation among the true foodies in Malta. The restaurant used to be just a hole in the wall in Gzira - not much to look at, in a less than desirable part of town - but the dining experience has always been worth a little bit of discomfort.

Before the summer, you would have to step over the junkies at the side of the road, and walk past a hooker talking to her pimp to get to a horrific façade and step inside to faux wooden chairs, neon lights and clinking ceiling fans.

Today the restaurant has had a complete refurbishment, and though still in the same location, once you get inside the décor now reflects quality of the meal to come.

Owner Abdul Rahman Harb believes that the ultimate dining experience lies in the choice of quality ingredients, cooked simply to release natural flavours.

You can expect a variety of meze style starters that are great fun to share. Start with the dips served with flat bread - hummous bi tahini and the best smokey baba ganoush you've ever tasted.

My favourite part of Lebanese food will always be the starters - one bite of so many different flavours - falafel, weraq el enab, kibbeh, gharajjes stuffed with spicy lamb and some even stuffed with chicken.

Though the thought of offal is awful to many, at Ali Baba, you really have to try it before you can say you don't like it. Though I wouldn't usually pick offal dishes off of any menu, at Ali Baba the stewed kidneys and livers are cooked to perfection and chicken livers that seem closer to foie gras than to actual chicken liver.

The star of the show by far has to be the lamb, butchered by Abdul Rahman Harb himself, every morsel is tender and tasty. If you are brave enough, try the raw lamb in salt and pepper - we eat raw fish and raw beef, so why not raw lamb - its definitely worth the risk.

Round off the meal with a piece of baklava heaven. Small bites of filo pastry filled with nuts and honey and wash it all down with some award winning Lebanese red wines.

Once you've eaten your fill, why not take something home with you. There are a myriad of Lebanese ingredients on offer - pomegranate syrup, dates and ghee - as well as some easily transportable dishes. On more than one occasion I have tasted the unmistakeable flavour of the Ali Baba baba ganoush around the table at some foodie friend's house!

Though Ali Baba makes you think of the story of the 40 thieves you can be sure it will be you that feels like a thief when leaving the restaurant. Although the prices have increased a little bit since the refurb, the restaurant has always been known for great quality at really reasonable prices and despite the fancier surroundings the prices have remained reasonable.

Address: 9, Fredrick C Ponsonby Street, Gzira

 

Tel: 21340119

 

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar graduated in economics from the University of Malta...