Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill - Red Bank

We were excited to hear about a take-out Mediterranean restaurant opening nearby and decided to give it a shot for dinner last night. 

First, our impressions on the space:  It's definitely more of a take-out restaurant than eat-in as there are only a few tables.  It also is pretty dirty - everything is sticky.  The pop machine area has napkins and straws nearby but they are in the ripped open plastic bags they were shipped in.  Also - there is no indication of where a line starts and stops.  It's sort of confusing with people just standing around. 

Second, our impressions on the service:  There were two couples that ordered before us and after we ordered another 5 couples came in.  There were only three people behind the counter.  One was solely making food and the other two were half cooks/half cashiers.  It wasn't exactly clear who to order from and it was a little chaotic.

The woman before us had her food re-made twice.  Her food wasn't bad but both times it wasn't what she ordered.  I think this happened because at the time of placing orders, the cashier does not write down what you order but instead yells it to a cook.  This didn't fare well for them because they had to keep asking people to remind them what they ordered.  All of the customers were looking at each other wondering why it was so confusing for the employees.  We had a pretty easy order -  two gyros and an order of mozzarella cheesesticks to go.  Because it was a little disorganized around the counter, we wanted to get out of the way and so we went to a table to wait.  After the gyros were done - about 10 minutes - they realized that they forgot about the cheesesticks.  If we hadn't already paid for them we would have said to forget it because we wanted to get out of there.  Instead, they told us we could just start eating our gyros here while the cheesesticks cooked.  We really didn't want to do that because it was really hot in the restaurant but we were hungry.  Our cheesesticks were ready half way through our gyros.  They gave us about 10 cheesesticks on a plate.  We put them in the bag that our gyros came in so we could leave. 

By the way, there is no moving air in this restaurant.  It was like a sauna - partially why we wanted to get out of there so badly.

The employees were definitely unprepared for the amount of customers.  They seriously need to work on organization.  Hopefully they will get it sorted out before it's too late. 

Third, the food: If it hadn't been for the food, I would be confident this place wouldn't survive 6 months.  Thankfully though, the food made up for the atmosphere.  All of the food looked really fresh and made from scratch.  The gyro meat is both lamb and beef and is cooked as it should be on a vertical skewer with radiated heat.  The pitas are soft, warm and fresh.  You can add a variety of toppings onto the gyro including tahini sauce, feta, tomato-cucumber salad, lettuce, etc.  We put all of those listed on our gyros and they were delicious.  The tahini sauce is more like yogurt and had a good fresh taste.  We were really pleased.  They ran about $6 which is fair - and no extra charge for the feta.  The mozzarella sticks were nothing special but were fried for the perfect amount of time and like I said before, they gave us an enormous amount. 

Overall, the food was good enough for us to go back and I'm happy to have some authentic Mediterranean food close by.  I would never eat in the restaurant though as it's hot and dirty.  Also, the organization is a mess.  Not sure if the owner was around but he/she should be more involved at Friday's dinner rush.

Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

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