Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 15 News List

[RESTAURANT REVIEW] Baba Kebaba Mediterranean Cuisine (巴巴卡巴巴)

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

Baba Kebaba's kofta is savory and well-portioned.

PHOTO: RON BROWNLOW, TAIPEI TIMES

Baba Kebaba, a brand new Middle Eastern restaurant just off Shida Road (師大路), has a name and a menu that are reminiscent of Sababa, another Middle East-themed restaurant that's opened four branches in Taipei.

Like Sababa, Baba Kebaba sells falafel, hummus, Moroccan cigars and other Middle Eastern/Mediterranean staples. Both restaurants aim to double as hangout spots, a formula that has proved successful for falafel shacks around the world. And like Sababa (沙巴巴), Baba Kebaba's (巴巴卡巴巴) Chinese name sounds both lucky and Arabic, as in Ali Baba (阿里巴巴).

When it comes to the food, however, the two offer very different experiences.

With dishes featuring variety meat - the Jerusalem pita pocket (NT$110) and Jerusalem mix (NT$180), as well as the option of upgrading an entree to get soup, salad and a drink, Baba Kebaba seems to be making more of an effort to suit local dining customs.

While Sababa's food can taste a bit dry at times, Baba Kebaba's goes the other way. On a recent visit, the meat in the lamb shish pita (NT$120) was literally swimming in oil, though it should be noted that the pita did not crack and fall apart. Likewise for the cucumber, onion and tomato salad that I got when I added NT$100 to my kafta and couscous meal (NT$180). The kafta, a kind of dumpling made from minced meat and spices, was also a tad on the oily side, but it was savory and generously portioned.

Other dishes, however, are not as flavorful as one would expect from a Middle Eastern restaurant. A good example is the hummus (NT$80), a spread traditionally made of blended chickpeas, garlic, lemon and tahini. Baba Kebaba's hummus tastes like olive oil and is the texture of puree. Not enough pita comes with the hummus for dipping, and it is buttery and white. This is fine as bread goes, but if you're expecting authentic pita you'll be disappointed.

Mediterranean Cuisine (巴巴卡巴巴)

Address: 1F, 24, Ln 13, Pucheng St, Taipei City

(台北市浦城街13巷24號1樓)

Telephone: (02) 3365-3338

Open: Noon to 10pm; closed onTuesdays

Average meal: NT$120 to NT$400

Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards not accepted


On the plus side, the service at Baba Kebaba is friendly and efficient. The interior is pleasantly decorated with the standard Middle Eastern touches: Turkish carpets, ceramics, mosaic tiles, mirrors and embroidered cloths. Unlike Sababa the lighting during lunchtime is not too dim, which is good if you want to read a book. If you like belly dancing, you can see it here every Friday and Saturday at 7pm. And Heinekens are free with meals and half-price at NT$40 every Sunday until the end of next month.

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