Ali Baba II: Great Neck Turkish delight overhauled

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Ali Baba II

4 Welwyn Road

Great Neck


Word was out: Changes had been made at the Turkish/Me­diterranean restaurant opposite the post office in Great Neck. This needed investigating.

There it was, posted in the window, the blow up of the review I did about five years ago of Piri’s. But now it was a Saturday night in March 2002 and we settled in around 8 p.m. wanting to be there for the Turkish music and dancing. The room looked freshly painted. It had that great Mediterranean look I remembered - a cement floor with a handsome iron qrillwork divider between bar and dining area. But there was the new, too. Colorful Turkish throw rugs adorned the walls.

Informality in dress reigned as before. Our waiter breezed about in an ultra-patriot stars and stripes tie but that was the only one worn. And the tieless diners were 98 percent.

“Two rakis, please. I really can’t say whether it’s the licorice flavor, the ceremony of spooning miniature ice cubes from a round stemmed glass into the raki and watching it turn from clear to cloudy, but raki is a must for me with Turkish food. Others might prefer a Turkish beer or a glass of Turkish wine, red or white.

Mezza is an appropriate way to introduce the meal, an array of traditional Turkish mixed appetizers. But my dining companion chose the eggplant salad. He, not being a Renaissance diner, was surprised at first by the smoked eggplant, olive oil and garlic pureed offering. Once acclimated he “liked it very much.”

I tried a hot appetizer of sigara boregi (cheese rolls), filo dough rolled with feta cheese and then pan-fried. They were arranged on a scattering of shredded lettuce, a nice foil.

We split a shepherd salad of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers and bunches of parsley tossed in a delightfully light house dressing. The chunks of accompanying bread were similar to, but denser than, focaccia. Of late, all my dining companions gravitate to red snapper. (Formerly, it was soft shell crabs.) Following my lead of kofte kebabs, grilled ground lamb flavored with garlic and hot peppers on skewers with onions and seasoning. My companion ordered chicken kebabs, tender chunks of chicken chunks marinated with the chef’s own blend of herbs and spices. It was a hit. (“I’m so glad I ordered it.”)

I was equally enthusiastic about my lamb: Fresh-tasting, juicy, flavorful, well-seasoned. The kebabs were presented to each of us on an oval platter with pilaf, sliced red onion “salsa,” nicely prepared green beans and sliced carrots. This was great eating.

A Turkish musician played the kanvin softly during dinner, a plucked string instrument. Now I spied a belly dancer, veil-shrouded and sequined, sparkling from lips to toes, fashion model trim. Isis was going to perform. Isis was terrific, the best. I’m knowledgeable having taken adult ed classes at Queens College from an a Ph.D. candidate (English lit) at Columbia. The finale: Emerging from a rolled carpet with slithering movements, Isis undulated every muscle.

Yes, there’s baklava for dessert. But more enticing, a sheet of custard, gelatin-like, rolled, dusted with cinnamon. Turkish coffee is a universal now that it’s made in three degrees of sweetness. At Ali Baba it arrives on a brass tray with a dome handle swaying beguilingly as it approaches the table. It is weak, thin, totally umsweetened, I am sorry to say.

We left at quarter of 10 - no one was dancing yet,

Surprise! The next day was the grand opening. It’s Ali Baba II, now. No. One is in Manhattan on 34th Street between Second and Third Avenues. Piri’s changed hands three weeks ago. Well, well, well.

Ali Baba (Baba is Turkish for father. Ali and his father opened No. One) is a fine addition to Great Neck’s dining. The Turkish chefs know their stuff. A take-out menu of new items tasted so: Ezme salad (spread of mashed tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, parsley, garlic and hot spices with lemon-olive oil dressing), Lahmacun (paper-thin, flat-douqh, Turkish pizza), special pide (thick, round dough crust topped with Turkish sausage and an egg), stuffed cabbage (with ground lamb and seasoned rice in tomato sauce on noodles), chicken soup (stew-like and marvelous), Turkish pastries (really superior).

The Bottom Line

Delicious Turkish/Me­diterranean cuisine. Mediterranean setting plus Turkish rugs. Live music and dancing (Turkish and American) on Friday and Saturday night and an excellent belly dancer.

Chef's Choice

Lahamacun (Turkish style pizza: flat bread dough topped with ground lamb and chopped garden vinaigrette)...$2.75

Ali Baba Special Pide (a thick round dough topped with pastrami, Turkish sausage, salami and an egg on top)...$10

St. Peter Fish-Talapia (choice of whole grilled or fillet broiled)...$13.95

Chef’s Seafood Broiled Combo (shrimps, scallops, flounder, and salmon broiled with house sauce)...S16.95

Hams Tava (pan-fried fresh anchovies)...$15

Cuisine: Turkish/Me­diterranean

Setting: Mediterranean plus Turkish throw rugs on the walls

Service: Good

Hours: L & D 7 days

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Rear lot

Location: Opposite main post office

Credit cards: All major. No Discover

Dress: Very casual

Takeout: Yes

Off-premise catering: Yes

Private parties: To 90

Children: Accommodate

Music: Fri & Sat with belly dancing

Noise: Low, Fri E; Sat Music

Handicap Access: Yes

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