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Restaurant Review: Ali Baba Palace

Manayunk’s answer to Persian cuisine.

Restaurant:
Address: 4165 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127 215-483-1629
Rating: ★★★ (3) out of 5 stars
Style:  Casual
Food: Persian/Iranian delicacies (kabobs, etc.)
Atmosphere:  Intimate, Middle Eastern décor
Parking: Yes, street parking
Service: Accommodating & fast
Price Range: $$
Unique Feature: BYOB

During a stroll down Manayunk’s esteemed Main Street, finding a place to eat is like shooting fish in a barrel. From elegant eateries to greasy bar food, everyone is bound to leave with a full stomach, one way or another. When I learned about the newest addition to Manayunk, known as Ali Baba Palace, it only made sense to see how the restaurant differed from the countless humdrum options.

To be safe, I made reservations for 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night, but it turned out that it was unnecessary: The restaurant was completely empty, and stayed that way during our entire visit. Fortunately, I like an intimate dining experience, so the lack of patrons was fine by me. As we were seated, I took some time to observe the décor. The decorators were certainly going for a Middle Eastern feel and they nailed it; the walls were covered with mirrors and colorful artwork, the marble floors with Persian rugs, in the corner was a hookah, and above us were two brilliantly lit chandeliers. 

The waitress took our bottle of wine and was very friendly as she uncorked and poured us drinks, asking how we were and if we had plans for the rest of the night. As soon as she left to let us peruse the menu, it was a bit awkward as she was just standing 10 feet away from us, motionless in a completely silent restaurant. 

After placing the orders, she server brought out a complementary basket of warm, fresh Pita Bread, which we tore through and finished quickly. Within another five minutes, our appetizer was brought out: Tahdig. The starter was small, crispy potato servings that are made from the bottom of the pot where the restaurant makes cooks its rice. Though a bit dry, we both agreed that the Tahdig was flavorful but the portions were too small. 

Within another 10 minutes our entrées were served. I decided on the Chicken Kabob, which was succulent grilled chicken tenderloin served with rice. The chicken was simply delicious and cooked to perfection, but the rice tasted quite bland. My girlfriend agreed, and we took turns applying salt and pepper when necessary.

My girlfriend ordered a vegetarian dish called Fesenjoon, consisting of a walnut and pomegranate stew. Though I found it to be filling and enjoyable, she found the taste to be off-putting, and did not feel the need to finish her meal. Her entrée also came with rice, which we were told is unlimited, but we didn’t even finish our first helpings. As dinner was wrapping up, the chef presented us with a complimentary dessert, Figs, which was an appreciated and delicious gesture. 

Overall, I had a very pleasant experience at Ali Baba Palace. The service was excellent, timely, and casually professional. My major concern was the lack of business that we witnessed on that Friday night, but I can only hope that locals have caught on that this is a restaurant that’s brave enough to stand out from the rows of bars that surround it.

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