Seafood · Vegetarian

Yemeni Village Restaurant

I haven’t seen Jennntle since Yelp Elite stopped hosting parties. Say what you want about Yelp, but back in the day, that company could throw down a party like no other. Cactus Club, Charbar, Telus Spark, and Modern Jelly were some of the most fun, entertaining and well-organized events I’ve been to in Calgary. Last week, Jennntle and I met to reminisce at Yemeni Village, a newish Middle Eastern restaurant in the downtown core. For this post, let’s listen to “What About Your Friends” by TLC.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Yemeni Village, so I asked for her recommendations. She suggested the Yemeni Bread ($3.80), Lime Drink ($4.75), Moofa Fish ($28.50) and the Charred AAA Beef ($15). Our server informed us that the restaurant was out of the charred AAA Beef. Jennntle wanted to get Beef Kabsah ($24.99) but I informed her that Miss Foodie never recommended the other beef dish and maybe it was for a reason. After not heeding Miss Foodie’s advice in the past, I’m reluctant to deviate from her teachings. Instead, I requested the Chicken Mandi ($19.90) and Salta ($15) because Dianathefoodie recommended those dishes.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The Moofa fish is butterflied, grilled in a clay oven, and topped with red onions and a lemon wedge. The menu describes the fish as “sea golden”, whatever that means. The fish itself is flat, and the flesh is moist, flaky and delicate. The spices were so subtle that Jennntle said the strongest flavour came from the fresh lemon juice. I found this dish fresh and light. I would order this again.

The salta arrived in a hot lava stone pot. The mix of potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onion and tomato were firm to start and then boiled away until it became more of a soupy stew. The sauce is salty and pungent, and the spices remind me of an Indian vegetable curry.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

Both the fish and salta come with freshly made Yemeni bread. Oh my goodness. This bread is something special. The size of each piece is as big as a frying pan. The bread is baked in a tandoor (clay oven). The high temperature produces an ultra-light bread. I love the slightly stretchy, thin and chewy texture and the beautifully charred blisters. Besides the taste, the best thing is the crackling sound the bread makes as we tore off pieces to eat with the fish and salta.

Jennntle said the bread reminded her of the crispy layers in a Chinese green onion pancake. While the flavouring is different, the stretchy texture of Yemeni bread made me think of Azzurri, Savino and Rocket Pizza. I think it’s because of the technique involved to produce a magical bread like this. This bread is so good that no one, unless they have health restrictions (e.g. Celiac), should live without trying this.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The chicken Mandi is pressured cooked, which creates a tender, succulent meat. Jennntle took a spoon and when she pressed it against the chicken, the meat literally fell off the bones. The long grains of the basmati rice was soft and fluffy, fragrant with spices that reminded me of oranges and cloves.

The restaurant was packed on a Tuesday night. The phone was ringing off the hook, customers were lining up at the door, and dishes were flying out of the kitchen. I appreciate that despite the chaos, the staff was still genuinely interested in how we found the food. Hitting the Sauce gives Yemeni Village two phat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Ali Baba Kabob House

I wanted to give L a break from my banh mi obsession, so we stopped by Ali Baba Kabob House to pick up dinner. Ali Baba is one block away from L’s second favourite shawarma restaurant – Shawarma Knight. For this post, let’s listen to “My Type” by Saweetie.

If you look at the Google or Yelp reviews, you’ll notice that some customers who love Ali Baba like to diss Shawarma Knight. I was curious to see what the difference was between the two neighbouring businesses and the meaning behind the animosity.

I ordered a Beef Donair (Regular, $8.99) and L a Chicken Shawarma (Large, $10.99). It’s a two-person team at Ali Baba. One person shaves the meat and then sears it on a grill and the other assembles the food. I noticed the meat is sliced thinner than Shawarma Knight and cooked on the grill for a longer time. The meat is put on top of a pita, which is placed on top of a bigger piece of flatbread.

Normally I prefer beef over chicken, but when I took a bite of L’s shawarma, I was pro chicken. The chicken was so flavourful and moist, and I could really taste the seasoning and spices. L noticed the sesame flavouring in the tahini was prominent.

My beef donair was tasty, the meat was smoky and nicely spiced. The pickles were so good – they were extra sour and tart. I liked the heat from the banana peppers and turnips, and the crunch from the cabbage and cucumbers. The vegetables were all finely minced and evenly distributed throughout the wrap.

Ali Baba sprinkles on the vegetables and lightly sauces their shawarma whereas Shawarma Knight is more generous with everything – the meats, vegetables and sauces. I think Ali Baba’s seasoning is excellent, as is the execution of the slicing and searing of the meat.

Which shawarma place is better? I think each have their own style, and what you end up liking is due to your personal preference. L favours Shawarma Knight and I appreciate the non-pedestrian seasoning in Ali Baba’s chicken shawarma. Pro tip – if you are a current Shawarma Knight fan and want to try Ali Baba, note that the portions are substantially smaller at Ali Baba. So if you have a big appetite, size up.