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Ali Baba – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ali Baba Food Mart on Lomas

Legends recount that in his quest for immortality, Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh visited a tavern where a divine barmaid gave him the advise: “Eat and drink your fill, Gilgamesh, and celebrate day and night. Make every day a festival; day and night dance and play.” Because of the fecundity of their land, the people of Mesopotamia could indeed afford to eat, drink and be merry until they died–even if they were denied immortality.

The rich culinary legacy of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) can be traced back more than 10,000 years when the comparatively lush and fecund land constituting the fertile crescent gave rise to the cradle of civilization.  The availability of water and agricultural resources allowed some of the world’s earliest human civilizations to flourish from both a societal and technological perspective.  This region is credited with the development of writing, glass, the wheel and the use or irrigation. 

Ali Baba Dining Room

Tablets found in ancient ruins throughout Iraq document recipes used in temple festivals, including a 3,700-year-old recipe for a meat pie baked in an unleavened crust. In what are essentially the world’s very first cookbooks, these tablets reveal a very large and gastronomically advanced civilization. A cuneiform script on 24 stone tables dated from about 1900 BC lists more than 800 different foods and beverages including more than 100 varieties of soup, 300 types of bread and 20 different cheeses–each with varying ingredients, shapes, fillings and sizes.

The picture of Iraq (formerly Mesopotamia) conjured in most peoples’ minds today is not of a verdant and fertile land, but of a desolate desert in which little grows.  In truth, only about fifteen percent of Iraq’s acreage is arable with another ten percent being permanent pasture.  Rain-fed irrigation is enough to cultivate the winter crops (mainly wheat and barley) which have long been a staple of the region.  Valleys along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, whose headwaters some theorize was the site of Biblical Eden, account for about half of Iraq’s arable land

Amira brings us Arabian bread

Culinary anthropologists have extrapolated from the ancient tablets that while the cuisine of Mesopotamia has evolved significantly, many of the dishes and preparation techniques from time long past can still be found today in Iraq.   A visit to Ali Baba Food Mart in the far Northeast Heights may not magically transport you back to the bygone days of yore, but it will give you an appreciation for the cuisine of Iraq, most of which is very familiar.  Moreover, you’ll be treated to Iraqi hospitality (and if you’re fortunate, you may even meet Amira, the precocious daughter of Ali Baba’s owners). 

Named for the character in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Ali Baba is located next door to the Red Rock Deli on Lomas just west of Tramway.  Signage indicates it’s a food mart and indeed, about half of the store’s real estate is devoted to comestibles.  The other half houses a very charming, ornately decorated dining room unlike any in Albuquerque.  It’s a magnificent milieu for dining on the restaurant specialties, some listed on the storefront signage: gyros, baba ghanoush, falafel, kabab, hummus, tabooli, fattoush and more.

The tandoor-like oven in which Arabian bread is baked

Arabian bread is baked in a small back room.  A cylindrical metal oven operates very similarly to the tandoor clay ovens of India in baking large flat bread more closely resembling Indian naan (about the size of a pizza) than Greek pita.  As with tandoor ovens, rolled dough is slapped against the oven wall.  Extricating it is a delicate (and sometimes painful) process.   The resultant flat bread is wonderful with a pinto-pony char, a chewy texture and an addictive flavor.  Mesopotamia, by the way, may have actually invented bread.  The oldest known clay oven was excavated about 45 miles south of Baghdad. It dates to 4000 B.C. and was used to make the flat bread which was the progenitor of the bread we enjoyed. 

Ali Baba doesn’t have tableside service.  Instead you’ll place your order at a counter behind which a cook is shaving shards of meat from a rotating spit.  Meats are prepared halal style and are procured from the Al Noohi company in California.   The menu is rather limited, but you certainly can’t say that about portion size.  Generous plating belies the outrageously reasonable prices.  Call it “cheap eats” if you will, but only if your definition of cheap is “high quality and inexpensive.”  As with the Red Rock Deli next door, two can eat very well for under thirty dollars and still have some to take home.

Falafel Plate

Start your introduction to the cuisine of Ali Baba with the amazing Falafel Plate (pictured above).  Large enough to feed a small family, the plate includes eight deep-fried falafel balls, half of which are sprinkled with sesame seeds; sliced dill pickles, sliced olives, yellow peppers, jalapeños, lettuce and a cucumber-tomato salad.   Almost as amazing as the generosity of the plate is how good the falafel are (equalled only by the falafel at the phenomenal San Pedro Middle East Restaurant).  Both texturally (moist, but not oily with a crisp exterior and soft, parsley infused interior) and flavor-wise, each falafel will bring a smile to your face.

Baba Ghanoush

As good as the falafel is the baba ghanoush, a garlicky, smoky roasted eggplant spread popular throughout the Middle East.  The melodic name baba ghanoush (fun to say even if you don’t know what it means) has its genesis in an Arabic phrase which translates to “pampered daddy” (not necessarily in a paternal sense).   Baba ghanoush is made from grilled eggplant that is mashed and mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and tahini (a sesame seed paste).  Ali Baba serves it with the aforementioned Arabic bread which you’ll dip into the spread and consume lustily.  Interestingly, the baba ghanoush is served with a spoonful of chili (similar in heat to Sriracha) which goes well with the dip. 

In a unique cultural interchange, Ali Baba serves its sandwiches on New Mexico-style flour tortillas instead of on pita or Arabic bread.  Call it an Iraqi burrito if you will, but you’ll also call it delicious.  On the shish kabab sandwich, the tortilla is engorged with grilled meat marinated in a combination of herbs and spices then sliced into small pieces and served finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and a lightly applied, but mouth-watering sauce.  The shawarma, a tortilla sandwich with thinly sliced cuts of meat generously sprinkled with sumac is also quite good.

Shish Kabob on a Tortilla

Ali Baba provides a true essence of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine with a culinary heritage that dates back more than two-thousand years. Moreover, Ali Baba provides a very welcoming ambiance and hospitality galore.

Ali Baba
13025 Lomas, Blvd. N.E., Suite B
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 294-4091
LATEST VISIT: 22 November 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Falafel Plate, Shish Kabob, Shawarma, Babaganouj, Arabian Bread

Ali Baba on Urbanspoon

Yanni’s Mediterranean Bar & Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

No Yanni come lately is Albuquerque's best Greek restaurant.

No Yanni come lately is Albuquerque’s best Greek restaurant.

The now defunct Albuquerque Monthly magazine titled a May, 1995 article “Yanni Come Lately,” heralding the arrival of a new Greek restaurant on Nob Hill.  More than a decade has elapsed since that article and Yanni’s Mediterranean continues to more than live up to the lofty accolades it has earned over the years. Yanni’s has been recognized by other national, regional and local publications for its outstanding cuisine.  It has also earned the unwavering devotion of teeming masses who patronize the city’s best Mediterranean restaurant.

In 1998, Gourmet magazine named Yanni’s a restaurant of distinction in the Southwest.  Southwest Airline’s Spirit magazine has also proclaimed it a great restaurant for Greek food.  More recently, readers of the Alibi voted Yanni’s as the best Greek restaurant in Albuquerque as well as the city’s very best restaurant overall in 2009.  Considering the vast improvements in the city’s restaurant landscape since Yanni’s launch a decade and a half ago as well as Albuquerque’s propensity for embracing the newest kids in the block, that’s a tremendous accomplishment for what is becoming one of the city’s venerable institutions.

Deep Mediterranean Blues Throughout the Dining Room

Deep Mediterranean Blues Throughout the Dining Room

In that time, more than Yanni’s reputation has grown.  The restaurant now occupies much of a city block.  Immediately adjacent to the restaurant is a swanky 75-seat Lemoni Lounge in which the most popular libations are available for every occasion.  Live music is provided every weekend.   A commodious banquet room with comfortable and private seating for up to 100 guests provides state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment as well as a special banquet menu.

Yanni’s Mediterranean is the brainchild of Nick Kapnison and his wife Chris Kapnison, veteran restaurateurs and successful entrepreneurs who have a keen grasp of what their dining patrons want–hearty portions of reasonably priced cuisine served in a pleasant milieu by an attentive wait staff.  Their restaurant delivers!

Warm, fresh bread from Fano Bakery in every meal.

Warm, fresh bread from Fano Bakery in every meal.

The south-facing Yanni’s is at the heart of Nob Hill on Central Avenue.  Its interior is awash in hues of azure, the shades and colors of the Aegean Sea.  Sculpted plaster busts and verdant plants sit atop truncated Corinthian columns.  The restaurant’s windows provide a panoramic view of the Nob Hill traffic and of the interesting shops that make this one of the city’s most diverse and interesting shopping districts.

Interestingly (and I’m certainly not complaining), the ratio of women to men always seems very high–or at least it has during the times we’ve visited.  Feminine pulchritude may account, in part, for consistently pleasant dining experiences at Yanni’s, but it’s degustation of outstanding cuisine that brings us back.  If you’d like to avoid crowds, Sundays are a good day to visit for when Popejoy is hosting a matinee event.  Once the event lets out, however, Albuquerque’s cultured crowd loves Yanni’s.

Spanakopita--there is none better in the Duke City!

Spanakopita–there is none better in the Duke City!

While you’re pondering the expansive menu, Yanni’s starts you off with some of the best baked bread in town (courtesy of Fano’s Bakery, a local institution).  It encapsulates all that is wonderful about the staff of life–a hard-crust surrounding a soft, yeasty bread.  When dipped into mixture of virgin olive oil and herbs (including chile pequin seeds), the character of the bread really stands out.  If you’re not careful, however, you can easily fill up on bread and still call it a great meal.

The mezathakia (appetizer) options are a veritable pantheon of prandial perfection (forgive the alliteration).  The challenge is in deciding which appetizer(s) with which to start.  If you favor simplicity instead of sophistication and sweet breath be damned, you can start off with Greek olives and feta cheese served with a generous amount of pita wedges.  The fetid feta spreads easily on the warm pita which tempers the acrid and salty fromage.  The olives are rich and briny.   You won’t find any better in the city.

Feta Psiti: Baked Feta with peppers, tomato & olive oil; Served with pita wedges

Feta Psiti: Baked Feta with peppers, tomato & olive oil; Served with pita wedges

A more complex flavor-rich starter features goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic served with pita wedges, a tasty triumvirate which spreads easily on the warm pita.  The soft, easily spread goat cheese and its strong and pungent, but very pleasant flavor is an excellent foil for the sweet acidity of the sun-dried tomatoes and the eye-watering garlic.   The resultant mix is absolutely delicious.

4 May 2014: If a cheese can embody a nation, it should be said that Feta is the flavor of Greece.  Feta is slightly pungent, delightfully soft and crumbly.  It’s also surprisingly versatile as Feta Psiti demonstrates.  Feta Psiti is baked feta with red and green peppers, tomato and olive oil served with pita wedges.  Baked feta isn’t quite as sharp or pungent as in its natural state, but it marries very well with red and green peppers. A single grilled tomato topped with the same seasonings used on the bread provides acidity and contrast.

Another wonderful pasta dish at Yanni's: Penne pasta with poached salmon in a Cayenne cream sauce.

Another wonderful pasta dish at Yanni’s: Penne pasta with poached salmon in a Cayenne cream sauce.

Not surprisingly, Yanni’s serves the very best dolmathes (wonderfully seasoned beef and rice stuffed grape leaves) in town.  Four of these wonderful treasures are served warm and drizzled with the whisper-thin tartness of Avgolemono sauce made with lemons.  You can also opt for dolmathes served cold and vegetarian style.

10 March 2007: Yanni’s saganaki, a dish of flaming Green Kaseri cheese is almost as much fun to see prepared tableside as it is to eat it.  Alit courtesy of a common lighter and incendiary rum, the flames ascend toward the heavens, leaving blue and orange plume trails in their aromatic wake.  Your well-trained attendant turns the cheese over with but a steak knife, manipulating the flames so they lick the cheese, imparting high heat through and through and with an evenness that ensures every bit of the cheese is flame-kissed.

Lamb Chops Marinated in Greek Oregano, Lemon and Garlic, Grilled to Perfection

Pork Chop Marinated in Greek Oregano, Lemon and Garlic, Grilled to Perfection

Yanni’s appetizers are better than entrees at many other restaurants and you can easily make a meal of two or three of them, but you’ll want to partake of incomparably prepared main courses.  The menu categorizes them into traditional Greek dinners; vegetarian entrees; steaks, chops and seafood; pastas; calzone and pizza.  The specials of the day might fall into any one of these categories and are generally terrific.

The pastas are primo good!  In fact, a daily special of Greek meatballs and fettuccine with marinara constitutes the very best spaghetti dish I’ve had in New Mexico.  The meatballs were heavenly spiced and of divine texture, wholly unlike the sawdust meatballs served at many local Italian restaurants.  It’s the entree I look for every time we visit Yanni’s, an entree which truly earns the sobriquet “special.”  Perhaps that’s why the restaurant features it as a “special of the day” and not as a daily offering.

Greek style chicken

Greek style chicken

Another pasta entree, appropriately named Mediterranean Linguini, is a gem of a dish which includes Kalamata olives, fresh Roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, sweet basil, virgin olive oil and marinara.  Talk about taste contrasts blending together to form something unbelievably wonderful.  The linguini, a wider noodle than spaghetti, is prepared at a bit more than al dente while the other ingredients are fresh and delicious, all perfectly prepared.

10 March 2007: Still another pasta entree that came from the daily specials list to capture my heart is a penne pasta dish with poached salmon, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a Cayenne cream sauce.  The piquant creaminess of the Cayenne sauce and well-seasoned salmon tastes play well on each other’s contrasts.  Salmon can be difficult to flavor and bad salmon is prone to “fishiness.”  Not so under the skilled skillet of Yanni’s chef where the salmon has a fresh taste, almost as if caught in the wild.   It is an absolutely perfect pasta dish!

Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg.

Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg.

10 March 2007: A departure from pasta dishes to meat based entrees is like departing Paris for Rome.  Both are wonderful in their own right and each is done very well at Yanni’s.  The Greek style chicken entree is, like many entrees at Yanni’s, prolific enough for two people to share.  It is comprised of a breast, leg, thigh and wing, all slow-roasted and flavored with lemon and flecked with garlic and oregano.  The skin is crispy while the chicken is moist and delicious.

27 March 2010: Partaking of Yanni’s bone-in pork chops is reminiscent of dining at a big city Chophouse where prime cuts of beef and pork are presented with pulchritudinous pork and beauteous beef clinging to a Flintstone sized bone.  At Yanni’s, the pork chops are marinated in Greek oregano, lemon and garlic then grilled to perfection.  These chops are moist and tender and at nearly an inch-thick, each and every morsel extricated easily from the bone is very satisfying.  Accompanied by roasted red potatoes potatoes resplendent in olive oil and Greek seasonings and deliciously bitter spinach, this is a terrific entree.

A fresh and delicious Greek salad

A fresh and delicious Greek salad

Several lamb based entrees are prepared in traditional Greek style and all exemplify all that is great about lamb.  Very little (if any) gaminess is ever found on Yanni’s lamb entrees, whether it be the lamb ragout, lamb chops or lamb shank.  Greek “fast food” in the form of Yanni’s gyros is an absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned amalgam of lamb and beef swimming in tzadziki sauce and stuffed into a warm pita bread pocket.  There may be no better gyros anywhere in New Mexico.

10 March 2007: Entrees are accompanied by your choice of soup or salad.  For me, it’s a no-brainer.  The Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg is the very best I’ve had anywhere.  Wholly unlike the sweet and sour soup you might find at a Chinese restaurant, it’s only mildly tart and blends tart and savory tastes in seemingly equal proportions.  27 March 2007: The Greek salad is certainly no consolation prize.  Artistically constructed of Romaine lettuce, red onion, cucumber slices, tomato wedges and lots of fetid feta, it’s as good and fresh a Greek salad as you’ll find anywhere.

Barcelona Pizza: Marinara, chicken breast, mozzarella, cilantro, prosciutto & red onions

Barcelona Pizza: Marinara, chicken breast, mozzarella, cilantro, prosciutto & red onions

4 May 2014: The menu lists six pizzas, each named for a European port of call.  Every pizza can be made into a calzone and you’re free to craft your own by selecting the ingredients of your choosing.  Baked whisper-thin on the restaurant’s pizza oven, the pizza has a nice char around the edges with bubbling cheese sharing canvas space with other ingredients.  The Barcelona (chicken breast, mozzarella, cilantro, prosciutto and red onions) is a very good pizza which would be made even better sans chicken (which tends to dessicate in an oven) and with the addition of whole garlic cloves.  It’s a personal-sized pizza cut into eight slices, several of which you’ll take home for lunch the following day.

4 May 2014: Not counting salads, there are four vegetarian entrees on the menu.  Contrary to what some believe, vegetarian is not synonymous with boring or tasteless.  There are few examples that prove this point as well as the stuffed acorn squash, a partially hollowed out acorn squash gourd stuffed with sauteed spinach, fennel, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus and mushrooms served with a dill cream sauce and garlic mashed potatoes.  Leave the dill cream sauce for the garlic mashed potatoes (which are rather dry) and partake of the vegetables alone.  The squash is prepared with brown sugar and butter, imbuing it with a slightly sweet flavor profile that blends well with the crisp, perfectly prepared and absolutely delicious vegetables.

Stuffed Acorn Squash: Spinach, fennel, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus & mushrooms served with garlic mashed potatoes & topped with dill cream-sauce

Stuffed Acorn Squash:
Spinach, fennel, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus & mushrooms served with garlic mashed potatoes & topped with dill cream-sauce

10 March 2007: A wealth of dessert options (if you have room) will satiate the sweetest of teeth.  From the traditional baklava to an inspired baklava sundae, Yanni’s has a dessert line-up with which no other Mediterranean restaurant can compete.  Our recent favorite is Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.  The custard is (gasp, forgive the blasphemy) as good (if not better) as the very best natillas we’ve had in New Mexico while the light pastry shell cuts into the richness just enough so you’re not overwhelmed.  It is one of the best dessert options available in the city.

Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.

Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.

There are many reasons Yanni’s Mediterranean separates itself from the rest.  Quite simply, it provides one of the Duke City’s very best dining experiences.

Yanni’s Mediterranean
3109 E. Central
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 268-9250
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 4 May 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 22
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Souvlaki, Greek Chicken, Mediterranean Pasta, Galaktoboureko, Gyros, Pizza, Pork Chops, Lamb Chops, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Feta Psiti

Yanni's Mediterranean Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Anatolia Doner Kebab House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Anatolia Doner Kebab House in the Albuquerque Downtown Area

Anatolia Doner Kebab House in the Albuquerque Downtown Area

In the mid 80s when my Kim and I lived in rural, agrarian England, a “sandwich” meant one of three things: a warm, fresh floury bap with butter, Cheddar cheese and Branston’s Pickle from our favorite bakery in Lechlade; a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (with chips (fries), of course) from The Plough in Fairford; or a doner kebab from a jankety kebab house in Banbury. 

There just weren’t many other sandwich options (not to mention burgers and pizza) in the Cotswolds region of England where we lived and certainly no subs, grinders, torpedoes, po’ boys or hoagies. In fact, to our British hosts, the notion that “Yanks” had so many options and fillings for our sandwiches was sheer lunacy on the level of King George, III. Never mind that the bread-encased convenience food known as the “sandwich” was invented by Englishman John Montague, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich.

Anatolia02

Babaghannoug with Pita

Of the three sandwiches, the memories of all which still rekindle pangs of hunger, our favorite was the doner kebab. It was our special occasion sandwich, the extravagance of which we chose to partake on birthdays and anniversaries. It was the indulgence on which we splurged (we were very poor back then) when we wanted to maximize our culinary enjoyment and stretch our pounds (English monetary unit). To this day—more than 25 years later—memories of those doner kebabs stir the type of powerful emotions one associates with the most pleasant of memories–on par with olfactory-arousing memories of my grandma’s tortillas just off the comal.

We weren’t the only ones crazy for kebabs. In England, where they’re even served in pubs, doner kebabs are considered an icon of urban food culture. They’re especially popular following a night of adult beverage excess, but are beloved at any time.  If possible, they’re even more popular in Germany, where, as in England, large communities of Turkish immigrants settled. Doner kebabs are, in fact, the most popular street food in Germany,  by far exceeding the popularity of the German source of historical and cultural pride, the sausage.

Anatolia03

Falafel with hummus

Aside from vegans, vegetarians and calorie counters, it seems the only person in England who doesn’t like doner kebabs is contrarian extraordinaire Gordon Ramsey who likens kebabs throughout the United Kingdom to “a piece of (expletive) on a stick that is taken off the burner at night frozen then reheated the next day.”   Obviously he never visited the jankety little kebab house in Banbury which forever set our benchmark for excellence in Middle Eastern sandwiches.

If you’ve never had a doner kebab or have gleaned from this essay only that it’s some sort of sandwich, let me describe it.  A doner kebab is a traditional Turkish dish made from meat roasted vertically on a spit, very similarly to how Greek gyros and other spit-roasted meats from throughout the Mediterranean region are prepared.  On the long cylindrical spit, the meat resembles an elephant’s foot  from which small pieces of juicy meat are shaved then crammed into warm pita or epic flat bread before being topped with a sauce and (or) lettuce, onions and tomatoes.

Anatolia04

Combination Platter: Chicken Kebab, Beef Kebab, Ground Beef, Onion Salad, Pita, Rice, Green Chile and Cacik

By American standards, the Anatolia Doner Kebab House on Sixth Street, could hardly be called upscale, but it’s posh and elegant compared to the jankety little kebab house in Banbury.  Situated in a nondescript edifice just north of Central in the downtown area, it’s also much larger than many kebab houses in England, some of which are hardly more than roadside stands.  Best of all, Anatolia’s menu includes a number of Turkish delicacies more than a step above street food.  Anatolia’s menu touts its cuisine as “what mama used to make.”

Mama must have been one heckuva cook.  The food at Anatolia is so good that our server declared confidently that we’d be back within a week.  That was three days before my first return visit.  I can’t yet state that Anatolia transports me back to England because I have yet to try Anatolia’s version of my beloved doner kebab.  During my first two visits the specials of the day were too tempting to pass up.  If that trend persists, it may be a while before I get to try the doner kebab.

Adana Shish Kabob

Adana Shish Kabob

The first special was a combination platter consisting of three meat skewers: chicken kebab, beef kebab and ground beef as well as an onion salad, several wedges of pita, a single roasted green chile, rice and Cacik, a very refreshing and cool sauce made with cucumber, yoghurt, mint, olive oil and spices.  The meats are perfectly grilled and seasoned masterfully.  All three meats are fork-tender and devoid of any annoying fat or sinew.   The onion salad is drizzled with a sweet-tangy dressing, but would have been more interesting with just a bit of feta.  The warm and delicious pita is the only item on the menu that’s not made on the premises, but it’s a high-quality pita.  The Cacik (what Greeks call tzaziki) is outstanding while the rice is buttery, but not especially memorable.

Owners Mehmet and Umut Kokangul pay homage to their Turkish hometown with the Adana Shish Kabob, the special of the day during my second visit.  Unlike other kebabs offered at Anatolia, the Adana is pleasantly piquant courtesy of Aleppo peppers, a Turkish pepper favorite with balanced heat and rich, sweet and smoky notes.  This kebab has the texture similar to meatballs, but in an elongated meat package.  Because of its heat properties, it should become a favorite of Duke City diners.

Leg of Lamb Shish Kabob plate

Leg of Lamb Shish Kabob plate

Appetizers are very inexpensive at Anatolia where you can get single-sized portions of falafel and dolmas for under a dollar.  The falafel, fried balls of spiced chickpeas and favabeans, are quite good, especially for the price.  Even better are the dolmas which are homemade.  You can definitely tell the difference between the canned dolmas served at many Middle Eastern restaurants and the homemade dolmas served at Anatolia.  The grape leaves are fresher and the flavors of lemon zest and olive oil permeate each bite.

Anatolia’s babaghannoug is among the very best in the city (as well as one of the most challenging to spell).  The combination of olive oil, roasted eggplant and tahini (a sesame paste) is ameliorated with Turkish spices to form a wonderful dip for the pita bread.  For an even more eye-opening, mouth-watering version, ask for the spicy babaghannoug which is punctuated with the bite of the Aleppo pepper.  The color of the hummus resembles Thousand Island dressing and that’s not the only way in which Anatolia’s hummus differs from most in the Duke City.  Texturally it’s somewhat creamier than most and it’s also more heavily seasoned, including a good amount of cumin. 

Anatolia07

Pistachio Baklava

Dessert at Turkish restaurants means baklava, or more specifically pistachio baklava.   It’s not sodden with the dreaded corn syrup as some baklava tends to be.  Instead, trust that real honey is used.  This is a buttery, flaky pastry whose sweetness is mitigated with ground green pistachios.  It’s homemade and is among the very best I’ve ever had.  

THIRD VISIT – 12 JULY 2013: When John L, a very discerning gastronome whose opinions I value, wrote about a less than stellar dining experience at Anatolia, I surmised John must have visited on a rare off day.  Still his comments hastened my return with my good friends Bruce “Sr Plata” Silver, Paul “Boomer” Lilly and Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott in tow.  It was their first visit and they weren’t privy to any discouraging words about Anatolia.  All three of them found their meals very enjoyable (especially the pistachio baklava) and promised to return.

The special of the day was leg of lamb shish kabob.  At fourteen dollars, it was the most expensive item I’ve seen on Anatolia’s menu, but also one of the most delicious.  The lamb was tender, moist and perfectly seasoned, but there wasn’t a lot of it, so each small bite was cherished with small bites.  The special included a roasted green chile, rice and a salad.  Only the rice was unremarkable.

Some psychologists credit the dissolution of the family unit as the reason behind America’s social ills.  It’s also thought that families which dine together, stay together. In June, 2013, Urbanspoon put together its list of the most popular family-friendly restaurants in America and two Albuquerque eateries were on the list.  Apparently Duke City families enjoy going out for non-American food because the two honorees were Anatolia Doner Kebab and Paddy Rawal’s OM Fine Indian Dining, both outstanding choices. 

Don’t be surprised if Anatolia’s doner kebab makes it to my best sandwich list.  That is if I ever get to try the doner kebab, which considering those fantastic specials of the day may not be too soon.  Anatolia is a terrific Turkish restaurant in a city which welcomes diversity and has long been overdue for the authentic flavors, hospitality and deliciousness of Turkey.

Anatolia Doner Kebab House
521 Central, N.W., Suite 1
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-6718
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 12 July 2013
1st VISIT: 5 January 2013
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pistachio Baklava, Babaghannoug, Pita, Falafel, Combination Platter, Leg of Lamb Shish Kabob


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Anatolia Doner Kebab Restaurant on Urbanspoon