Tuesday, 28 February 2012

AliBaba Restaurant, Dahab, Egypt

AliBaba currently has a fantastic rating for a restaurant in Dahab, according to Trip Advisor.

I had, after my experience at Shark, decided that I was happy that I had witnessed the best Dahab had to offer. Talk around the hotel was that AliBaba, Shark and Friends were all a great experience and extraordinary value.

For my last night, I asked a couple of new friends if they'd happily accompany me into town for dinner. They were happy to do so, and we headed to AliBaba.

If nothing else I was excited that I had time to visit Dahab just after nightfall. It was just as buzzing and alive with pesky, though harmless salesmen. A smell that would drift between sea salt, garlic and seafood, and occasionally that of garbage. 

As we walked past the restaurants along the boardwalk, I kept being distracted by the displays of fresh fish, shellfish and cuts if meat, but when we arrived at AliBaba, all of the other restaurants shadowed in comparison. It had the most handsome shopfront, one of the most polite 'hasseler's and one of the most beautiful interiors. All of this before we were shown to out balcony table that sat on the ocean, under the stars beside a heater. The sea breezes bringing relief from the heat, and the heater a warm relief from the night sky.

The menus comprises a mix of western and continental favourites of meat, chicken, pizza, pasta et al.
I quickly looked for the menu page entitled seafood, found what I was seeking, yet grew disappointed ... none of the gleaming beauties snoozing on ice out the front were on this menu... but alas, at the bottom of the page... 'mixed seafood price per kilo'. The waiter comes over to take our drink orders and I inquire... what's the deal with the 'mixed seafood, price per kilo', can I pick my own? He gleams a big friendly Egyptian smile and indicated for me to follow him.

I am lead to the front of the restaurant to the ice display. What would I like? I wanted it all.He asked me to choose which and how much I wanted of each, how they would be cooked, and even recommended which were the better ones to choose.

As I returned to the table with Armoun our waiter, we made out drink choices. I ordered a mango lassi.
(there was only a byo option that we were not aware of prior to our arrival.)

For my starter I chose the shrimp tortilla, and for my main was the red snapper, 3 tiger prawns, 3 mussels and squid.

Again, hygiene is most important and we are all offered hand sanitiser.

This is followed by a share plate of bruchetta, made to identical recipe as Shark, but were entirely edible and tasty, for tomato on toast.

The lassi proves to be a perfect choice, it is cool, fruity and refreshing, and tricks my brain into believing that it is an alcoholic cocktail, and therefore not missing out on a thing. The mango flavour is impressively strong and fresh, and reminds me of Bowen mangos from back in Queensland, that is: proper ripe mangoes, with juicy sweet flesh, off the tree. The presentation is quaint yet tropical, festive and brings a smile to my face.

Our next course hot fresh puffed flatbread, with six delicious dips. Tahini, moussaka, marinated feta dip, Baba ghanoush, tzatziki, and another. The marinated feta dip is simply divine, rich and creamy, whilst still being sharp. The Baba ghanoush has a certain spice that provides perfect conrtast to the tzatziki. This is such a lovely start to a meal. Though it is so easy to fill up at this point. One of those hard times in life where although you know you COULD eat more, you should probably stop to save room.

Between courses I chat with my new friends, and watch the whiting playing in the red sea behind our table. We see night-time snorkelers, notice the lights shining from Saudi Arabia and smoke cigarettes.
a garfish cruises past

My starter (the other 2 did not order starters) Is shrimp tortilla. It looks beautiful as it comes to the table, but I am always a sucker for grilled cheese. A bite into it, and i already thoroughly enjoy the flavour. The tomato sauce has enough spice to invite the addition of the yoghurt dip provided, the shrimp, fresh and bursty, and melted cheese. But then it comes to me... these flavours and textures, I know this all to well... this is my morning-after a big nigh meal, this is homemade pizza. Despite this, I do enjoy it however. And fortunately it was light enough that I still excited looked forward to my main.

We order another round of drinks and I order another lassi.

As with Shark, the service is fantastic. The table is constantly being wiped down, ashtrays changed, checks to make sure everything is okay.

I must say, I knew as I was doing it, that i over-ordered my main, but how could I not? Roughly, 1 kg of seafood came to about £20. I think I ordered around 1 and a half kilos of seafood... TO MYSELF! When asked what the celebration was, i could only respond with ' I LOVE FOOD!'.

The platter shows up, it is ridiculous, it is no less than a meter long. I needed to stand on my seat no less to take a photo.

Firstly I try the prawns, they are as big as the ones we used to splash out for at Christmas, they are de-veined and are stuffed with parsley, garlic and smothered in butter. They are amazing.

The squid comes in massive chunks. Its a strange association game to play when you expect your calamari to come in delicate strips, and you need to use your knife and fork to cut bite-sized pieces... what's more, it is as tender as an I have ever tried.

The mussels are served in the shell, but really unusually. The flesh has been removed, diced, added to diced vegetables, covered in cheese and grilled. It is delicious, and a really novel way to present and serve mussel. This is unfortunately lost on me. I did eat one entire shell-full, but then proceeded to remove and eat just the segments of flesh.

My snapper looks beautiful on the platter between its fishy friends. Though as i admire him, I can only think back to my last failed attempt to eating a whole fish. However, after witnessing it, i must have inadvertently picked up some tips, cause i managed literally about 70% of the fish, and had a really low ration of bones to mouthfuls,

This flesh seems creamier that my sea bass. It is very very tasty and almost resembles the flavour of chicken.
Despite over-ordering, and my waiter laughing at how little i get through, I am proud of my effort. Yes, there are about 800grams of rice and veg left behind, but I wasn't paying for the rice and veg.
After dinner we rub our tummys and try to conclude if we have overdone it or not.

We are not given much time before our complimentary dessert of icecream and sorbet is brought out. (brushetta, dips and dessert are all complimentary).

We each barely manage half.

Again, we take a moment to take in the stunning environment that surround us, and I try not to think too much about the fact that this is my last night.

We have them bring a shisha and order a bottle of cold water, as we were are planning to have tea in a spice shop on the way back to the taxi.

It was a perfect finish to an amazing day and an unforgettable week in Egypt.

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