When it comes to international fare, Las Vegas has a good variety of Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisine for a business lunch.
But when it comes to food from the Middle East, there isn’t quite as much with a smattering of Persian and Iranian locations available around the valley.
Now Henderson has the newest entry in the market that is quickly growing in popularity by word of mouth.
Ali Baba, which specializes in Lebanese food, opened its doors about a month ago, and owner Maurice Sweiss said community buzz has gotten so strong that tourists are seeking out the restaurant and businesspeople are drawn by the authenticity of the food.
“Nothing comes out of a can,” Sweiss said. “We pride ourselves in offering the best ingredients of any restaurant at extremely reasonable prices. There’s no lard, no chemicals, no preservatives. It’s original Arabic food.”
The traditional food, prepared by three Lebanese chefs, is served in a traditional style called “mezza,” which is a mix of cold and hot appetizers. Among the most popular offerings are hummus and tabouli (which appear on the menu with their more traditional Middle Eastern spellings) and baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves, kebbeh balls, falafel, fatayer and lahim bei ajin.
Fear not: The dishes and their ingredients are well described on the menu. For example, baba ghanouj is a char-grilled eggplant dip with cream of sesame oil, fresh garlic and lemon juice; fatayer is fresh spinach with onions, pine nuts, summak, lemon juice and olive oil in a freshly baked pastry shell.
Ali Baba owners Hilda and Maurice Sweiss enjoy lunch at their recently opened Lebanese restaurant off of Eastern Avenue. Below, a variety of traditional Lebanese dishes is shown. PHOTOS BY TIFFANY BROWN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Most of the cold and hot appetizers range from $6 to $8, but a selection of several dishes is offered as mezza (seven items for $25) and grand mezza (12 items for $40).
A red lentil soup and a soup du jour are offered daily, and the cold appetizer list includes some salads and vegetable platters.
Seven different sandwiches, served on pita bread, range from $7 to $9 and are served with french fries. Selections include a beef shish-kabob sandwich with grilled beef, seasoned onions, tomatoes, pickles and garlic and a falafel sandwich, a vegetarian dish with chickpeas, fava beans and spices, deep fried in vegetable oil and topped with tahini sauce, tomatoes and a pickle.
Bigger appetites may favor the entrees that include a selection of dishes with chicken and quail, beef, lamb and seafood with prices ranging from $12 to $22. A kabob combo for $40 serves two and offers a skewer each of chicken, kafta, beef and lamb and includes a soup or salad and a side of hummus.
The dessert menu ranges from $6 to $8 and includes Lebanese rice pudding and ice cream and knafeh, a homemade roasted dough stuffed with cheese, baked and sweetened with a special syrup.
Ali Baba is easily accessible at Eastern Avenue and Pebble Road, just north of Interstate 215. Because it’s at the Colonnade Square shopping center, there’s plenty of parking.
The restaurant offers takeout and catering and will deliver on orders of more than $40. After 7 p.m., there’s live music and belly dancing and during the lunch hour, Middle Eastern music videos are shown on several television monitors throughout the restaurant. Sweiss said at night, Ali Baba’s 240 seats have been filling, making lunch a good option to try something new.
Source: In Business Las Vegas | March 9-15, 2007 Page 8