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Friday, February 03, 2006

Jack Jackson likes food

Jack sent these reviews to me last week. Clear proof that he doesn't hate all restaurants.

Ali Baba’s

By Jack Jackson

Ali Baba’s is a downtown staple. I’ve been writing negative reviews of bad restaurants, so it’s time to write positive reviews of good and great restaurants. Ali Baba’s is a good restaurant.
I regularly order the Greek Chicken, an item only available at lunch on Tuesdays and Fridays. The price, at just under $5.00, is a great bargain. You get about half of a chicken (your choice of white or dark meat—get there before noon to ensure there is white meat left for you), a pita, steak fries, the sauce, and a small side salad.
The small side salad is the biggest disappointment, but you don’t have to eat it. It’s quite explosive, long shreds of iceberg lettuce crammed into a little trapezoidal paper bowl. You press your fork into it and lettuce comes a-flyin’ out all over the table. The salad dressing is zingy, tangy, and zesty all at once.
The biggest complaint I have about the salad is that they no longer garnish it with the solitary kalamata olive. Instead, there is a solitary slice of jalapeno pepper. This is probably a cost-cutting measure, but I’d be willing to pay a few more cents for the olive. How about topping the salad with both and olive and a pepper slice?
The steak fries are often overcooked and dry at Ali Baba’s, but the cucumber sauce helps a lot, even makes up for it. I think they make the best French Fries in town with their tasty seasoned salt, but if you order them as a substitute for steak fries, it will take a few minutes to prepare them and there’s a chance your order will still have steak fries, anyway, because of communication problems.
The chicken is quite tender, and every twist and turn of the bones reveals a seemingly never-ending supply of meat. All of this comes it at less than $5.00.
If you aren’t there for lunch on Tuesday or Friday, I suggest the chicken kabob, which is an equally huge portion of food but just as excellent. The owners, who are extremely friendly, will remind you that the chicken kabob “take about fifteen minute” but that’s quite okay. I suggest ordering it from the Duffy’s window so you can eat it with a beer and share it with a friend at the bar.

The Oven

The Oven is a great restaurant. We are quite lucky in Lincoln to have so many great Indian restaurants. No other big city I’ve been to has the same quality of Indian food (I hear London is better, but I’ve not been). No other city makes the kind of mulligatawny soup we get here.
I order the chicken tikka korma most of the time, not because I’m afraid to try a new dish, but because I know I won’t like any of the others any better. And while there last night, the server who is a friend, asked the kitchen to cook the chicken as if it were plain tikka. That means my chicken was grilled instead of boiled before being baked in the tandoor. It gave the chicken a tenderness and moistness I’ve not had before, and it was all excellent.
As another great bonus, our server brought out a bowl of madras sauce, which I mixed in the korma sauce, and it was even more excellent. I can’t remember having such a positive eating experience in Lincoln before. I devoured the entire entrée in addition to half of a paneer kulcha, which is the best paneer kulcha in town.
The Oven has the best wine and liquor selection I’m aware of, some of the more professional servers you can get, and great atmosphere to boot, which makes The Oven the best total dining experience you can achieve in Lincoln. If I were to criticize at all, it would be that the Oven’s mulligatawny soup has become consistently over-thick. I prefer my soup to be a little runnier, and because of this I think Sher-E Punjab makes the best soup in town (and I think the basmati rice is better at Sher-E Punjab, too).
But I shouldn’t complain too much, because we are so lucky here to have such great Indian food. Our server told us that there are some people who will drive home to Colorado with a cooler full of soup because they can’t get anything close to it anywhere else. And they are right. The only soup I can remember liking as much was a very fatty and savory broccoli cheese soup at Napa’s Tra Vigne. I’m guessing the Oven’s mulligatawny is a little healthier for you.