Last week, AV and I stopped into Gazala Place for a low-key, local dinner. The restaurant is a tiny hole-in-the-wall, with tables are pretty much piled on top of one another. We were seated immediately (hooray!) at a tiny two-top with a third chair sticking out into the narrow aisle, making it pretty much impossible to be comfortable at any point during the meal (boo). I can only imagine what it would be like to have three people eating at that table.
Regardless, we were there to eat, so we looked at the menu and made our choices. Once we were ready to order, the waitress came over and recited the specials with suspicious enthusiasm. It was as though she had been given the mandate not to let any party leave without ordering the stuffed artichoke special, which immediately made me a bit wary... it's rare that servers push specials simply out of their own love for the dish. After a few false starts, we finally had our order in, and soon the first course was up.
AV had ordered the kebab halabi, which came with a house salad. This arrived first, and it was actually quite tasty, made so by the superb yogurt-based dressing spiked with dill (the salad itself was mostly iceberg and thus nothing special). I had a couple bites but was soon overwhelmed with my own dish, which appeared shortly after.
I had selected the combo vegetable platter, combining grape leaves, hummus, baba ghanouj, and tabouli. The grape leaves were tasty but a bit greasy. The hummus was on the better side of standard, and the baba ghanouj was quite commendable-- not overly smoky, which is a common pitfall of the dish. The tabouli was both fresh and refreshing. The whole plate came with a dish of "pita" on the side, which was unlike any pita I'd ever had-- it was paper-thin, almost like a sturdy, nubbly crepe. It wasn't my favorite; I prefer traditional puffy pita. There was also a tiny bonus dish of yogurt sauce and cucumber (possibly a tzaziki-like mixture) in the center of the plate, which was one of the best parts of the dish.
AV's kebab halabi arrived next, with a dish of white rice on the side. The kebab ended up being essentially two lamb-and-beef burgers in a tomato sauce, with a sprinkling of pine nuts on top. AV reported that it was good but not outstanding-- and a bit pricey (at $14.95) for what it was.
We were so uncomfortable at our table that we got out of there as soon as we were finished, although not without bumping into every other diner in the room on our way out (there is seriously, seriously little space in there). Overall, we thought that the food at Gazala was pretty good, but the service was a bit weird, the dining room not enjoyable to be in, and the prices a bit too high for the products delivered. My guess is that Gazala Place would shine in takeout/delivery, which I might try. But then again, if I'm craving Mediterranean food, why wouldn't I just go to Hummus Kitchen?
709 Ninth Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets