Skip it. Here’s why. The atmosphere is non-existent. Sticky linoleum floors. Plastic yellow tablecloths, covered by longer clear plastic tablecloths. I know sometimes in a family owned restaurant all the money is put into the food. I have had some pretty amazing food in some pretty suspect looking places. But since the food was not great, the atmosphere only adds to the reasons not to go back. And did I mention the sticky floors?
Sticky floors are nasty, but the thing that really threw me over the edge was the baba ganouj. Baba ganouj is a roasted eggplant dip with lemon and tahini (roasted sesame sauce) topped with olive oil and in Zorba’s case sumac (per the owner, besides the lemon, tahini and eggplant, this was the only other ingredient he was willing to give up in what was by the look on his face obviously his super secret special recipe) – apparently some recipes, according to my limited research, can also include mint, cumin or coriander, none of which I tasted in Zorba’s version. The baba ganouj from Zorba’s came highly recommended from a number of sources so I was excited to try it for the first time. I really like the main ingredients – eggplant, lemon and tahini. Plus, baba ganouj (pronounced ganoosh) is fun to say, even though to me it sounds more like a term of endearment for a small infant.
I’m at a bit of a loss since I really wanted to like it, but it actually tasted like….it kills me a little to say this…an ashtray. Don’t ask me how I know what an ashtray tastes like…things happened in college that I can’t begin to explain or completely remember. But that is exactly what the aftertaste was. At first, the taste was just a very bland, smooth eggplant puree…then BAM – ashtray…and then, an instant later that startling flavor was gone. Not believing what we had just tasted, we’d go back again. And there it was again…ASHTRAY. Really weird. Since I had no point of reference, having never tried baba ganouj before, I thought maybe this is how it was supposed to taste. So later that evening I googled Baba ganouj. Apparently, the dip can be extremely bitter (but frankly, this was way beyond bitter) if not properly prepared. Otherwise baba ganouj is by all accounts extremely tasty. I cannot imagine this can be mistaken. I mean, I can’t imagine anyone tasting the flavor of the baba ganouj we had and mistaking that for tasty. Thus leading me to believe that, at least on this day, Zorba’s just had bad baba ghanouj. Interestingly, I also Googled baba ganouj and ashtray – and I actually came up hits – with people complaining that the baba ganouj they had at some restaurant tasted like an ashtray. Pretty crazy. Others know what an ashtray tastes like too! But wait…maybe it is how baba ganouj is supposed to taste? I’m still confused (and also very afraid to ever try it again).
Okay…just don’t order the baba ganouj. Right? Well, despite the falafel being decent, good with a little more lemon and little more spice than the Food Shark version (The Marfalafel at Food Shark is still hands down the best), and the gyro tasting okay; those items were ultimately nothing special. Not special enough to get me to go back to Zorba’s anyway. Although…I will sort of miss the strangely friendly, somewhat mysterious Jordanian owner who, thinking back on it now, had on a couple of occasions during our meal gone out in front of the restaurant to smoke a cigarette. Hmm.