People: 18 Ramen and Friends (Sekita, Yasmin, MeSoHungry, Todd, Sam and Sam, SaSha, MaSha, Kavie, Rich, JB, PMont, JHall, MHall, Effie, StevenC, RB and myself) + 3 Mini Friends (NoaSha, HaSha, CK) + Japanese TV crew
Feelings: Since I live in a neighborhood of quite a few Yemeni restaurants (the best one so far is Yemeni Cafe), I wasn't sure about the hype over Bab Al Yemen in Bay Ridge. Who's trying to take the Yemeni hype from Cobble Hill? But since its opening in 2011, the popularity of Bab Al Yemen is steadily on the rise. To top the curiosity, many young professional types and families are suddenly moving to Bay Ridge. Are they huge Saturday Night Fever fans or is this a sign of the next gentrification?
With the Japanese TV crew on the side, we are greeted with the most hospitable, knowledgeable and cheerful staff. She needs to be cloned and placed at every restaurant, every office, anywhere. She is such a great host/server/manager that I just want her to manage my life. "The service was so warm and friendly. They made you feel as if you were a part of their family," says SaSha.
Unlike many Yemini spots in Cobble Hill that seem like male social clubs, Bab Al Yemen is more family friendly with mainstream appeal. The flavors are more refined and inventive, but the prices remain low. There are also back booths with curtains for those who seek privacy.
They brought out many dishes for us to share. With huge and fluffy, never-ending khobz, Yemeni bread on the side, (as JB called, "never-ending bread that put Olive Garden to shame") the best hummus ($7), babaghanaouj ($7), and pureed fava beans in town are consumed by the peers entirely. With sweet and addictive Shai tea (read more about tea here), the meal is just starting, but we are almost full from the ample portion.
Among many other dishes we tried, the flavors of Yemeni Omelette ($8), Hummus and Lamb Segar ($14), Curry Yamaani ($12) are memorable ones. The omelette served in hot stone bowl is especially flavorful that reminds me of Korean hot stone pot. If you like carbs, Fattah B'Lahm ($17, yemeni croutons soaked in lam sauce) brings a good, sloppy experience. Honestly, who can deny some bread stew?
I had to talk about Fahsah ($14, traditional saltah served in hot stone bowl) in front the camera for the Japanese TV crew. There is nothing more uncomfortable than eating sizzling hot stew and talking about it with a smile. I have all the respects for Padma Lakshmi now. How does she do it?
The low tab confused us in the end. It came to $20 (including extra tips, taxes) per person after all the food and tea. "I'd go back a thousand times for the service and the food," says JB. Although I live a block away from Yemeni restaurants in Cobble Hill, I too prefer to take the 45 minute R train trip thousand times to Bab Al Yemen for their welcoming atmosphere and excellent service.