Albi

You take a big risk when you stake a Friday family dinner on a restaurant that opened a week ago. Especially since Navy Yard has let me down with overpriced lameness recently, and even more so because I knew NOTHING about Albi until we showed up.

We got seated in a private room off the main dining room. I guess they immediately read us for the drunken riff-raff we really are. Natch, we got started ordering drinks.

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Did you know Palestine makes beer? Good, dark, caramely beer? Neither did we. More on this later. The short class was the smoky date old fashioned–not too sweet and only slightly scotchy. I had the Walnut’s My Jam on the right–cool, spicy, and refreshing.

Our delightful server rattled off some of her recommendations and gave us the usual line about ordering xyz number of dishes per person. I was glad that she named a few of the things I was already planning on ordering. So, without further ado, here was the spread:

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Beiruti style hummus (left) and apple-pear fattoush salad. This was a great way to lead off. The hummus was creamy but had the bitterness from charred broccoli. The fattoush was absolutely delicious. I wish I could explain it because I’m going to spend the rest of my life attempting to recreate this. It was all at once sweet, savory, and spicy, with small drops of yogurt and pomegranate seeds to round it out. I just…this salad was beyond comprehension. Omg.

Next round: brisket dolmas and manti dumplings. The dolmas were good, but fairly standard. They fancied up the dish with extra brisket which was actually kind of dry. The manti, on the other hand, were so tasty, and dressed with spicy sumac oil. They went great with the garlic yogurt. I could eat manti all day.

Finally, the proteins: we got the smoked chicken first.

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It was moist and juicy with charred greens underneath and a rich golden exterior that was incredibly smoky. It was a good amount of food for a group of five people too. However, when the lamb ribs arrived after a long delay…

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…this was the moment of no return in this meal. The meat slid right off the bone. No knife necessary, it almost didn’t feel like lamb. No gamey or fatty or tough bits at all, just rich, spicy sweet meat accompanied by delicious, oil-soaked bread and a huge spread of pickled veggies. In retrospect, a full pound is a lot of meat for four people who have basically already eaten an entire dinner. No regrets, just something to keep in mind. You know, I’m just going to say it…this was almost as good as Tail Up Goat.

I was full but we still ordered the brown butter kunefe. It’s one of my favorite all-time desserts. This one was chock-full of pistachios, light on the cheese, and dripping with brown butter sauce. The only downside was the lemony ice cream that just felt extraneous and cold. Also, did you know that Palestine also makes brandy? Because they do, and it, too, was surprisingly balanced and tasty, though not too sweet.

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Price: A not-inconsequential $60 per person.

Bottom line: Albi is pricey but not overpriced for what it is. Your belly will thank you.

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