Open Sesame

Nothing stands still in this world – it either progresses or it goes backwards.  The Alibaba restaurant on Central Road (about 200 meters from the beach) has been in the same location for many, many years, but has managed to not only maintain its position in the Indian food marketplace, but grow at the same time.

There is one easy description of this venue – quite simply, OTT.  And even more OTT than it was before!  Climb the staircase and you are transported into a different world.  The background music is appropriately Indian with sitar and tablas.  Even going to the toilet is an adventure, walking through a grotto behind the kitchen, with the atmosphere redolent with Indian spices!

The service staff are all in long shirts with wonderful turbans from Rajasthan called “safa” I was told.  Flowing gently through the many alcoves and private dining areas are the waiters from the kitchens, carrying all kinds of sizzling items, all leaving that tell-tale aroma of Indian cooking, and in this case that of Mughalai and Punjabi cuisine.

The menu has around 130 items, commencing with some history of the cuisine and its Mughalai origins, but is then split into easily understood groups.  Kebabs are around B. 300, Tikkas B. 250-300, Tandoori items B. 200 up to 950 for four persons, Tawa Masala B. 190-300, the chicken, lamb, seafood, grains, vegetarian items, Paneers (cheese), eight rice varieties and 17 breads.  There are also two Thali plates giving a wide selection of different dishes, for those who are unsure of what to order.  B. 475 for a vegetarian selection with 15 items and B. 675 for the non-veg with 18 items.

As with most Indian restaurants, the wine/beverage list is not extensive, but neither is it expensive.  The wines are mainly under B. 1200 and have both old and new world origins.  We tried the Bodegas Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, from Chile and it was excellent in inexpensive quaffing.  The Australian Taras Bin 383 Cabernet Sauvignon is also worth exploring.  By the way, house wines by the glass are only B. 100.  Local beers are also available, but I was disappointed that the Indian Kingfisher beer had been sold out.  Restaurant owner Naini Grover must get VJ Mallya of Kingfisher Airlines to fly some more over!

With one guest of Indian roots with our party, the ordering was left to him, with his local knowledge, and a mixed selection with tandoori chicken, butter lamb and Dal was ordered as well as starters of a very nice samosa and a Tawa masala dish.  While awaiting the dishes we were regaled with popadums and a plate of sliced vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, onion, tomato and green chillis.

We were a party of seven and had booked one of the private rooms, and the service was exemplary.  We all had the items dispensed on our plates by the service staff, who then retired to allow us to enjoy the food and each other’s company.  Indian cuisine and the sharing of the food lends itself to large parties, and there was no doubt about the fact that Alibaba was set up to cope with large groups.

It would be difficult to nominate the dish of the evening, as we all had different favourites, but there was no dish left untouched, and for two of us, we were totally enchanted by the garlic Naan bread.  It was an evening to be judged as total experience, and not just as a gourmet tasting.  Indian food has so many different subtle flavours that there is always something for everyone.  With the menu stating that the degree of spiciness could be ordered at the time with the individual food items, there was also nobody left facing food that was impossibly hot for their particular palate.

Alibaba has moved with the times, yet retained the essential ambience it has had for years.  For an Indian experience, it is difficult to go past this restaurant venue.  Well worth a visit.

Alibaba, 1/13-14 Central Pattaya Road (about 200 meters heading to the beach on the left hand side), telephone 038 361 620, home deliveries 038 423 227, email [email protected], streetside parking, open seven days 11 a.m. until midnight.