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New Jersey Restaurant Review | Babylon Restaurant

By The Artful Diner
Special to New Jersey Online
September 9, 2002

The Artful Diner Note: New location in a spot that once housed Shanghai Restaurant on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge and is a 22-table dining room.

You begin with a basket of pide, a delicious grilled Turkish flatbread. This may be enjoyed au naturel or with butter. I would strongly suggest, however, that this delicacy's ultimate destiny is most appropriately fulfilled in conjunction with either the baba ghanoush -- mashed roasted eggplant seasoned with fresh garlic, sesame paste, lemon juice, cumin, and parsley -- or the hummus -- mashed chickpeas embellished with many of the aforementioned ingredients then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika. Better still, order the two in combo and dip and/or slather away.

The Artful DinerThe coban salatesi, "shepherd's salad," is also an excellent -- and healthy -- prelude that is most suitable for sharing by two, four, or more. Plum tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and parsley are coarsely chopped and then tossed with a light yet engaging vinaigrette that properly prepares the palate for the good things to come.

Among the other starters, I confess to an avowed weakness for the arnavut cigeri, tender morsels of fried calf's liver served up with onion and parsley. Also high on my list is the ispanakli borek, flaky phyllo filled with a delightful amalgam of spinach and feta cheese.

Kebabs, skewered portions of meat, fish, or fowl that have been marinated and grilled, are extremely popular entrees here, and all are done to a turn. The cubed lamb is moist and succulent, ditto the chicken. Variations on the theme are the "Adana," chopped lamb or chicken spruced up with red bell pepper and seasoned with garlic and paprika.

My absolute favorites, though, are the kebabs endowed with yogurt. Sauteed buttered bread is covered with yogurt and then topped with either portions of chicken or lamb patties. The result is a delightful point/counterpoint between the richness of the butter and the silky tanginess of the yogurt. A delicious gyro with tomato sauce is fortified in precisely the same manner.

I am also quite fond of the establishment's seafood offerings. Once again, there is nothing terribly fancy or innovative... but you will find that matters piscatorial are competently prepared and most assuredly at the peak of good health. Six jumbo shrimp are grilled to just the proper degree of crunchiness and accompanied to table by a simple green salad garnished with slices of plum tomato. The salmon filet receives the same solicitous care and similar embellishment.

Desserts, like all that has gone before, are the soul of simplicity... The baklava is crisp and flaky and exhibits just the proper degree of sweetness. The kazandibi, or "bottom of the pan," is a light but luscious custard reminiscent of a Spanish flan. And for pudding fans, both the rice and the almond renditions are quite up to the mark.

Babylon would certainly not be characterized as a "destination" or "special occasion" restaurant... But as a spur-of-the-moment eatery, it has surely found its place in the sun. This pleasant establishment provides a most hospitable venue for couples or singles who are not up to the rigors of midweek meal preparation after a particularly trying day at the office. It is also most suitable for a casual repast on Saturday or Sunday evening when monetary and/or proximity factors may come into play.

Perhaps even more importantly, this friendly neighborhood stopover affords a welcome alternative to the frenetic ambiance, questionable service, and cookie-cutter cuisine encountered at the usual assortment of run-of-the-mill chain chophouses. The food is impeccably fresh, the atmosphere is relaxed (although appetizers and entrees often spring from the kitchen at the speed of light), and the price is right. You may also tote along your own wine or beer... And that is quite fortuitous, as a new Total Wines & More recently made its debut just a few steps away.

If my wife and I resided anywhere in the immediate vicinity, I guarantee that we would be chowing down at Babylon several times a month. Highly recommended!

Cuisine: Turkish/Middle Eastern
Hours: Mon - Thurs, 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat: 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m; Sun: 12:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major except AX
Attire: Casual
Reservations: Accepted
Parking: Onsite
Alcohol: Liquor license
Price: Inexpensive
Handicapped Accessible: Yes

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