Lamb Segar Hummus ($14)
"Segar" roughly translates, we're told, into "chopped small bits." And so it is here: small cubes of tender lamb given new life with a parade of spices that include cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. You can order the segar on its own, but throw in a few bucks to have it plated on a bed of hummus, which is plenty buttery and almost whipped, but full of chickpea depth. There may be a couple finer plates hummus in this city, but Bab al Yemen's exceptionally smooth rendition is willing to take them in a fight. A bite of lamb and hummus together is one of those perfect bites to haunt you long after the meal is over.
Fool Mudamas ($7)
Everyone in the Middle East seems to do fool differently; at Bab al Yemen the fava beans are puréed with tomato, onion, and harissa-like spices for a soupy dip that's robust with the beans' hearty flavor, sweetened by onion, and touched by a kiss of heat. On one evening the fool was disappointingly thin, but at a later lunch it was as thick and dip-like as promised.
White beans in a tomato-onion sauce that carries sharp, super-savory tones. The beans come with a slight burnt crust—"we burn them a bit give that extra flavor," a server explained—and it works beautifully. That browned-beyond-browning takes these beans where few beans have gone before: into the sultry territory of superior browned meat. Vegetarians have never had it so good.
Yemeni Omelet ($8)
Eggs are not limited to breakfast at Bab al Yemen, and the Yemeni Omelet is one of the stronger dishes on the menu. It arrives in another stone bowl, quaking and steaming like Korean tofu stew.
Yemeni Omelet ($8)
Mix it up at once to incorporate the ground lamb, tomato, onion, and scallion into the yolky custard; the edges will crust over as tomato juices and yolk run amok.
This toasty-chewy flatbread, only slightly smaller than Captain America's shield, accompanies many of the dishes, and can be used as a substitute for utensils. A note of warning: your basket of bread will never run empty; the staff watch it like hawks and refill quickly.
Curry Yamaani ($14)
Served over rice, it tastes like an almost tiki take on chicken curry with bright, sweet nuttiness from the addition of coconut milk. The coconut and yellow curry-like spices nearly make it taste out of place, but it's too well-done for us to mind.
Lamb Masloog ($17)
A fist-sized brick of lamb that loses composure at a spoon's slightest provocation. It comes with braised summer squash, potatoes, and okra over rice, and a lipsmacking sauce that's lighter on the spices and heady with carrots and the essence of lamb.
Chopped up bits of liver cooked with tomato and onion is tender and meaty with just a hint of funk. Order it with baba ganoush or some more hummus and you have Offal For Beginners.
Chicken Sal-Tah ($14)
A half roast chicken served alongside a tomatoey stew of potato and eggplant with a bittersweet froth of fenugreek on top.
Chicken Sal-Tah ($14)
The stew is a fine thing, made lovely by the smoky chicken skin, but dry poultry is dry poultry, regardless of the sauce.
A mountain of chewy-creamy steamed porridge-cum-bread-dumpling in a fenugreek sauce that evokes Thanksgiving gravy as much as Yemeni home cooking. You'll eat it to feel well-traveled (hey, you did make the trip to Bay Ridge), but the heft of the starch makes it hard to dig in too deeply.
If you've done things right you'll be too full for much in the way of sweets, but the complemintary tea in an adorable dinged-up pot will set you right. It's sweet to be sure, but low on the tannins that plague many Middle Eastern tea services, and if you've spent any time at Moroccan hookah houses you'll know how much more sweet it could be.
Fattah B'Tamr ($7)
A mound of crushed khubz that's fried with clarified butter and mashed into mortar with dates and honey. A moat of fragrant, salty honey surrounds the mash, with little dots of more fragrant black sesame seeds, and a spoonful is all it takes to make you realize that this is the Middle Eastern edition of sticky toffee pudding, but with more salt to cut the sweetness and a rougher, more interesting texture. It goes remarkably well with the tea served at the end of the meal.
We don't really consider bathroom shots to be that essential to reviews, but when your brass-like sink has a tea kettle for a faucet, you win brownie points with us.