M JUNE 10,2005
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C dining ja chapman
Wafer-thin baked pita, intoxicating baba ganouj and
hummos that passes the litmus test, make the new
Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine a jewel in Montrose.
A Mediterranean Jewel
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ALADDIN MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE
is a jewel in the heart of Montrose.
The folks who run Fadi's have recently
opened Aladdin on the corner of
Montrose and Westheimer. It offers many
of the same items as the original Fadi's,
in a casual cafeteria-style setting.
Aladdin has an opulent feel, but the
prices are reasonable. Arched doorways,
tile floors, hand painted murals and beaded chandeliers all contribute to the exotic
ambience. An alcove-sized room in the
back with two tables and a fireplace offers
privacy for small groups.
All the dishes are on display in the serving line. It's worth perusing the offerings
before ordering, as the variety is staggering and many of the items are unusual.
The set up is simple. The menu is
hanging above the trays at the start of the
line. Choose a combination plate, a sandwich, or just order a la carte. Grab your
silverware, fill a basket with some delicious wafer-thin baked pita bread to
snack on, and tell the server behind the
counter your menu choice. They'll walk
you through the rest of the line.
The Aladdin's platter combo plate
($8.99) is a good place to start. It comes
with a meat entree and two veggie orders
(three veggies for $9.99). The braised lamb
shank is one of the house specialties and
definitely worth a try if you're a lamb fan.
It's cooked slowly so the meat just falls off
the bone. One lamb shank is a huge portion, as are most servings at Aladdin.
The falafel dish ($7.99) is another good
option. Three falafel balls are served with
tahini and accompanied by a dip and
salad of your choice. The falafel is made
fresh when you order it, so you'll have to
wait a few minutes for it to arrive. But it's
crispy and warm and worth the wait.
Hummos is the litmus test for a
Mediterranean restaurant, and Aladdin
delivers in spades. The dips are the first
items in the serving line, and await your
selection on large, tantalizing platters.
The hummos is a bit thin, but boasts a
bold lemony flavor and is a zesty accompaniment to any meal. The server will top
it with paprika and olive oil, if you like.
THE HUMMOS IS EXCELLENT, BUT MY
personal favorite is the baba ganouj, a
garlicky eggplant dip. Aladdin's version
possesses a deep, dark smokiness that
conjures up visions of cooking over an
open flame. When accompanied by some
of the thick, hot pita bread, fresh from
the brick oven, it's intoxicating.
Don't miss the eggplant stuffed with a
spinach and feta cheese sauce. A few
pinenuts add texture for a rich, exotic treat.
Standards such as tabouli and a chopped
S. | CUISINE _^|
cucumber salad are expertly executed, with
fresh ingredients and bright, bold flavors.
Not everything is top notch. The ultimate shawarma sandwich ($5.49) - a mix-
ture of beef and chicken- proved disappointing as the beef was unfortunately
tough. The chicken was tender and tasty
though, and the tangy yogurt sauce and
pickles added flavor. It came wrapped in
tin foil, perfect for lunch on the go.
The chicken kabob - which, like the
falafel, is prepared when you order it, so
expect to wait - was tender and spicy and
worth the extra time. But the spinach I
selected as a side dish was limp and
unimpressive. Go with the tender fried
cauliflower or the tangy eggplant instead.
A meat and two veggies plus a soft drink
were offered as a lunch special ($8.49) - an
exceptionally good value.
Don't forget to save room for dessert.
Aladdin has a wide variety of baklava
($1.59), including both walnut and pistachio versions without the sticky honey,
and a cream baklava ($1.99) that melts in
your mouth. They're the perfect end to
your Mediterranean meal.
The service is prompt and friendly, and
Aladdin is open until 3 a.m. on weekends.
With an outdoor patio overlooking aU the
Montrose action, Aladdin is the perfect
spot for a late-night nosh.
Scene: MM Ml/2
*r = Stay home and eat cereal
M M = Well, if you really must
M M M - Fine for all but the finicky
M M M M =Worth more than a
M M M M M =As good as you'll
find in this city