In light of my newfound quest to expand my palate and become more flavorfully adventurous, I’ve decided to turn my attention to foods and styles of food with which I have previously had little to no experience. Now, I know that my selected theme for this week isn’t quite the most objectively daring. But subjectively, I’ve given this group a go perhaps only once before. So, without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to the whole new Mediterranean world of Aladdin’s Natural Eatery!
The restaurant had a very welcoming aesthetic. Warm colors, plants, and tons of natural light made for a friendly, comfortable, inviting atmosphere — perfect for an impending food coma. Now, I will say that I was getting traditional Italian family restaurant vibes from the interior styling of the place, however, this can most likely be accredited to my limited experience of Mediterranean restaurants as Rosie, my partner in caloric crime, declared it “quintessentially Mediterranean.” So, big thanks to Rosie for picking up my slack.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for: the food. In order to get the best possible sense of the Aladdin’s offerings, we ordered four dishes of very different compositions. To start, we gave it a go with the baba ganoush, listed as “Baba” under appetizers. This dish took me totally by surprise. For a plate mainly composed of mashed, cooked eggplant, I absolutely did not anticipate how utterly refreshing this would be. Cool, but not cold, the temperature of the dip was absolutely perfect — a breath of crisp spring air. The texture was incredibly smooth and creamy, and there was lovely flavor coming through from the slight tanginess of the dip combined with the olive oil drizzled on top. An overall winner.
For our first entrée, we decided to give the gyro pita roll a shot, which had a similar effect to the baba — shockingly refreshing! It’s hard to imagine that any meat dish, especially one involving beef in any capacity, could be described as “refreshing,” but, my goodness, they’ve done it! I am a big believer that meat does not have to be the star of a dish, and this wrap was magnificent proof of my theory. The meat (hearty, perfectly-seasoned, and flavorful) was made light and delicate in combination with fresh vegetables: sweetness and crunch from onions and cool freshness from generous tomato chunks. No one flavor, not even the meat, was stronger than another in this wrap. You could focus on something new with each bite. To top it all off, other gifts of the gyro pita roll were the additionally refreshing nature of the cold sauce and a very pleasant bit of chew coming from the pita wrap. Another winner.
For our second entrée, we tested the “Pignolia.” This pasta dish is tossed in a goat cheese-based cream sauce and topped off with mushrooms and pine nuts. The goat cheese cream sauce was a delight to eat. Though this delicate sauce didn’t actually taste of goat cheese, it certainly did have a lovely, creamy, alfredo-like texture, which I would attribute to the cheese. It also had a bit of an oily feel and — this is undoubtedly the first time in my life that I’m saying this — I actually loved that. The oiliness was that of olive oil, not greasy canola oil, which was light and enhanced the depth of flavor in the dish. The mushrooms were in perfect balance as well. I tend to find that the taste of mushrooms dominates sauces containing them.. However, the sauce had its own unique flavor, and the taste of mushroom added complexity and richness. To top it all off, the delicate crunch from the pine nuts was just another check in my book.
Finally, as if we hadn’t had enough to eat already, we splurged and split an order of the walnut baklava for dessert. Even though we did not ask them to, the restaurant split our one order onto two plates so we could share — an A+ move on the staff’s part. This baklava was a complete joy to eat due not only due to the classic yet bold flavor, but also the complexity of texture. All of the syrupy filling came in the middle of the pastry. This meant the top half of the filo dough could dry out, flake beautifully, and rise up while the bottom half of the filo condensed together in one syrupy sweet jumble of chewy goodness. A true team player. Fun for the whole family.
There is no doubt in my mind that I’d like to return to Aladdin’s. Not only did Rosie and I find ourselves saying (out loud) things along the lines of “wow,” “what is that?,” and maybe even “holy —” at the sight of each fresh new dish exiting the kitchen and being brought to another table, but I have already hyped up this restaurant to so many others that I’ll surely have to be leading over some first-timers soon enough.
Overall a wonderfully flavorful and incredibly memorable meal, and, not to mention, quite fairly priced (this outing was only $27.75 for the four dishes we shared). The perfect way to start off the season of CT Eats.
Editor’s Note: Olivia Banc is a sophomore at UR and has taken over CT Eats from former CT Eats columnist Luis Nova, who graduated in May.
Aladdin’s Natural Eatery is located at 646 Monroe Avenue in Rochester.