Aladdin Traditional Egyptian Cuisine occupies an unobtrusive storefront space in the Broadway 111 Shopping Center. Having recently acquired the only slightly more inconspicuous space next door after the former tenant's departure, Aladdin has doubled its square footage with a convenient pass-through to the Mediterranean bar with hookahs and both live and on-screen belly dancing performances.
A party of five on a busy Saturday night proved to be a bit of an engineering feat insofar as securing a table was concerned. Nonetheless, we were granted what the three California natives in attendance dubbed "the earthquake table." It was a wobbly mesa with an unflattering view of the kitchen and at which five was a snug fit given the too-close-for-comfort proximity of the neighboring table and the aisle chair's position as a thoroughfare impediment (made obvious each time the lone server attempted to go by).
But for a group of five good friends, dining at a space better suited for two was acceptable; instead, it was the heat that proved to be the main source of our discomfort. At more than a hundred degrees outside, the dining room was only degrees cooler, with no sign of a breeze. One diner resorted to plucking the ice from her water and melted it on her arms and face as she asked a friend—who was fanning herself with her menu—if it were possible to order a side of A/C. Our red-faced server was clearly suffering from the heat as much as she was suffering from the constant questioning by customers—including ourselves—about the lack of air, conditioned or not.
After ordering, we decided the heat was an effort to quickly turn tables. As if we spoke it into existence simply by ordering, our Tripoli Mezza ($10.95) appetizer appeared almost instantaneously. We politely stacked hummus and baba ganouj (both of which were identifiable only because we knew what the menu had promised, not because of any empirical evidence on the plate, with the pair being almost identically textured and flavored) with dollops of tabouli (voted best in show) and a bite of hot, fresh falafel onto flatbread from a supply that proved to be of insufficient quantity to finish off what was on the plate.
The wait for our entrees was just long enough for a pile of empty dishes to stubbornly accumulate (only to be awkwardly removed after the arrival of five large entree plates). We briefly discussed the possibility of eating outside, where it might have been cooler, but opted to simply eat and go rather than relax and try to enjoy our meals. Four out of five entrees were mostly well-liked. A shawarma ($7.95) was a surefire choice for its simplicity while the more complex warak'anab (a larger and heartier version of dolmades, $11.95) and lubieh (a stew-like dish with lamb, tomatoes, herbs and string beans, $13.95) soon disappeared as we all enjoyed multiple samplings. A dish of grilled salmon ($15.50) on a bed of rice was well-seasoned, if a bit overcooked and dry. The shish kebab ($14.95), which had promised both beef and lamb, were so charred, unfortunately, only DNA records could have correctly assessed which chucks were bovine and which were ovine. After laboriously sawing several pieces into bite-sized chunks with the provided butter knife, the kebabs were classified as too much work in the heat and were instead abandoned for the accompanying rice garnished with fresh tomatoes.
We dashed directly after dining without considering dessert, a second drink or even a stop in the sports bar. My friends claimed to have been well-enough satisfied by their food, but were eager to end the night elsewhere.
—Rachael Daigle loves a good puckering plum crackseed.