In the ever-changing Westheimer neighborhood, restaurants have come and gone as the city’s culinary trends change. While many establishments succumb to the fickle tastes of H-town residents and close within five years, Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine remains. Why? Consistently fresh fare made with high-quality ingredients and friendly, prompt service. It’s no surprise then that year after year Aladdin receives nominations in multiple different food categories and boasts wins in the past for “Best Family-Owned Restaurant”, “Best Hummus,” and “Best Middle Eastern Food.”

Although Aladdin is almost always busy, there’s never a line and the servers (some of whom I recognize as having worked there for years) never seem wear of explaining (probably for the 10th time on their shift) the components of the many hot and cold sides. Speaking of which, it’s the sides that ultimately shine brighter at Aladdin than the protein entrees, such as chicken schwarma and falafel, which are just fine and dandy. One notable exception to this rule is the lamb shank. Its size may tempt you to gnaw on it like you would an over-salted Renaissance Fair turkey leg, but be forewarned: so ready is the joint ready to shed its tender meat that you’re likely to find yourself gnawing on a raw bone while gazing at the chunks at lamb that have fallen back onto your plate. In summary: use a fork on that shank.

It is beyond the scope of this review to fully extol the merits of these side dishes, but supreme highlights include the rich hummus (go for the spicy or spinach garlic); the fattoush (a veritable botanical explosion of diced cucumbers, tomato, peppers, green onions, carrots, and parsley liven with mint and sumac dressing); and the eggplant pesto salad (massive aubergine slices crowned with a rich spinach pesto).

Too healthy for your taste? Balance out the greenery then with Lebanese “mashed” potatoes, deep-friend tater spheres stuff with cream cheese. Bring a dozen of these to Thanksgiving this year and give the boring old American mashed potatoes a run for its money.

Aladdin’s BYOB policy means even though takeout is an option welcomed by management and facilitated by the cafeteria-style set-up, many diners choose to bring their own six-pack and linger in the dining room. Teetotalers should take advantage, however, of Aladdin’s fresh squeezed juices in rotating flavors such as strawberry-peach, mango, papaya, and carrot. If you have room for dessert, get another side dish—just kidding (sort of). The baklava is decent but even better is the kinafa, which is technically only available on the catering menu though sometimes makes a rare appearance on the line. If you see a square of this cheese pastry drenched in sugar syrup, grab it and don’t share.

Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine
912 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006

Joanna O'Leary

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