Note, this is a mezza survey, not a thorough report on these Middle Eastern restaurants. Quick summary of my experiences:
ALADDIN'S CAFE: Quickly has become one of my favorites. First of all, their
pita is the best I've had in town, even if falling short of truly great.
It's cooked fresh and thicker and tastier than most. Their baba ghanooj is
very creamy and flavorful. The olive oil imparts a nice fruitiness. The
tabouli also has this fruitiness. One of the best falafel's in town. Extra
crispy, almost too thick, crust. One of the best grape leaves, too. Very
fresh leaves locally procured. For something not in the normal line of
mezza, get the safeeha, which is excellent.
AL AMIR: Pleasant interior and decent service. Food can be relatively expensive if you order the combo platter or the entrees. But mezza is competitively priced. Pita sucks as do the grape leaves. The baba ghanooj, though, is one of the very best with a slight smokiness. The hummus is very good, too, with only on a hint of tahini but strong bean flavor. Most of the other items are fine, but not especially good.
LA VILLA: Serves competent to good Brazilian specials each day, but their Lebanese, the bulk of their menu, can be tasty. Their baba ghanooj is one of the best I've had. It has Aladdin's fruitiness, but also a touch of smoke. Very creamy as well. The tabouli also surpasses the standard with the nice olive oil fruitiness and balanced flavors. All other items are worthwhile with freshly fried falafel, velvety hummus, and meaty-sweet kafta. But the pita is pretty sad. We need a bakery just delivering good, fresh pita to these places not making it themselves.
NICHOLAS: I think this will surprise some, but they're one of the worst I've tried yet for mezza (and this includes upcoming mezza reports I'm "researching" still). The pita is pretty good. It can be too soft and delicate, but it comes fresh and is superior to most in town. The large oversized versions are fun, too. But the falafel is horrendous. Muddy flavored, tastes like it comes from a box. It's dense with no crust. The baba ghanooj is overwhelmed by liquid smoke and tastes like creosote. The hummus and tabouli taste mostly of lemon. I think I kept Nicholas in my mind as a favorite because I've always gone for the sausages and the sausages are still good, some of the better I've had. But the rest of the mezza can be offensively bad.
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