Thursday, October 9, 2008

Aladdin's - Guess the nationality!

This evening, Mr Eating Alaska and I tried out one of Anchorage's ...yes, you guessed it! Middle Eastern restaurants. They are trying more for your fine-dining-although-we-are-in-a-strip-mall atmosphere, which means it is not too Middle Eastern. Even if it is.

When we walked in, the music playing was something wretched of indeterminate origin, and we spent a good portion of our non-eating time trying to figure out what it was. Algerian cabaret? German tavern music? Yugoslavian pop? In the end, we could not really pin it down, though we amused ourselves trying. The decor was very bland, which is unfortunate. There is one picture of the sphinx on a wall, and one decorative hookah stuck up on the wall over the cash register. I like to see a place a little jazzed up, but not everyone loves the hoke, I suppose. Also, when the waitress told us the specials, they were Southwestern corn chowder, something about salmon, and halibut something. I honestly wasn't listening because I had geared myself up for middle eastern food, and did not want southwestern anything. But then we opened our menus and all was right with the world again.

I had a sampler platter, as I dislike choosing and would rather have a little of a lot of different stuff, and Mr Eating Alaska had lamb kefte. Both meals were absolutely delicious! The sample platter had a little cup of hummus, a kibbe patty, 2 dolmades, tzazaki sauce, and 2 falafel in a spicy sauce. My dolmades were kind of gross - way overcooked until they were mush and not much flavor, but everything else was delicious. The falafel was much lighter and more flavorful than it normally is, and the tzazaki and hummus were garlicy and chunky - not as processed or bland as they sometimes are. Mr. EA's lamb was delicious - juicy and flavorful - he was very happy with his choice. Both portions were ample without being ridiculous. We were planning on having baklava, but the mom and daughter at the next table got into an Ophrah-level emotional exchange, so we just left.

That leads me to a side remark about Alaska. This is not a shy state. People will just come right out in public with stuff that people in the northeast would at the very least save for a private moment, and in the most extreme case, internalize and carry unexpressed to their graves. I am not saying one method is healthier or better than another. The Alaskan way probably leads to fewer ulcers. I am just saying that for a person who lived in Pennsylvania for 40 years, it is a bit jarring. You simply don't know what to do. Should I pretend I can't hear them? I mean, I can hear them - you can't help it. They emit the sound waves, which bounce off my eardrums, and then my brain interprets the signals. Physics and biology have conspired to make this the way it works. I don't want to hear it, but there it is. Should I just go ahead and join in their conversation? You just don't know where to look. Oh, it's all very well to say "Just ignore it." But you try just ignoring a full-strength emotional scene going on 2 feet from you head. Can't be done.

But anyway, that is not the Aladdin's fault. In spite of their minimalist decor and annoying mood music, they have great food and possibly the most attentive staff in Anchorage. Go there. You won't be sorry!

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