Yesterday I had to drive a coworker to St. Louis Park for a business lunch. On the way back I contacted the venerable (or is it venereal) MSPD to see if he wanted to meet up for lunch. After giving me a load of grief for the short notice and admission that he had already eaten at McDonald’s for lunch, he suggested I try Aida in Richfield, a place he said which a lot of people love. Being less than two miles away at that point, I exited the highway and made my way through some tree-lined Richfield streets to the restaurant and walked in the door.
Being that it was right around noon, I was surprised to find the place nearly empty. Aside from the three people working in the open kitchen, there was a single diner outside on their patio and me. I found this a little odd considering MSPD’s claims of others thinking it was great. I walked up to the counter and picked up a menu from the wall even though they had a series of TVs hanging even higher that displayed their menu (can we do away with this please? I really don’t like feeling like I’m ordering at a fast food restaurant. Does anyone else share my hatred of the next strain from this setup?)
Aida’s menu has three parts where you select from each depending on what you’re looking for (salad, sandwich, plate). I went with a plate which came with basmati rice or fries, a choice of meat or veggie, sides (3), and sauces. After not giving it all that much thought I got the lamb kabob (an additional $1.99) with a warning that it would take about 12 minutes more to grill it fresh; olives, peppers, and hummus for sides; and their habanero sauce (not listed on their online menu but definitely there on their in-store version). Total bill with drink, $14.40. Not exactly cheap for lunch but based on what I had ordered, a ton of food.
When the plate arrived I was surprised not only at the amount of food but the visual quality of it. While I hadn’t planned on reviewing it based on a single lunch item, it looked so good I took a pic and dug in. The lamb kabobs were perfectly grilled. A lovely light char on the ample veggies and the juicy and tender meat coupled with the great lamb flavor made these simply delightful. The sides (hummus, olives, and sliced red peppers) not only brought some real color to the dish, but added excellent flavor too.
Now, this is all before I added the second best part of this meal–the habanero sauce. Bright red, fresh, and smelling beautiful, I poured the sauce on some of the rice and mixed it with the meat and grilled veggies. I have eaten a metric ton of hot sauces in my day, in restaurants and bottles from all over the country and world and while I have my favorites, few (if any) have ever come to the quality and flavor of Aida’s habanero sauce that I had yesterday. After the burn subsided nearly an hour later, I called it “stellar”. If you’re into heat with flavor, check this one out, BIG thumbs up here.
Later on, while describing my experience at Aida, I used words like ‘excellent’, ‘stunning’, ‘stellar’ and noted it gave me the chills just thinking about it. Rarely am I so excited about a place that I’m raving up and down about it to everyone I know telling them to run there. Well, I’m doing that here today. GET TO AIDA NOW. Oh, and if you’re one of those astroturfing fools supporting the empty parking lot at Byblos Lebanese Grill in Burnsville, give up your attempts and head on over to Aida for the way you should be serving Mediterranean food; they’re doing it right and could give you a lesson or two on how to make food not only edible but really and incredibly tasty too.
Have you tried Aida in Richfield? If so what did you order and what did you think? What are your favorite Mediterranean restaurants in the area? Are you going to brave the habanero sauce? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Aida Mediterranean Cuisine
2208 West 66th St
Richfield, MN 55423