A white bowl filled with orzo in tomato sauce with a large bone-in lamb shank in the center.

Mazi

Exterior view of a restaurant with colorful planters and seating outside

Though I have been doing this blog for more than six years, I still get excited about every new restaurant that opens up. Most times I wait a little bit before I visit, but every now and then there’s a place that I can’t wait to try.

That was the case with Mazi Greek Inspired, West Reading’s new fine dining destination.

Mazi opened in August in the former Bistro 614 along Penn Avenue. We never made it to Bistro 614 before it closed in 2019 so I can’t speak to what the space looked like before, but the new restaurant is beautiful.

Interior view of a restaurant with cream colored benches opposite wooden chairs at marble-topped tables

Creamy gold cushioned benches line the mirrored walls, filling the room with a golden hue. Beautiful stained glass sits above the large picture window, which accordions open to bring an alfresco feel to patrons inside.

It’s an impressive place, for sure, with an impressive menu to match.

Julie and I haven’t had a true date night since February so we came in prepared to splurge. It started with an appetizer: the sesame feta.

A white rectangular plate, half with pita points the other half with two crescent shaped slices of feta

On the plate were two wedges of feta cheese, lightly seared and topped with sesame seeds, a basil leaf and a drizzle of honey. With them were pita points – delicious on their own, but a perfect match for the soft cheese. I’ve found that feta can be overpowering at times, but here it was perfect. Between the sear and the sweet honey drizzle, the creamy cheese almost ate like a dessert.

Two small slices of olive bread next to a rectangular trough of olive oil for dipping

Along with the appetizer, we were also given two slices of olive bread with oil for dipping. The bread was very good, obviously freshly made. The slices were just big enough to give us a good taste without filling us up for our meals to come.

A white bowl filled with orzo in tomato sauce with a large bone-in lamb shank in the center.

For my meal, I ordered the lamb shank yvetsi, braised lamb shank served over a plate of tomato orzo. The lamb was delicious, but it was even better soaked in the juicy tomato sauce from the orzo. I did find it to be a little harder to cut and chew than I was expecting. Later I heard a waiter at another table describe it as fall-off-the-bone. It was delicious, but it certainly didn’t fall off the bone.

A white bowl filled with orzo in tomato sauce with a large bone-in lamb shank in the center.

It was also a lot of food and about half of the shank came home with me (the waitress took the plate, boxed and bagged it up for me, and sat it down between our table and the empty table next to ours to limit contact).

Normally Julie goes for spanakopita whenever she sees it on the menu, but she skipped it this time in favor of the Chilean sea bass. The fish was served over a red pepper feta coulis with a side of tri-color couscous.

A plate with a cut of fish atop a red pepper sauce with green, white and yellow quinoa on the side

I am not a big fan of fish, but I tried some of Julie’s and it was very good. The seabass didn’t have a whole lot of flavor of its own. Instead, it absorbed the flavors from the delicious red pepper sauce. The couscous was also very good, well-seasoned with added spinach leaves for more flavor.

While we both would have been satisfied had we left after our entrees, we had to hear what was on the dessert menu. And when we heard there was baklava ala mode, how could we refuse?

A slice of vanilla ice cream with round pastries on either side and honey drizzled on top

Our waitress dropped off a square-shaped bowl with a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and two mini rolls of baklava. And everything was drizzled with honey.

This was an indulgence, and a delicious one at that. The baklava was melt-in-your-mouth good with honey soaking through the layers of phyllo dough and just enough of the nutty flavor from the chopped walnuts (I’m pretty sure). We may have left feeling very full, but it was totally worth it.

Our meal wasn’t cheap – an appetizer, two entrees, dessert and a mixed drink for Julie totaled just over $100 – but it was totally worth it, too.

I don’t foresee us becoming regulars at Mazi but for a special occasion or date night, we would definitely visit again.

We were glad we didn’t wait any longer to enjoy a date night, and we were very glad that we chose Mazi.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: A Little Pricey

Dessert Finer Dining Greek Lunch & Dinner
A dish of baba ghannouj with olive oil drizzle from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

An exterior view of Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

When I was working in King of Prussia, there were options when I wanted Mediterranean food – schwarma, falafel, kebabs, etc. In Berks County, those are rarities on our restaurant menus.

But I did find all of those and more at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant in West Reading.

Aladdin has been around since 2009 when the restaurant renovated a former gas station adjacent to the West Reading Diner (now Americana Diner). More than 10 years later, Aladdin is still going strong, as we found out on a recent Saturday night.

A view of one of the dining areas at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant with a table for four in the foreground and a fireplace in the background

We arrived around 5:30, a little early for dinner, and found just a couple other tables taken in the dining room. Aladdin offers two dining areas. We were seated in a booth by the window in the standard dining room. It featured a large fireplace at one side with photos of beautiful coastal towns, musical instruments and other keepsakes from the old country adorning the walls.

A look at one of the dining areas at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant with red cushioned seats with pillows along a wall in front of large windows covered with red curtains.

The second room (on the right-hand side when entering the restaurant) has a completely different feel to it. Red curtains cover the windows behind a long row of cushioned bench seats with red and black throw pillows to support diners.

I didn’t remember until I did a little research that the building that currently houses the restaurant was formerly a Getty gas station. It certainly shows no signs of that today.

A plate with six rolled and stuffed grape leaves and a side of yogurt for dipping from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

At our table, I was struggling to make a decision as I looked over the menu. Aladdin promotes itself as offering the “best quality Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes,” and there are a lot to choose from. The one easy decision was choosing an appetizer – Julie and I agreed on stuffed grape leaves.

I first discovered stuffed grape leaves at the annual Greek Food Festival. I really enjoyed them there. And I enjoyed them even more at Aladdin.

Stuffed grape leaves opened to show a mixture of seasoned rice and ground beef from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

The stuffed leaves were shaped – and sized – like cigars and filled with rice and seasoned ground beef (a vegetarian option is available). The filling was very good; the beef had hints of many different seasonings and spices that I couldn’t immediately identify. The tangy leaves were done well, and it was a great beginning to the meal. Even Jakob, our often fussy two-year-old, ate his (the filling, at least).

Deciding on the main course was more difficult. Entrees at Aladdin include kebabs; schwarma; rack of lamb and lamb chops; various sautes and a range of vegetarian options. I settled on the chicken saute.

A plate with a stir-fry mix of chicken, green peppers, onions and tomatoes and a side of rice pilaf at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Though it sounds boring, it was anything but. The chicken breast was sauteed with green peppers, onion and tomato in a garlic sauce. I really enjoyed the olive oil-based sauce. It had enough garlic to really pop without overpowering the flavors on the plate. The tomatoes really stood out for me, too. They were diced and cooked so tender that they practically melted away. The tomatoes were like little bites of marinara sauce throughout the dish.

Many of the entrees, including both mine and Julie’s, are served with rice pilaf. The pilaf was lightly seasoned, but good. I did enjoy using it to soak up some more of the garlic sauce at the end.

A dish of baba ghannouj with olive oil drizzle from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Because that wasn’t enough food, the meal also came with a side: your choice of hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh or fattoush.

A plate with three thin pitas in the foreground with a glass of rose iced tea and a plate of stuffed grape leaves from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

I love baba ghannouj and was excited to try Aladdin’s version. I didn’t have to wait long as it was actually served as an appetizer along with a basket of pitas. Baba ghannouj, if you’re not familiar, it is basically hummus but it’s made with pureed eggplant as the base instead of chickpeas. It’s more moist than hummus, a texture I like better. I also prefer the flavor as it’s less nutty.

Aladdin’s version was everything I wanted it to be.

A skewer of lamb and onions atop a bed of rice pilaf with hummus in the background at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

While this was my first visit to Aladdin, Julie has actually been there twice for business lunches. And she has had the same thing on each visit: lamb kebabs.

The skewers feature large chunks of lamb mixed with onions, served over rice pilaf and choice of two sides. Lamb meat is so rich; I always enjoy it. But while it was grilled, it picked up this nice char that trapped in even more flavor. It was very good, and I understand why Julie loves it so much.

For her two sides, Julie ordered tabbouleh and hummus. The hummus came on the plate with the kebabs. It’s a very good hummus, but I still prefer the baba ghannouj (that’s just me, though).

A small plate of tabbouleh (parsley salad with tomatoes and lettuce) from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

The tabbouleh actually arrived early as an appetizer. Tabbouleh is a Mediterranean salad that uses parsley as the base green. Aladdin makes theirs with cracked wheat, tomato, oil and lemon juice (with some lettuce thrown in).

It’s really flavorful. I think the lemon juice shines nicely giving the whole salad a bright citrus flavor. I would order the salad as an entree on a return visit.

A plate with three chicken fingers and a handful of fries from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Not knowing how Jakob would take to the cuisine, we played it safe and ordered him chicken fingers and fries off the kids menu. We hadn’t anticipated that he would fill up on grape leaves and tabbouleh before it even arrived. Though he did eat some, we brought most of it home for him to have later in the week.

Two glasses of rose iced tea on a table at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

We were all stuffed by the end of the meal and didn’t have room for the baklava sundae that we really wanted. We did splurge a little when we ordered rose tea for our drinks. The iced tea was given a little rose flavoring (I believe it was from a syrup). It was almost like sweet tea but with a little extra herbal flavor that we found refreshing.

I have to admit that the meal was more expensive than we had anticipated at $78. Part of that was our rose tea ($4 each) and also the fact that we ordered an appetizer ($12). The entrees were $22 and $25, respectively. When you look at the portion sizes, though, I didn’t feel cheated at all.

Aladdin’s food is serving a niche here in Berks County, and I’m glad for it. The next time I have a craving for baba ghannouj, I know where to turn.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: A Little Pricey

Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant
401 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Lunch & Dinner

Dans at Green Hills

dans-at-green-hills-menu-cover

For all the wonderful restaurants that Berks County offers, there are very few that can be called “fine dining.”

Sure, there are places that offer higher cuisine than others, but fine dining is more than steak entrees or table linens.

It’s a true experience that encompasses the menu, the atmosphere and the service. One restaurant that has earned a reputation for its fine dining is Dans at Green Hills.

Dans (there is no apostrophe) began in 1989 as one of the city’s only fine dining establishments, serving patrons from the small cellarette at the east end of Penn Street.

A new ownership group took over in 2006, and in 2012, they purchased the Green Hills Inn along Route 10 south of the city, creating the new Dans at Green Hills inside the 200-year-old building.

dans-at-green-hills-dining-room

Like many restaurants in historic buildings, the dining area is spread across multiple rooms. The walls in ours had a hint of green in the soft light. Flames crackled in the stone fireplace, giving off some much-needed warmth on a cold January evening.

The tables were draped in white linen with black napkins and preset with wine glasses at every setting (the wine and mixed drink list is extensive, and many diners arrived with drinks in hand, having stopped at the bar on their way in).

dans-at-green-hills-crostini

Our meal started with a little taste, compliments of the chef. Julie and I were each brought a tiny crostini topped with sharp cheddar, basil pesto and walnut.

It seemed so simple, but the two bites that mine lasted were incredible. The cheddar was spread thin like butter and was perfectly sharp. The pesto had that nice sweet basil flavor, and the walnut was just the right flavor and texture to top it off. It was a great little tease for what was to come.

dans-at-green-hills-potato-leek-soup

We both started our meals with a bowl of soup. I opted for the daily special, a potato and leek soup garnished with bacon, pesto and croutons. This is how potato soup should always be. It was thick and creamy with an undertone of sweet and salty.

dans-at-green-hills-sweet-potato-soup

Julie, meanwhile, was enjoying the sweet potato soup. With a dollop of whipped cream in the middle and add-ins like apples, pretzel dust and sunflower seeds, it was both familiar and unexpected, but wholly delicious. Sweeter than most soups, but not too sweet that you would confuse it with dessert.

Our options for entrees were equally exciting: steaks, filets, duck breasts, scallops — all of the dishes typically associated with fine dining.

I had a hard time deciding, but the description of the New York strip steak had the magic words, “truffle butter.”

dans-at-green-hills-ny-strip-steak

For me, there is nothing better than a perfectly prepared steak with a smattering of rich truffle butter. Mixed with the creamy, sweet and earthy concoction, the steak just melted away. Every bite was savory and smooth.

The steak was served atop a bed of rutabaga Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe with a balsamic glaze that seemed like enough food for a meal of its own. The potato and rutabaga mixture was superb. Yukon Gold potatoes are naturally sweeter and the rutabagas add a rich flavor of their own. This was counter-balanced perfectly by the more bitter broccoli rabe.

A good rack of lamb was too tempting for Julie to pass up. The Dijon-encrusted ribs were served on a bed of autumn ratatouille with rosemary reduction.

dans-at-green-hills-rack-of-lamb

Dijon is not one of my favorite flavors, but it works really well with the fatty lamb. The rosemary reduction also helped cut through the distinct mustard flavor, creating a meal that hit on several flavor notes.

The autumn ratatouille was also delightful, consisting of several types of squash with potatoes and tomatoes. It just tasted fresh, with the natural flavors all shining above the sauce.

At this point, neither of us had room for dessert, but we decided to force it anyway. And instead of sharing (which would have been the sensible thing), we each got our own treat to end the meal.

dans-at-green-hills-bread-pudding

Julie really wanted to try the chocolate bread pudding. Bread pudding can be rich on its own, but this was even richer with chunks of Godiva dark chocolate and a dollop of caramel ice cream on top. It was a dessert both heavenly and sinful.

dans-at-green-hills-warm-apple-crisp

I had my heart set on the warm apple crisp topped with caramel ice cream. The base was mixed with granola for more crunch (and granola makes it healthy, right?). I found the sauce with the apples was almost too sweet, and I had to use the ice cream to help cut through it. I still managed to clear my plate, however.

Three courses as Dans is a great way to celebrate a special occasion. We were celebrating Julie’s birthday so we had no problem splurging. But with a price tag that came to nearly $150 (that includes the tip for our attentive server who was never far away), we probably won’t be going back until we have another milestone to celebrate.

Dans at Green Hills lived up to its title as a fine dining restaurant. We enjoyed one of the best meals we have had in more than 100 stops around Berks County.

The food, the service, the ambiance. It was everything a fine dining restaurant is supposed to be.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: A Little Pricey

Dans at Green Hills
2444 Morgantown Rd
Reading, PA 19607

Dans at Green Hills Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews