"I dare you not to overeat..."
That tender fall-off-the-bone lamb. Mounds of golden fragrant rice with spice-massaged chicken buried like succulent treasures. Hummus- creamy ambrosia on warm pita. Eggplant done the most insanely delicious ways, baked tender in a moussaka, grilled with parsley or sultrily smoked then mixed with yogurt into a baba ganoush. Now this, is a buffet worth braving Bukit Bintang traffic for.
Not especially a buffet fan, my three criteria for a worthwhile queue is 1. It's quality not quantity. This means it's about 10-15 starters and about 10 mains. So you can have a little nibble of everything and then come back for your favourites. 2. Do not skimp on the good stuff. If lamb is what I want, then don't run out. Nothing worse than Scrooge portions. 3. The price. At RM49nett, Sahara Tent still has one of the most affordable buffets in town.
Originally, the buffet was housed in-doors in a little cul-de-sac. Now, it's outside which is probably a better idea so the food doesn't get cold and there's more space to move around.
Warm up that aching belly first with a great Moroccan vegetable soup full with bits of skinny pasta and lentils. On the sides you can munch on falafel, some fried fish fillets and sambosa lamb. This is the love child of a samosa and a spring roll- pastry rolled around minced lamb then fried. Gosh it's good.
Dips are my beeline. I reckon Sahara Tent has one of the best hummus in town, thick and creamy. The creatively titled Chef Special is special indeed, eggplant braised in tomatoes until it wilts and infuses its rich, earthy flavour to the sourness of the tomato. It's got the intense flavour of sundried tomatoes coupled with the lushness of eggplants. I had four helpings.
Moving down the line are rice fluffed with spices and tomato gravies with vegetables like stewed stuffed peppers, ladies fingers and cabbage leaves rolled around rice and minced meat. There's also a rather bizarre Arabic spaghetti bolognaise, a little spicier than the Italian counterpart but it totally works. More »
"As crisp as a cracker"
Turkish cuisine is a mix of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Caucasian and Balkan cuisines. Many of the dishes look and taste similar to what you might find at a Lebanese restaurant but there are some subtle differences in spices used. Different regions in Turkey have their own dishes using what is available to them. The Northern cuisine is corn and anchovy based, while the Southeast is known for their kebabs.
We order the specialty bread known as lavas. This is also sometimes called cracker bread since it is puffed up and thin making it as crisp as a cracker. This arrives at the table puffed up like a pillow sprinkled with sesame seeds. I have a lot of fun breaking it apart with my fingers and eating it with the accompanying dip that resembles a tomato salsa. The tomato dip is packed with spices and has a wonderful heat to it. The crisp lavas hits the spot and gets my tummy rumbling for more.
I also order a side of hummus as I’m unable to resist the smooth creaminess of the blended chickpeas. The hummus here is satiny smooth doused with chilli oil and sprinkled with ground coriander. The coriander is what makes it taste a bit different from the usual Middle Eastern outlets. I like the added spice that is peppered throughout giving it a zing. This combined with the tomato dip on the lavas bread is heavenly. More »
I first caught wind of this Lebanese restaurant through my brother, who mentioned that they have an awesome lamb, which they served with rice. Never one to pass up a good meal, I made it a point to pay Al Rawsha a visit. It’s quite tricky to find, if you’re unfamiliar with KL, so bring along GPS to make things easier. Hint: turn left after Ampwalk Mall.
Nestled along Jalan Damai, Al Rawsha Restaurant serves traditional Lebanese cuisine, a ‘taste of Beirut’, as their menu says. ‘Rawsha’ apparently refers to a rock off a cliff, along the coast of Lebanon. I first thought it was a formal, fancy place, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it’s anything but. It’s actually a converted bungalow, with open seating areas, and lots of tables. Luckily, being there at 6pm meant no crowds.
Having taken our seats, we scrutinized the menu, looking at the various dishes on offer. The menu is quite large, with grill items, rice, cold and hot appetizers, as well as various side dishes and entrees. Feeling very hungry and enticed by the sight of a waiter carrying what looked like a platter of rice with huge pieces of meat in the center, my friend and I quickly decided on some dishes.
We ordered the Vine Leaves (RM9), which are grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and mint as a starter. As entrees, we decided to share a Lamb Mandy (RM22), a gently spiced rice dish with lamb, and a Shish Tawook (RM16), which were grilled chicken breast chunks, with bread and condiments. We also had a small bowl of Hummus (RM8) as a dip.
"Come for the Kabsa, Hanith and Kebab dishes. Nuthin' else."
Great food & CyberJaya doesn't rhyme. Not even close. If you've ever been to this part of the world, you know what I mean. But I am about to let out a secret. Judging by the amount of people visiting this Arabic restaurant, I don't think it's much of a secret anymore. Head up to Saba Restaurant and join the thankful CyberJaya citizens relieved that they are able to get some good food at great prices. And the food is pretty darn good.
Actually the place looks like a typical mamak shop. Plastic tables, indifferent service, no aircon, busy and waiters of various nationalities serving you. If it's not for the kebab machines in front and sishas grouped on one side you'll never know that this is an Arabic place. But this is where the similarities stop. The food is excellent here and that really sets Saba apart from other 'Middle Eastern-like' restaurants, expensive or otherwise. You will never get this kind of taste in Malaysia except here. Eating the basmathi rice here reminds me of eating along Edgware Street in London with their rows after rows of Arabic shops and cafe selling various kebabs and biriyani.
At Saba, start with a small plate of hummus. That will nicely set the tone for what's to come. If you come after 5pm, highly recommended is the roti arab which is Saba's version of Naan bread. Roti Arab is thicker than naan bread, crispier on the outside, softer on the inside and more flavourful than naan. This will go nicely with their kebabs or items with gravy. More »
"Make sure you have the thicker than sin qahwah"
Meandering around to the back roads behind Jalan Ampang, I was astonished to find that it’s now a little bit Arab. No less than three Arabic restaurants have sprung up in different degrees of deco and brightness.
One, that is quite full of people is flooded with fluorescent light. The other though slightly dimmer, is still a little too bright for me. I confess I do like my Middle-Eastern restaurants smoky, dark and a little mysterious. Andalus has the most ambience of all three. It is also apparently where some of our Arab friends come in order to have affordable and half decent Arabic food. So this is where my friends and I decided to grab a seat and start the night by ordering a mint shesha (rather cheap at RM13.00 with limitless coal).
Happily when the homous tahina came, we found it to be delicious. It was creamy and fragrant with good olive oil. Pita bread came in plastic bags to keep the moistness. Even before we ordered anything else, the homous was all gone. We washed this all down with a tall glass of limejuice with mint. Have it without the sugar syrup as the sourness is more refreshing. Perusing through the menu we decided on a Chicken Briyani and the Atlas Lamb, which is a tagine of lamb cooked with preserved lemons, prunes, almonds and sesame seeds for the next phase of the meal.
Expecting the conical shaped claypot tagine I was amused to find the lamb served in a flat dish. Apparently, this is how they emulate tagine-like quality by using a flat claypot dish (not unlike the ones we put under our plant pots to collect water) and then a glass lid cover to keep the flavour in. This they bake in the oven and wallah! Tagine- Arab Malaysian style. I suppose tagine pots are hard and expensive to come by in Malaysia.
"Order up the off menu garlic dip, delicious"
I remember skipping over to Tarbush at Ampang Point and standing at the corner eating their kebabs, juice dribbling down my chin (because there’s no graceful way of eating kebabs) almost a decade ago. During that time they’ve spread their wings first with a nice lot on Bukit Bintang and then pride of place at the Starhill Feast Village.
This is a beautiful restaurant with contemporary Arabic deco. And even though, food here is a little more expensive (the ambience darling…), and the waiters better dressed, they still serve delicious Lebanese food. Here’s a little trivia for you, Tarbush actually serves both Syrian and Lebanese food (according to a source at the Syrian Embassy) since both their cuisines are intertwined deeply.
When you sit yourselves down, perhaps have a sip or two of their mint tea and then order the not-on-the-menu garlic sauce. Now every middle-Eastern restaurant worth its salt can be judged by how good their garlic sauce is. They don’t normally serve it as a dip probably because it’s used more as a sauce for their kebabs and as marinade but order it anyway and they will be happy to oblige. Basically from what we can tell, it’s egg white aioli beaten until light and then mixed with a garlic paste. The garlic sauce here passed with flying colours. Light, garlicky with a hint of lemon and hot days in the sun. You can spread it like jam on their warm pita breads. More »