In the back streets of Jalan Damai, there are now a few Arabic restaurants all offering grilled meats, sheshas and a new alternative to mamak stalls
Make sure you have the thicker than sin qahwah
48, Jalan Damai, off Jalan Ampang, 55000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2144 9414
Open daily, 12noon-3am
Cheap shesha and value for money meals
RM 60 - RM 100
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.
The lamb though was very soft, sour and sweet from the lemons and prunes. The almonds gave the dish a good crunch and you could even find some of them buried deep in the prunes. It was a tasty little dish even though one of our groups said it was a little salty. The chicken briyani was good enough, not too dry but there was a rather strong taste of cardamom in its spices. Definitely a little different from the other chicken briyanis I’ve had. I found though that the saffron rice was delicious when you use it to soak up the Atlas Lamb’s juices.
Alongside this main meal we ordered Fetoush (my favourite Lebanese salad). Fetoush is a typical Arabic mixed salad of lettuce, onions, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with lots of parsley chopped in. The dressing a simple squeeze of lemon and salt with a dash of paprika for a bit of heat. Best of all on top like croutons is a nice handful of torn up and deep-fried pita bread. The Fetoush here is tart and highly recommended if you are looking for a healthier meal.
We ended the meal with a few more puffs of the shesha and some black tar-like Arabic coffee called qahwah. These came in copper pots with espresso cups. It’s very black, very strong and very sweet. This is probably a good thing as you need to keep awake to drive home after such a heavy meal. We stayed most of the time outside where it’s nice and cool beside a fountain sprouting soapsuds (?) However it’s cozier inside with a very Arabic room upstairs where you can book for private parties.