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.
Of course they have other dips here like Humous Tahina- the olive oil drenched chickpea dip and baba ghanush- an eggplant dip we really can’t get enough of. Indeed Baba Ghanoush who sounds like a favourite aunt is eggplant, grilled first and then mashed with yogurt and lemon juice, sometimes there’s parsley or garlic- everyone has a different take but eating it evokes the same feeling of happiness. For something refreshing try the tabouleh, chopped parsley (used as the main salad here instead of just a garnish) with cucumbers and tomatoes with the right hint of lemon juice. Highly recommended is the Fetush, a nice crunchy salad, made of very western lettuce, tomatoes and radish but given a Lebanese twist with toppings of toasted Lebanese bread instead of croutons.
If you think only the Greeks wrap their rice in vine leaves, Tarbush has the Arabic version call Wara Ainab- pickled vine leaves stuffed with refreshing rice and herbs. This is a bit of an acquired taste but nibble on it and again you are transported into a sun-drenched land with olive trees in your nostrils.
Being a Lebanese restaurant, most people come here for the meat. If you are hungry then fill up on their Arayees and Kebabs. Portions here are better presented than the one further up the road but their trademark Tarbush taste is still there. The trick is that you need to eat Tarbush's dishes when it is still hot. This is when the meat juices are still fluid and piping made merry with a sprinkle of fresh lime juice over the meat.
Arayees, a usual favourite is like a Lebanese murtabak. Its minced marinated meat baked between two folds of Lebanese bread. Eating it hot means that the juices will just drip down your chin (brings back memories of wolfing kebabs hot in Ampang Point. Don’t worry- no matter how posh an Arab eaterie is you can still eat with your hands and lick off oozing juices from your fingertips.
A good way to sample food here is by trying their mixed grill that comes with different combinations of shish tawook and kebabs, with some sides of rice and Lebanese bread. Portions here are big so you can well share an order with a friend. Their briyani is worth trying albeit a little dry. We also recommend the kibbeh which is deep fried meatballs spiced with mint and paprika.
Of course no meal at a middle-eastern place is complete without their layers of filo pastry stuffed with honey and pistachios. Tarbush makes decent baklava and we really can’t think of any other sweet ending to a very satisfying meal.
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