It had all started so well. With my dad in town visiting Oman for the first time, I had suggested we try out a restaurant recently opened in one of Muscat’s newest malls. I had waited a long time to sample the food at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, having gone there for a Taste Test in September only to find that it wasn’t yet open, so I was really looking forward to finally getting my feet under the table.
Romano’s is on the ground floor in Oman Avenues Mall, open to the shopping area, so you have a ringside seat for a spot of people watching if that’s something you like to do (which I most certainly do!) to feel part of the action.
This time, however, it was not such a good idea. A children’s activity – Snakes and Ladders – was being held in the space near the escalators in front of us. The intermittent throbbing dance music was so loud that my dad and I could hardly hear the waiter, let alone have a conversation. Not a good place to hold a very noisy event, mall management!
Still, we did receive a very nice welcome from Romano’s, which is brightly decorated in yellow with red booths, and were shown to our chosen table, as the restaurant was still relatively quiet.
Our waiter, Musa, wrote his name upside down on the tablecloth in crayon, which was fun and very impressive. The menu had an excellent mix of food, from pastas to chicken to fish, and you can also create your own pasta to suit your taste, choosing the type of pasta, sauce and toppings, with a salad on the side. It’s a nice idea, giving an interactive customer experience.
For starters, the tapas caught my eye, offering two for RO4.90. While my dad pottered off in search of the restrooms, I picked the mac & cheese bites and goat cheese peppadew peppers, with a fresh raspberry lemonade and thyme rossini (thyme and strawberry) for drinks. Musa returned to say the mac & cheese was not available (disappointing!), so we swapped for pesto shrimp and avocado crostini (on Musa’s recommendation). Both were excellent, the saltiness of the goat’s cheese offset by the sweetness of the South African peppers, while there was a nice crunch as to the crostini, with the flavours of the shrimp and avocado bouncing off the tongue. It was a good start, although I wasn’t so keen on the main course being delivered while we were still tucking into the tapas, a peculiarity adopted by lots of restaurants in Muscat, which doesn’t sit well with me (I like a bit of space between courses).
Anyway, we were both hungry so tucked into the main event with gusto. My papa went for penne rustica, from the featured board on the wall, a gorgeous creamy sauce with roasted chicken, veal pancetta, chunky shrimp and Parmesan, which was delicious. Plate cleared, thank you! My mom’s ricotta meatballs & spaghetti with beef and veal and crushed red chilli was equally tasty, the pasta perfectly cooked and the succulent meatballs jostling for my attention. Another cleared plate.
We were so happy with the food that we had almost (but not quite) forgotten the booming music. No one mentioned dessert and we had to ask Musa for the separate menus. Perhaps we should have taken this as an omen, a warning of what was to come, but we both have sweet tooths and ploughed ahead. From the small dolce, or sweet, selection, we ordered the tiramisu (Ginn Senior) and warm berry torta for Junior (me). I had wavered over the New York-style cheesecake, which, in hindsight, might have been the better option.
The tiramisu took ages to come and when it did, Musa was clearly a little uncomfortable, saying it might “still be a bit cold”. Hmm. It was actually frozen solid in the middle, threatening to break the spoon. It’s a shame because my dad said the outside, which had been defrosted properly, tasted great. Mine was not much better. The menu said it was zabaglione (a light Italian dessert made by whisking egg yolks) with pistachios and raspberry sauce. What I actually got was a cold stodgy cake with a dollop of ice cream on top and cold raspberry sauce. I sent both back.
The manager arrived and apologised profusely. He explained that my torta had actually been changed, but the menu hadn’t been updated. In that case, the waiter should have informed us when I ordered, although he didn’t seem to be in the know about the change either. Poor Musa; he had been very sweet and attentive.
Both desserts were deducted from the bill. We left with full stomachs, a headache from the throbbing music and a feeling of disappointment. My advice? Go, but give dessert a miss.
7 / 10 Service
6 / 10 Food
6 / 10 Ambience
Top starters and mains but forget dessert
ROMANO’S MACARONI GRILL
Oman Avenues Mall, Muscat
Tel: 2200 5650/2200 5651
Opening Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-11pm, Fri 1pm-1am, Sat-Sun 11am-11pm
Dinner and drinks for two: RO27.57
Y Magazine reviews anonymously and pays for its meals