Call your restaurant Caviar and you’ve automatically got high standards to live up to. Whether used as a garnish or a spread, salt-cured fish eggs are considered an elite delicacy around the world and so I was expecting good things from my visit to Caviar, positioned opposite City Cinema in Shatti.
There are numerous restaurants dotted around the plaza, but Caviar immediately draws the eye, purely down to size – it’s rather large.
Inside, the restaurant was cavernous. I’ve read that Caviar is one of the biggest seafood eateries in Oman, with the ability to cater for more than 300 diners and looking around, this didn’t come as a surprise.
The hubbub of fellow fish-loving foodies would’ve made a pleasant setting for the meal experience, but when my friend and I arrived at 9pm on a Friday evening there wasn’t another diner in sight, which only highlighted the restaurant’s vast expansiveness.
Once we were seated with menus I did notice that there was in fact a family sharing a meal behind one of the private screens on the opposite side of the restaurant.
Care and thought has clearly gone into the interior design of the restaurant and the result is a contemporary aesthetic with white fixtures, fittings, tables and chairs, which make for a chic and modern dining space.
To call Caviar’s selection of food extensive would be something of an understatement. In addition to its namesake dish, the restaurant offers diners the choice of grills, kebabs, soups and a vast range of speciality dishes. It’s one of those menus where you keep expecting to reach the end, only to be amazed by yet another page of sumptuous food and by the time you finish, you’re struggling to choose between 10 delicious-sounding dishes.
I’d heard good things about the soup, which made the starter choice easy, with my dining partner, Rashid, going for the seafood option, while I ordered the fish version.
Agreeing on mains was to prove a harder task, but after much whittling down and debate, we settled on the crab in béchamel sauce, a mixed marinated seafood grill and a rucola pomegranate salad. While we didn’t opt for the eponymous caviar, of which there were several varieties, we did order the equally opulent lobster stuffed with shrimp as we were both ravenous.
The soups were served in ceramic bowls complete with a candle burner to keep the contents hot and at first glance the two were nearly indistinguishable. Dipping a spoon in revealed the difference, with crab’s legs, shrimp, calamari and fish surfacing in Rashid’s, while mine just offered the latter.
The chunks of fish were white and flaky and the smooth broth tasty, but it was the seafood soup that turned out to be the star. In fact, Rashid went as far as pronouncing it the best seafood soup he had ever tasted in this country – high praise coming from an Omani who has sampled more than his fair share over the years.
Our mains were a feast for the eyes and presentation is clearly an area that Caviar takes pride in. The seven individual crab shells were stuffed with tender meat, finely chopped vegetables and a creamy béchamel sauce, topped with melted cheese. Our lobster arrived at the table almost whole, the shrimp mixing in with the lobster meat of the carapace and tail, again topped with melted cheese.
While the appearance was flamboyant, the taste didn’t quite measure up, with the lobster meat a little chewy, as if it had been cooked for slightly too long before being plated up. We still managed to happily munch our way through more than half of it though.
The balsamic vinegar and pomegranate seeds that covered the rucola salad served as a tart palette cleanser as we moved between dishes and next up was the mixed grill.
Four chunky prawns dominated the plate, next to a heavily seasoned fish steak and rings of calamari. While the prawns turned out to be meaty and imbued with the taste of the sea, the calamari was a little on the rubbery side and was left largely untouched after the first few bites. The fish had a slight spice to it and again had a meaty texture, along with a pleasingly salty taste. There was also a dome of fragrant yellow rice that had little shrimp lurking in it.
Desert was umm ali, a milky pastry dish, and although it was nice enough, we could barely do it justice and soon tossed in the towel.
There was a slight delay in the service throughout the evening, but this is something the staff acknowledged themselves and apologised for, which goes a fair way in making up for it.
The food itself at Caviar was good, not outstanding, but certainly above your average seafood restaurant. The menu offers enough variety to entice diners back time after time (myself included); I’d just like to see a few more people in there on my next visit.