Orders can be onerous without a menu, but once established, this new eaterie will be well worth another visit, says Felicity Glover.
It’s seems that I am developing a terrible habit: turning up at new restaurants days after they’ve opened their doors to the public. This means they are usually still in their “soft” opening stage, which means limited menus – or in my latest case, the menu hadn’t yet come back from the printer.
And so it was at a recent visit to Al Arzah, a cosy, funky little Lebanese restaurant that opened its doors a little over two weeks ago now. It’s hard to spot from Al Mouj Road, but it has joined the likes of Italiano, Subway and the soon-to-be-opened Golden Spoon on the right-hand side of the road as you drive towards Markaz Al Bahja mall.
Once again, we were there with our friends the P Family. I’m not sure if they are getting used to the fact that I am inadvertently choosing restaurants in their soft opening stage but I do know they’d like to see a full menu sometime soon.
Unfortunately, it was too late for us to leave and try somewhere else as we’d already been seated and the table set before we found out from the friendly waiter that there were no menus available yet. It turns out that they had only opened their doors the day before our visit.
But the lack of a menu didn’t deter the waiter, who recited the limited choice of meals available to us: cheese rolls, chicken shawarma, mixed grill and the usual line-up of hummus, moutabel, tabbouleh and a few other salads.
It didn’t take long for us to decide what to order. My daughter Cia opted for the cheese rolls and chicken shawarma, as did Miss Teen and Miss Pre-teen. The adults decided to share a mixed grill, tabbouleh, hummus and moutabel.
And here’s where it comes in handy to order from a menu: we didn’t realise it at the time but the waiter thought we wanted three mixed grills, rather than just one, which took a very long time to prep and cook. Oh, and not to mention knowing how much each dish costs!
The dining space is small at Al Arzah – there are a few booths and tables and chairs – but it’s nicely designed, taking on a mix of wooden warmth and industrial-type touches. It also has a small terrace, which should be popular now that the cooler weather has taken hold.
In the meantime, the girl’s orders arrived relatively quickly, followed by the hummus, tabbouleh and moutabel.
Nicely presented, the shawarmas were served on a wooden board and came with a cute basket of French fries and a strong garlic dipping sauce.
The girls gave their shawarmas the thumbs up, saying they loved the thin, crisp bread. The only downside, they added, was that they were a little too oily. The cheese rolls were crispy and hot and oozed of melted cheese but were drizzled with a sticky, sweet chilli sauce, which wasn’t such a hit. Perhaps it might have been better to have served it as an optional dipping sauce, especially for kids.
Meantime, the adults were still awaiting the mixed grill, which was sizzling away on the grill top. But finally it arrived – three dishes rather than one to share. Again, it came on a wooden board, along with the small basket of French fries, a small salad and the same garlic dipping sauce. Sitting on a flatbread, the mixed grill came with a lamb skewer, chicken kofka and two types of chicken kebab. The kofta was juicy and had a small kick of spice while Mr and Mrs P said the lamb had a nice flavour and was very tender. Mr P’s favourite was the lamb, followed closely by the kofka while Mrs P said the star of her show was the chicken tikka skewer, followed by the lamb.
I am not a big meat eater and didn’t try the lamb at all, but the kofka was juicy and married well with the hummus. The tabbouleh was very tangy while the moutabel was smoky and delicious.
We didn’t ask about dessert but what we all agreed on was that Al Arzah would definitely be worth another visit, particularly when they have a full menu in place.
Do you have a favourite restaurant that you’d like to see reviewed? Let Y know at firstname.lastname@example.org
A casual, cosy restaurant that shows promise