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A Lebanese eatery that can do vegetarian with verve and veracity was a prospect Alvin Thomas found hard to resist.
When I think of Bab Idris, my mind immediately wanders back to the pictures I had once seen of the beautiful city centre of Beirut in my history books during my school days. Back then (if I recollect correctly), it was the cultural hub of Lebanon, and was dubbed the “western gateway to Beirut’s historic core”.
Sadly, the square was torn down during the civil war and the glorious days of the once-magnificent square remains documented in pictures, and in the hearts of millions of people who took pride in their heritage.
Of course, times have changed, and I cannot help but wonder if the Bab Idris restaurant in Oman Avenues Mall is a tribute to the once-beautiful square. Well, if it is, then this Lebanese restaurant has really done a great job in capturing the true essence of the same.
For starters, the restaurant – which is on the third floor of the mall – looks very welcoming. There’s a water feature at the entrance, and it is further complemented by very soothing-looking interior décor.
My waiter, who hails from Lebanon, was very charming and showed me to my seat before explaining about the restaurant’s own shisha bar. I didn’t opt for it, though.
The menu is beautiful to look at, and has everything from the traditional grills and salads to special Lebanese dishes such as the fatte and fekhar. But, because I am on a mission to phase out meat for a month, I only opted for vegetarian dishes during my outing.
To start things off, I opted for the fruit mocktail, French fries and a serving of hummus; and for main course, I decided to go simple and order hummus fatte (yes, more hummus!).
My mocktail was first to arrive. The chef had also sent me a selection of freshly-baked pita (Arabic bread), along with a side of olives, tomato salad and spicy moutabel (probably because I ordered so much hummus).
The mocktail was fantastic. It was fresh, smooth and very well-balanced. I knew it had been freshly prepared because I could see the chef slicing the fruit and throwing it into the blender. I was also glad that he didn’t add any artificial flavours and colouring into it. Most restaurants around town add artificial flavouring, and the juice ends up tasting like sweet syrup (ugh!).
Meanwhile, the bread was thick but soft and well-baked, and the spicy moutabel was very flavoursome (and thankfully, not very spicy). Needless to say, it didn’t last too long on my plate. And before I even finished my starters, the waiter brought me my French fries.
The French fries were also exquisite. They had just the right amount of crunch, and were served with a side of garlic paste and freshly prepared tomato ketchup.
Next to arrive were my hummus and hummus fatte (both in big portions). By now, I had also started to feel the strain of all the starters. One serving of fatte could have fed nearly three adults!
But I still had a go at the hummus fatte. It was heavenly, to say the least. The dish – which contains chick peas drenched in a creamy layer of hummus, tahini and fresh yoghurt, and garnished with crispy bread – was absolutely scrumptious. The bread wasn’t as crispy as I was expecting but the dish still tasted divine.
The plate of hummus that I had ordered, however, remained untouched, and I had to have it packed for later.
But as they say: you’re never too full for pudding. And so, I ordered a bowl of Bab Idris’ fresh chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Surprisingly, it took the most time to arrive (almost 10 minutes!), when compared with the other dishes.
The wait was worth it, though, as the ice cream was simply marvellous. It wasn’t too creamy, as I had expected it would be. That’s probably because it is aimed at a health-conscious crowd.
I’m guessing that meat-lovers will probably enjoy this place even further. Even then, Bab Idris was definitely worth my time: the food was splendid; the waiters, friendly; and the aura, very Lebanese. And that’s why you should give this restaurant a try. But, don’t forget to take some company along with you as you probably will struggle to get through their generous portions of dishes, like I did.
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Authentic Lebanese cuisine with the ambience and service to match