An eatery that showcases salads as a main course is worth checking out and boasts a menu like a mini-magazine, writes Felicity Glover.
It’s Saturday afternoon and we are heading to the recently opened Salad Boutique in Al Noor Plaza in MSQ for a late lunch. I’ve been waiting a few months for the latest eatery on MSQ’s dining scene to open, having first noticed its impending arrival towards the end of last year.
And as a person who doesn’t eat red meat, a healthy lunch or dinner option always catches my eye; more so as Salad Boutique – as the name suggests – appears to focus solely on salads. The café itself is easy to find. In fact, it has opened up where the quirky Family Bookshop used to be.
The dining space has an industrial feel thanks to the gun-metal grey concrete floors while there are just nine tables and an open-plan kitchen for diners who like to watch what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s a friendly, casual space but could do with a few more tables to give it a cosier, less empty feel.
That said, we were greeted warmly by one of the waiters when we entered. Most of the tables were taken already but one had just been vacated and we waited a few minutes before being seated.
There were three of us for lunch and our friend hadn’t yet arrived, giving me some time to take a good look at the very extensive menu. It turns out that Salad Boutique originally hails from Kuwait and was started by three “food-loving entrepreneurs”. Since then, it has spread its wings to Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and now Muscat. It’s a great concept, in which it specialises in serving salads as a main course – and should appeal to health-conscious eaters, as well as those “ladies who lunch”.
But before you dismiss the salad concept, it has to be said that there are a range of other dishes that will appeal to all tastes.
At 24 pages the menu resembles a small magazine – in fact, it’s half the size of Y Magazine! One small criticism here: the menus look old and over-used. It’s possible they were brought in from another one of their outlets in the GCC. Hopefully, newer menus will be introduced soon.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s everything from soups to salads, starters, sliders, burgers, pastas, sandwiches and mains, such as risotto, steaks and salmon. There’s an Asian feel to the menu but popular Arabic-style breakfasts and other flavours also feature.
By now our friend had arrived and it was crunch time: what to order. In the end, I settled for the falafel eggplant sandwich, my daughter Cia plumped for the chicken lollipop and our friend chose the dynamite shrimp. We also ordered two sparkling waters and a Diet Coke.
The service was relatively quick and before we knew it, the dynamite shrimp had arrived, beautifully presented on a wooden board and sitting on a nest of mixed green salad. The small pile of shrimp was smothered in a tangy, spicy sauce – and was delicious. The prawns were cooked to perfection and there was a nice “explosion” of spice.
Next to arrive was the chicken lollipop for Cia. This was a starter and came with a dipping sauce on the side. The chicken had a nice crunch on the outside while the meat was tender and juicy. It got the thumbs up from Cia and appeared to be just the right-sized portion for her.
My sandwich was also well-presented on a wooden board and served with a side of brightly coloured coleslaw that had been drizzled with tahini. The bread was soft, almost brioche-like and a little sweet, which I’m not a fan of. But the earthiness of the eggplant and the crunch of the falafel quickly overrode the sweetness while the tomato, pickles and greens helped to cut through the oil.
We decided that the star of our lunch was the dynamite shrimp, followed by the lollipop chicken and then my sandwich, which was a little too heavy for my taste. There was no time for dessert but this section looked intriguing. Chocolate crepe pasta, anyone?
We’ll definitely return to Salad Boutique but next time I’ll be focusing on the delicious-looking salads rather than a sandwich.
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A great concept catering to all tastes