Authentic Omani food in a warm, wonderful traditional setting amid an international mix of diners — and all at a reasonable price. Hasan al Lawati sips paplou and tucks into the Al Wali plate with Canadian guests
The Canadian couple I hosted last weekend wanted me to take them to the best Omani restaurant in town. Ten years ago it would have been easy to pick one, but now there are many eateries that serve really good local food. The competition is getting tastier than ever.
At first I had Kargeen in mind. It’s always a warm, safe choice. And then Angham cropped up — but I had to dismiss the temptations after I got to know about their limited budget.
Kargeen is flawless. I was sure that they would like the place but it is just too mainstream. Angham is very expensive. That meant we had to settle for something that fit the budget and still offered us a perfect taste of authentic Omani food.
That’s when I decided to take them to Ubhar, a high-end Omani restaurant in Bareeq Al Shatti. It’s close to my house, but that’s only a small portion of the large reason that coaxed me into making up my mind. The other, main course of the reason was that it served paplou soup, a delicious meal from my hometown, Muttrah.
The restaurant is located at the mall’s entrance and is only accessible from outside the mall.
“This is amazing!” Megan said after her first sip of paplou. Her husband did not comment for some time as he was busy eating shuwa sandwich — my recommendation, of course. He thanked me by licking his plate clean.
Ubhar is famous for its snug ambience and traditional-with-twist dishes. The restaurant is named after the “lost city of Ubar”, an ancient archaeological site in the south of Oman where numerous expeditions worked for years to unearth its story.
Back to food. I ordered Ubhar’s signature appetiser, Al Wali, which consisted of a meat kebab, humus, chicken money bag, kachori and salad. The plate looked small but the portions were not.
I asked my guests to rate their food and they both said “excellent”. I then ordered Omani halwa puff and they loved it. It was a weird fusion of puff pastry and hot Omani halwa that melted in your mouth.
But that was not the only deviant mix.
The restaurant’s decoration too looked vibrant. The small window-like shelves with clay pots inside played up the traditional Omani touch of the ambience and atmosphere of the restaurant. On the other hand, the furniture was white and covered with flashy pink designs.
After lunch, we asked for some Omani coffee which was poured by the waiter from an Omani ‘dalla’. It was a bit strong for an Omani coffee, but just perfect after a long trip.
Ubhar was the first stop in Oman for the Canadian travellers. Until date, I could not think of a high-end place other than Kargeen to have authentic Omani food in Muscat, but now I have interesting options.
I looked around to get a better feel of the place. There was an interesting mix of diners. Five tables were taken: one by a Kuwaiti family, another by an Omani couple, a big one by a group of foreign businessmen, two Arab ladies at another, and us.
While Bareeq Al Shatti is kind of deserted (except during the Eid season), the restaurants there are keeping the place alive. And it all comes down to their spectacular hospitality and service, and that’s where Ubhar tops the list.
The waiters were friendly and very professional. They served the meals in less than 15 minutes.
When it comes to the bill, I believe that we got reasonable value for the money — RO19 — we paid for one main course, two soups, one juice, one dessert and one starter.
However, there were many items on the menu that seemed to be expensive, but hey, it’s Shatti Al Qurm.
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Bareeq Al Shatti
Lunch for three: RO19
A perfect fusion of food and cultures.