First floor, Muscat Grand Mall, BausharNearby Landmarks
Oman Avenues MallAverage Cost
Dinner for three: RO29.5Website
We’re located at First floor, Muscat Grand Mall, Baushar. Call in at (+968) 2439-8718
Team Y finds a slow burn on Lebanese cuisine morphs into a tantalising taste-fest to raise the bar for hummus addicts everywhere.
A Lebanese restaurant with a twist: that’s what Semsom pegs itself to be.
It’s a worrying formula – mixing the best of Arabic cuisine and tailoring it to suit the palates of a wider audience. In some ways, we think of it as turning a Shakespeare play into a Hollywood flick starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It just won’t work, will it?
Whether it’s our mulish mindset or the general sense of caution we displayed as we were presented with a red plate of mutabal – as opposed to the off-white colour and coarse texture it usually carries – there’s no denying that Semsom deserves a chance; and golly, it delivers.
Nestled in the heart of the Muscat Grand Mall but decked out like a fine dining restaurant we’d normally expect to see at a five-star hotel, Semsom has a lot playing in its favour, from general aesthetics alone.
Hop into the seats and you’ll quickly notice that the décor is inspired from the UK of yore and the ornaments are more Turkish than Lebanese. A bit pretentious, yes, but it’s all in a good cause.
Things slowly start taking shape when you glance through the rather elaborate menu. From grills to mezze platters, they’ve got it all. Our waiter, a very courteous man, slowly – and patiently – dumbed down the more complex dishes on the menu for us.
But we ordered up a plate of plain hummus and one topped up with falafel and veggies. To wash it all down, we then opted for a bowl of vegetarian soup and tabbouleh. To dip our toes (figuratively, of course) into their wide variety of signature dishes, we also asked for a plate of the beetroot mutabal. It was a strange dish indeed but more on that to come.
The soup was the first to arrive. Served in a rather sizeable bowl and filled to the brim with veggies, the clear soup was delectable. Flavoursome and zesty, the clear broth locked in all the seeping nutrients of the fresh vegetables sprinkled into the soup. Our only complaint would be that it was a tad too oily (olive oil, nonetheless) for our liking. It’s a dish worth sipping on a cheat day, perhaps.
Meanwhile, our waiter also brought us a complimentary plate of zatar dip. The zatar-and oil-heavy dip took the rendition of a Lebanese chutney but kept itself in the realms of savoury dips with the added sumac and pepper. It was flavoursome, yes; but again, a bit too greasy for someone on a diet.
Next to arrive were our plates of hummus, tabbouleh and the blood-red beet mutabal – all brought to us by a string of waiters after a special appearance by the (Lebanese) chef.
Describing the emotions that followed as we dipped the freshly-baked bread into the thick but creamy hummus cannot be described with simple words. A tingling symphony was set in motion in our taste buds as we slowly munched the bread and the accompanying generous servings of hummus. Perhaps this is what they serve in heaven, proclaimed our mate, who had long detested the dish and was now converted into a hummus aficionado. Maybe it was the richness of the chick peas or the almost batter-like smoothness to the dish that gave it the edge over any other hummus we’d tried in Oman.
Hummus lovers will truly fall in love with Semsom – we assure you.
This thought extended itself to the well-seasoned and freshly-prepped tabbouleh and the beet mutabal.
The former is the embodiment of perfection on a plate; sitting ever so neatly in our thick bread before we gobbled it all up. The latter, despite its perfect consistency and tanginess, can be an acquired taste.
Between all the fare, we also asked for a platter of mixed grill, a fish fillet wrap and a plate of chicken ras asfour with cashew nuts.
Arriving in reverse order – and rightly so – we first dug into the chicken ras asfour. A seemingly small plate, the dish took us away with the flawlessly-fried chicken cubes and crunchy cashews that were doused in mild Lebanese spices and olive oil. It was another star to the chef.
Having taken a couple of strides into the main course, we were prompt in proclaiming the fish fillet wrap to be a throwback to those prepped by chefs from the region in the mid-1990s. Deep fried hamour fish was encrusted in the impeccably-done deep golden-brown batter. Coupled with fresh parsley and light mayonnaise sauce, all wrapped up in freshly-baked bread; the dish took us back to the good old days when local chefs valued quality over quantity.
Next in our line of attack was the mixed grill platter. Decked with lusciously-brown and soft chicken, mutton and beef kebabs; and accompanied by grilled veggies and garlic mayonnaise, the platter too gained a favourable spot in our review. Mind you, it had a lot to compete against.
From the grill front, we found the soft but well-spiced chunks of chicken and the beef standing out from the rest. The grilled vegetables could receive a thorough makeover though, with almost semi-grilled chunks of onions and capsicum thrown straight onto the plate.
Yet, it’s a must-try if you’re heading to Semsom as a group. Also among that list is the chocolate fondant.
With its chocolate-rich crust and thick, creamy chocolate insides; the hot fondant took us by surprise. That, paired with Lebanese-style vanilla ice cream, paved the way for the ultimate culmination of a culinary journey that we weren’t sure would even work.
In the end, we were also given complimentary white coffees – a caffeine-free infusion of zero-calorie orange blossom water. Perhaps this was the fragrant end that the chef had planned for us.
Semsom may stand by its unorthodox dishes and seamless attention to detail but what we loved about the restaurant is that it finds relish with its simplicity to create truly complex dishes.
It’s a case of food above all else…
First floor, Muscat Grand Mall, Baushar
Opening hours: Noon to midnight, and 24 hours on Thursday
Contact: (+968) 2439-8718
Dinner for three: RO29.5
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