Omani seafood gets a Turkish touch at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant that’s earned an avid following of foodie faithful.
‘Keep it simple’, as a motto, is one our world would do well to live by. Surely, by following such sensible advice we could very well have avoided the host of issues currently plaguing the planet, would we not?
It’s an adage that’s long been common knowledge in the culinary world, across cultures and cuisines. Simple, slow food with ingredients curated and cultivated with care and preparation that lets their natural flavour profiles shine.
It doesn’t get any more primal and simplistic than cooking with fire and if there’s one commonality that Arabic, Levantine, and Ottoman cuisines share – from Omani mishkak to Turkish kebabs – is their proclivity towards the depth of flavour that comes from meat and seafood cooked over a charcoal grill.
So, it was with high expectations that we headed to Al Khuwair for lunch at a humble establishment whose reputation long preceded it – Turkish House. We’d been hearing from fellow foodie friends that we simply must try one of their reportedly sublime grills we succumbed to our appetites and headed over on a recent Friday for lunch.
Tucked down an unassuming back side-street, the restaurant offers up a no-frills façade and an interior much the same. But really, what more do you need when the food is the star of the show – and in an era when even street-food stalls in Singapore are now earning Michelin stars?
And by the looks of the packed dining hall, we’re reminded not to judge a book by its cover. In a stroke of luck, we snag one of the last tables – as in another ten minutes of being seated there’s already a line-up out the door. Needless to say, our anticipation builds.
This isn’t an establishment to sit and linger long after your plate is clean, lest you feel the impatient stares of the hungry line-up in the lobby. We’re seated fast, menus whisked out in a flash, our waiter returning promptly in a couple minutes time to take our order.
With a simple menu consisting of mainly varieties of Turkish mezze, platters and grills, with an array of fresh juices, coffees, and homely Ottoman-style desserts. We order a round of fresh watermelon and lemon mint juices and decide on a large sharing portion of their mixed mezze and, bearing in mind the restaurant is known for their fresh seafood, a large platter of their mixed grill variety.
Within minutes of placing our order, a foot-long portion of traditional Turkish bread called ‘pide’ arrives at our table, piping-hot from the oven. Given its size we’re surprised when we’re told the bread is unlimited – but more fools are we than to think we wouldn’t finish it. Chewy, hearty and hot, it’s better than any saj, pita, or naan we’ve ever had, and we devour half of it just sopping up the velvety hummus, moutabel, tabbouleh, muhammara, and spicy Turkish olives that come laden on our mezze platter.
It’s almost a meal in itself – and comfort food at its most simple. Noting how quick the dishes are arriving as the wait-staff jostle for space with plates and platters raised high above their heads amid the lunchtime rush, our mixed seafood grill comes floating toward our table like a beacon.
Piled high atop yet another foot-long pizza-pie-like portion of pide bread, fragrant filets of grilled hammour clamor for space amid strips of toothsome calamari, a regiment of grilled king prawns, and a mountain of fries. We’re practically salivating.
All pieces of seafood are grilled to perfection and not overcooked. The hammour slides away at the touch of our fork, and the calamari has just the ideal bite to it – not a trace of rubbery-ness in sight. But the hands-down standout are the king prawns. Grilled with a deep char on their tails, they’re a gorgeous balance of sweet and smoky and we just can’t get enough of them.
It’s a huge platter – and there’s three of us – yet still we ate our fill and had to take our leftovers home. Tying the whole platter together were the sinfully addictive accompaniments – a generous portion of proper Turkish garlic mayo and a bowl full of olive oil mixed with an entire bulb of garlic diced garlic.
Needless to say, we’re not doing any close talking after this meal.
All three elements – the sweet morsels of seafood, the earthy funk of the garlicky condiments, and the lush hot pide to mop it all up with marry to create the most comforting and delicious combination of flavours which we savour hungrily.
Turkish House has been a gem of a foodie find for us – though we seem to be some of the last foodies in the city to be in the know of its existence. We won’t be making that mistake again. Stellar food, speedy service, and pocket-friendly prices have made for a truly stellar Muscat dining experience.
Al Khuwair, nearby to the Muscat Pharmacy
Opening hours: 12 noon till 12 midnight, daily
Contact: (+968) 2448-8071
Lunch for three: RO26.4
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