Kazbar for Arabian Nights.....
There is something sexy and seductive about Middle Eastern restaurants. For a long time I used to wonder what it was? Only when I entered Kazbar at the newly revamped Cuppage Terrace that I realized that it is the music, the lighting, the décor and the association to belly dancers. I was told that the Kazbar at Far East Square has good Middle Eastern fare and a piéce de resistance at this outlet is a gorgeous belly-dancer who shakes her flexible torso from about 9.30pm and 10.30pm from Thursdays to Saturdays. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this nice intimate space where I was seated for dinner………..having short dreams of sheikhs, harems and Arabian souks.
We ordered the Mix Mezze Platter that came with a combination of hummus, moutabel, baba ghanoush, Labneh, cheese börek and falafel. It is like a little Lebanese smorgasbord on the table – served with pita bread slices. I aimed for the cheese börek as soon as it was served. To me börek is a little parcel of love – cheese, gift wrapped with flaky phyllo pastry!! Not enough of it. The falafel, made of nutritious garbanzo beans was tasty and dense but a wee bit dry that night. Falafels are suitable for vegetarians. The falafels dipped in hummus tasted even well. The hummus is basically like a thick chickpeas cream made of boiled chick peas, garlic, tahini, olive oil, salt and pepper, cumin and lemon. I have always liked hummus and baba ghanoush. Baba ghanoush is made of grilled, peeled and pureed and seasoned eggplant. The soft and smokey flavoured eggplant dip can be eaten as a dip or spread. A moutabel is a spicier version of the baba ghanoush. The labneh is a soft yoghurt cream cheese – not my favorite with pita bread. But I think I would have liked it better if it was served with fruits.
The Fattoush salad was an instant hit! I have tasted fattoush at other Middle Eastern restaurants but I think so far this is the best. Fattoush is a Lebanese bread salad made of tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley and mint and of course toasted pita bread cubes. I believe the salad was originally developed as a way to use up the stale pita bread that always seemed to be available in Lebanese homes. The dressing is of lemon juice, olive oil and maybe a bit of sumac. Tabbouleh is like the national salad of Lebanon. Made of soaked burghul wheat, lots of chopped parsley, chopped onions and lemon juice, it is certainly a refreshing, aromatic salad.
After all the above, we decided that we have space only for a Mixed Grilled Platter which had the Lamb Chops, Shish Taouk, Shish Kebabs, Kofta kebabs and was served with three sauces. The lamb chops were well marinated and grilled just to the perfect texture – leaving it not only succulent but also with a nice smoky flavor and taste. It is so good on its own that you don’t have to eat it with any of the condiments that were served with it. The Shish Taouk is an Arabic Turkish style marinated, skewered and grilled chicken cubes. These chicken kebabs were served with a very traditional garlic paste Toum. The lamb Kofta Kebabs were deliciously moist and lightly spiced. While I was eating the Shish Kebabs, I can’t help myself from thinking of stories I read and I always remember how horsemen rode from the plains of central Asia would climb down from their horses when night falls, light large fires and skewer meat onto the ends of their swords to cook and how over the ages, this simple style of cooking grew into the Shish Kebab. The Shish Kebabs at Kazbar were grilled and marinated just right and very tender. The secret with grilling the perfect Shish Kebab is to get it done quickly so that it will hold in the moisture and make the meat tender. We also tried some grilled seafood kebabs. The grilled platter was served with harrisa, toum and a mint yoghurt as accompaniment. Though all the meats were so delicious on its own, dipping it into the sauces and pastes enhanced the taste even better.
For dessert, we tried the Egyptian Um Ali. There is a story that says that Um Ali was the first wife of the Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. Apparently when the sultan died, his second wife had a dispute with Um Ali which resulted in the second wife's death. To celebrate, Um Ali made this dessert and distributed it among the people in the country….well not a nice way to serve a dessert? The dessert was made of phyllo pastry, lots of milk and chopped nuts and quite like a soft pudding, more like a baby food to me. It was aromatic and the service portion is enough for 3 persons.
I tried Arabic coffee for the first time in my life at Kazbar. According to some research Arabic coffee is the second coffee making method after the invention of coffee making in Ethiopia. The coffee seeds get roasted and then ground with cardamoms; some people use coriander too. It is usually made in a special coffee pot Ibrik. The coffee grounds were at the bottom of the cup. We were served some Baklavas with it. The Baklavas were not restaurant made but rather imported from a popular Baklava making company in this region.
On the whole, our dinner at Kazbar was enjoyable and we did have a hearty meal.
33 Cuppage Terrace