Flavour of the week – Middle Eastern Food!

Al- Marjan, KLCC – Lebanese & Persian.
Turkish Star, Bukit Bintang – Turkish
Damsyik Gate (previously Damacus Gate), Ampang – Syrian cuisine

Playing host is hard work. Seriously.

“So.. what do you want to do today?”
“anything la. You recommend.”

“What do you feel like eating?”
“Anything good to recommend?”

“Ok.. what cuisine then”
Ohh… maybe you can suggest?”

sighh.. and it goes on.
The best part is, after they ask YOU to recommend, they go eerrr.. I don’t really like chinese, i don’t fancy Jap either, and the best one “I can only eat halal food”. Arrgghhgh!!! There goes all the lip-smacking hawker food down the drain.
Darn, I’m a chinese food fanatic, a Jap food fan and fortunately, can chow anything in between.

But.. when your guest doesnt eat chinese or Jap, then it’s sanitised food outlets all the way. That’s half the fun gone. Cos I wanted them to taste our Malaysian TRUE food fare.

Ahh..well… can’t have it all your way.
So for one fussy Pakistani guest, its either North Indian or Middle Eastern food.

We started with posh KLCC, and since Bukhara kinda disappeared (err..does anyone know what happened?), we sauntered over to Al-Marjan, as it is the only Mid Eastern fare outlet available.

He was beaming when he saw the menu, and they had a buffet going too at the same time for RM49.90++ per pax (i think.. can’t really remember, better call to ask first ok? Don’t scream at me afterwards ;p) so we checked out the look of the food at the buffet line and concluded that the outlet is worth a shot.

Somehow we decided to go ala-carte, and since I remembered that most middle eastern dishes comes with big portion of rice, I went straight for the main course.

Kabsa Bi Dajaj = Chicken Kabsa. RM22.

Kabsa basically means fried rice. Or as per the menu, rice cooked in a skillet with rich piquant kabsa sauce concocted from tomato, garlic, lemon and hint of chilli.

He ordered this, which was recommended by the waiter as one of their signature dish.
Zereshk Polo Bc Morsh. RM22.

The moment I saw the barberries, pistachio, pomegranate seeds and the saffron rice, it reminded me of the heavenly meal I had at naab, another Iranian restaurant in Bukit Bintang but back then I wasn’t a blogger so no pics of it ;(
And this one here sadly couldn‘t match naab’s.

The chicken looked the same right?

Well..it tasted the same. It was sweet though. Thank god it was at least tender. Still I was dissatisfied that it wasn’t as well marinated as it should be.
Since middle eastern dishes are rich in spices, I kinda expect the spices to be throughly infused into the meat. The outer part was alright, but once you work into the flesh nearer to the bone, it was like your regular “pak chim kai”. Tasteless.

Hence this fussy moi here had to request for some sauce. And they gave me this.
Chicken Curry. Ermm.. Lebanese style of course.

Not bad, but again, slightly sweet.
Really, I’m just to used to eating my curries spicy. For this lacked the kick I needed. Furthermore the chicken was sweetly-based. And the rice was also.
In the end they gave me Tabasco sauce. Yup, I doused my chicken in tabasco. Trust me, the combination DOESN’T work.

But hey, the food was fine, maybe it was just the Lebanese way right?
Still, the chicken needs to be further marinated to allow the flavour of whatever spices they used to permeat to the bone. Then it would have been perfect.

I wasn’t too sure why it is Lebanese -Persian/Iranian. Cos I saw another restaurant at the Chulan Square that says Hydramart – Lebanese/Yemeni cuisine.
So Lebanese does not have a cuisine to call its own?

Turkish Star – Bukit Bintang, KL
Anyways.. let me get on the next one. This was my New Year’s eve dinner. I know..crazy right, to be right smack in the mid of the choked Bukit Bintang area on such an evening. Given a choice I would be at home safe and sound and snuggled up with my pillow. Then again, I wasn’t given a choice. Jeez..

Initial plan was to eat at 8pm and leave the area by 10pm latest. Pakistani friend wanted KLCC fireworks. Urghh. Ok la, what to do, being host… Too bad I didn’t manage to meet J2Kfm since he was in that area that night ;p

They started us off with complimentary lime juice. Not bad, sweet and slightly sour. Top-ups are chargeable of course.

We were very hungry. Or rather, I was famished. Hence to cool down my “black” face, my friend quickly ordered this to appease my mood.

Hummus. Basically chickpeas blended and mixed with olive oil and salt, not forgetting the prerequisite tahini (sesame seed paste) of course.

Naan. Or bread. Whatever.

It was really thick. I don’t mind thick hearty breads but it was also cold, dry & hard. Not sure it is the Turkish way??

Still it disappeared fast. Though the hummus was forgettable. Still think naab’s the best. So, anyone to join me for naab’s?

Oh, just a warning – the service is kinda bad. The waiters hardly speaks English and they tend to disappear just as you are ready to order. It could be that we are sitting outside since my dining companions smokes. For I did noticed that the inner dining area was better “staffed”. LOl.

The Kl-Adena Kebap (I do not know whether it is wrong spelling or it is Turkish spelling ;p) so here’s the menu for your own intepretation. Haaha…

Taking that piece of bread off reveals this.
There was a small serving of oily rice, fragrant and tasty enough on its own, fries, some raw veg – tomatoes, lettuce, all on a bed of grilled onions heavily doused with pepper and oh not forgetting that grilled green chilli which was not spicy at all. To me at least.
But it was nice to chew on ;p
The kebab meat itself was richly blended with spices and very evidently only lean meat was used. I was pleased that it was tender and juicy. Went well with the rice and bread.

Actual Dish.

Let’s see.
Green chilli – check
Yogurt – check
Mutton – I saw the chef (yup, very turkish looking, young and well..not bad ;p) came out from the kitchen to carve it off from the kebab stand. It was very tender and well-marinated.

Butter bread – basically is the cubes you see underneath the slices of meat. Soaked in the sweet and slightly spicy gravy. I suspect that it was either fried or baked. It remains crispy if you eat it fast enough, otherwise it’s like the soggy fritters you normally get with rojak after it has soaked up the peanut sauce.

We tried the Turkish pizza also known as Lahmacun. (the other varieties were called “pide” and just this one is lahmacun. Not sure why, thought of asking the waiters but the communication barrier is just daunting so I didn’t bother)
Just I thought Middle Eastern food is hopelessly un-spicy, this one got my tongue burned.

Minced lamb, with loads of finely chopped veg and chilli/ spice paste generously splattered on top on thin crust bread. It taste nothing like the Italian pizza dough we are accustomed to so this is something different for a change.

Then there was smooth fragrant tea to “sloosh” away all the spices and oil from your intestines.

Which went very well with this. Strawberry Shisha.

Overall a good intro to Turkish food, distinctively different from Lebanese, Iranian and Syrian cuisine that I had so far. Will definitely come back for the other stuffs. Anyone anyone??

Turkish Star Restaurant
No 148, Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 KL
Tel: )3 – 2144 3005

Damsyik Gate – Ampang (behind Korean Town). Previously was Damacus Gate.

I dined at Damacus Gate a year ago and was really blown away with their fluffy naans, richly flavorful and smooth hummus, heavenly moussaka, perfect fragrant and soft rice and absolutely juicy grilled meats.
Been there twice and it was as good. The setting was breathtaking then. Cooling gardens outside with sprouting fountains, tables for shisha and arabian decor..and the inner dining area was decked with comfortable Arab-ish long low sofa, low table and arm cushions, all at floor level.
Ideal for close friends that you won’t feel out of place to literally lounge around and lie back to relax, waiting to be served just like in a harem.

Sadly, Damsyik Gate in its place pales in comparison to its former glory.
Bought back by my memories of this place, I almost choked to see it again last week. It looked run-down and dinghy.
Still we were there already, and the co-owner who served us assured that the cook is still the same as Damacus Gate. That was the only thing that made me stayed. Other than the fact that my Pakistani friend was hungry and it was 4pm in the afternoon.
Nevertheless, the co-owner further explained that it is not officially opened yet, and will be in 4 days time. However, they do serve customers that comes by.

The only dining area available was outside, as the former inner dining is transformed into a grocery store selling Arabian spices, chutneys, sauces and etc. Great for those who’s attempting Arabian cooking at home.

Settling back to those low sofas I was telling you about, albeit dirtier and older looking, we found out that the menu is not printed yet (lol). Luckily, my friend is not as fussy as I am on food and gamely ordered their lamb kebab.

RM15. Definitely cheaper than most outlets.

I liked the vege that came with it. Lightly seasoned with yogurt and lime. As for the meat, it was ok for my friend, though I would rate it as a tad over-salty.
Since I was not impressed with the dish, we didn’t top-up our order and decided to give it another shot later once they are fully operational.
If it is true that the cook is the same, it should be worth another try. Soon. Soon.

Well, next on my list is Al-diafah, Naab and another Iranian restaurant I spied at Imbi. Meanwhile we switched to Pakistani food and North Indian cuisine for the time being ;p

Meat for kebabs are usually lean meat. Cuisine is healthier as most meats items are grilled or done kebab-like around the kebab turnaround gadget (for lack of a better term ;p)
However my friend said the people consumed quite a substantial amount of meat- lamb/beef (but not chicken) in their diet so that could be a catch-22 situation. They do eat geens, just that it’s normally blended into paste or in the form of fresh slices of tomatoes/cucumbers mixed with yogurt.
Spices are used abundantly, but doesn’t render the food spicy. More for flavouring. However, the spices supposedly have health benefits though he was unable to elaborate as he is not a foodie.
Bread is a big part of their staple diet and their bread is very healthy, using fresh wheat flour, etc, and always freshly made. Certainly no added chemicals and what-nots.

Well..that’s all for now.. got to zzzzzzz…….man..i miss my pork..BUT yes, I do dig Middle Eastern food too!