Dec 19, 2007

Review: Woodlands – Sohar

Woodlands Restaurant - Sohar

Fine Indian restaurant Woodlands has opened earlier this year in Sohar. If you are coming from Muscat you have to take the right turn from the Sohar Globe roundabout and then turn left from the first roundabout after it to go towards the new banks district. Woodlands is five minutes from there right before Al Turaif roundabout on the left side of the road. This is the third branch Woodlands opens, the first is in Ruwi in Muscat, the second is in Salalah, and the third most recent one is in Sohar. Woodlands won the Oman2day Restaurant Awards 2007 for the best service category and was a finalist in the best Indian restaurant category (which was eventually won by Mumtaz Mahal).

Woodlands Restaurant

Woodlands Sohar looks nice, it is very spacious and has tables varying in sizes for all sorts of diners. There are also three or four private family rooms with eight seats each. I am not sure of the smoking policy in Mumtaz, but I doubt they allow it. We thought that the staff of Woodlands were all very friendly and caring, though at many times they did not seem to be trained actually well (They surely did not win the award mentioned earlier for their Sohar branch). I’ve only been to the restaurant with my family, yet we were never offered any of the family private rooms before we asked for one. In my most recent visit to the restaurant, each one of us ordered a main course each but when the food came the waiter took one of the food pots and started putting some of it on each of our plates without asking us if we wanted to share it or not. A major third blooper is that there is no way to ask for anything when you dine in a private family room without going out of the room and calling a waiter. Not sure if they are not supposed to check on your in the family rooms for culture reasons or not. Not to say that Woodlands’ service is horrible, they are usually fast and never screw up your food, but occasional bloopers happens quit often probably because the restaurant is relatively new.

Woodlands Restaurant

Woodlands menu is quite large and can be hard to decipher, especially as the person who wrote the menu must’ve had gotten tired halfway through as the first half of the menu has descriptions of each menu item, while the other half has titles only. We asked the waiter for help on several occasions, but the answer he gave always was ‘this is chicken cooked with onion and capsicum, it is a gravy dish’ for half the dishes we asked about, and that was not really helpful. The manager occasionally tours around and he seems to have suggestions on what to have and more things to say about the dishes than newer waiters.

Woodlands Restaurant

Regardless of how much I bitch about Woodlands, it is actually my favourite restaurant at the moment, I love their food. They have a wide set of starters, my favourites are the Crumb Fried Fish and Chicken Lolly Pops (both not pictured), on our last visit we had Fish Tikka (pictured above) which we unfortunately did not like, the fish tasted weird and each piece shattered into threads when we poked it with a fork. The waiter might suggest you take two or three starters at least, even if you are two or three people only, which could be too much if you are going to have a main course each. The best starter we had was the Crumb Fried Fish, be sure to try that one out.

Woodlands Restaurant

We had no complaints about the main courses, everything we tried tasted amazing. We always order the gravy Chicken Manchurian (pictured above) which we thought was rich with flavour and very well done. We usually have this with buttered or garlic naan bread. My personal favourite is the Chicken Biryani (pictured earlier above). I hesitated to have it because I thought it would such a boring dish to have, but now I don’t think that I’ll ever have a Chicken Biryani better than that of Woodlands. It was not too spicy yet very delicious. We tried a Kadai Chicken gravy (pictured below) which was also good. We thought that the potion of food given was very decent.

Woodlands Restaurant

We did not explore the drinks menu of Woodlands and have only been drinking soft drinks during our visits. It is worth mentioning that Woodlands Sohar does not serve alcohol.

Vegetarian dishes at Woodlands cost about RO 2, chicken and meat dishes cost aroud RO 2.5 and sea food dishes start from RO 3. Bread starts from 0.300 a bread. In our very recent visit to Woodlands we had 1 fish starter, 4 main courses, some bread, and 3 soft drinks for about RO 19 – taxes included.

We thought that dining at Woodlands was generally a pleasant experience, disregarding the occasional waiters’ cluelessness of what they menu has. The food is delicious and the place is nice. All of you rich people coming to purchase land plots in Sohar can finally have a good dine-in restaurant to celebrate your new investment in Sohar itself.

Dec 12, 2007

Review: Turkish House Restaurant – Al Khuwair

Turkish House - Al Khuwair

The uncreatively named Turkish House Restaurant is located in the commercial area of Al Khuwair next to Al Liwan shisha joint, it is the most popular Turkish restaurant in town. Turkish House is a proper dine-in restaurant and is not another one of those little generic Turkish coffeeshops/sandwich-shops scattered all over Muscat. Many call it ‘The Fish Place’ for its excellent fish dishes.

Turkish House - Mixed Starter

Turkish House is adored by many, it is normal for people to stand in queue waiting for tables to be available during lunch time. The restaurant has started as a small regular sized restaurant, it expanded in the past when they added the new ‘romantic’ section (as some lame Omanis like to call it) in the back of their main building, and it is currently in the process of taking over the entire floor of its original building. That new section was not yet opened when we visited the restaurant two weeks ago.

The crowd of Turkish House is very diverse, during our stay we say a gathering of some college boys and girls, a table occupied by a family, and a business looking group on the other side. The place seems to attract both Omanis and expats as much.

Turkish House - Naan Bread

The menu of Turkish House shies from being exotically Turkish and mainly consists of generic grilled Mediterranean dishes, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Cold Mediterranean starters, salads, grilled dishes, fish dishes, and fresh juices are the main highlights of the menu and they are all usually served with a large naan bread and/or chips.

In my most recent visit to Turkish House I had a humous starter and a dish of chicken kebabs served with chips (not pictured), which was very well cooked, tender, and tasted simply delicious.

Turkish House - Mixed Grill

The service of Turkish House is average I guess, their staff are relatively friendly and seem to know regular customers, but the field at which Turkish House really shines is the food, which is really good.

Prices of Turkish House are moderate, a mixed starter dish (pictured above), a mixed grills dish for two (pictured above), and two fresh juices cost around RO 10. Regular dishes cost around RO 3 and Fish dishes start from RO 6.

Lovers of Mediterranean food, grilled food, and fish should check out Turkish House.

Nov 22, 2007
del_yahi

Recipe: Cheesy Meat Balls

We are not dead!

We apologise for not making any posts for the whole of October. The Omani Cuisine never really stopped during that period, but for various random reasons we never managed to sit down and write what we have been up to. We promise that we will make up for this with regular recipes and reviews from now on. Our latest kitchen adventure is, as we like to call it, a meat ball sub, very fun to make and to eat.

Ingredients (To make four subs)

  • 0.5 Kg of pure minced beef
  • Handful of chopped shallot
  • I teasp of chopped mint
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • I tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • 2 teasp of cinnamon
  • Crushed red chili
  • Salt/pepper
  • 1 tsp of flour
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 chopped medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 chopped medium sized white onion
  • 1 Lemon
  • Bay leaves
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Tomato paste

Method

  • Mix the minced meat with the shallots, mint and coriander in a bowl.
  • Add the Dijon mustard, garlic and cheese to the bowl mix.
  • Add 1 tsp of cinnamon, crushed chili, salt, pepper and flour and mix these with all the ingredients well together.
  • Divide the mix into medium sized balls and put them in a fridge for half hour.
  • In the mean time, boil some water (about 1 L) in a pot. Add the remaining cinnamon to the water when it starts boiling. Wait 5 minutes and then add the tomato paste, and the zest and juice of the lemon. Stir the water mix and leave to boil for another 10 minutes. Filter the water to get rid of the hard ingredients and leave the water to be used later.
  • Using another pot, fry the onion in some oil until the onion turns to golden. Add the tomatoes and stir. When the tomato starts drying up add some of the water mix we made in the earlier step(don’t put much water, as it only to make sure the tomato and onion don’t burn). Stir and repeat for a period of 20 minutes.
  • Heat a frying pan and put some butter on it. Get the balls out of the fridge and fry them on the pan while turning the balls around to fry all the surface of the balls. Once the whole surface of all the balls is fried add the vinegar and continue turning the balls around.
  • Start adding some of the tomato/onion mix and the liquid to the meat balls. Keep this process for 15 minutes to fully cook the meat balls.

The meat balls can be served with any kind of plain pasta or to be served as a sub sandwich with chips on the side

Sep 10, 2007

Review: Pane Caldo – Jawharat Al Shatti

Santino’s was recently rebranded as Pane Caldo. The restaurant is still in the same place in Jawharat Al Shatti, but now bigger (they invaded the shop block next to them), they did not change the furniture of the place and there is apparent change in the staff or the ambience of the place either. However, Pane Caldo does seem to have now a more emphasised contemporary image that is less casual and more fancy with their choice of colours and finish-off I guess.

I am not sure if it was just me, or the fact that it was my first time to set at that particular place in the restaurant, but there did not seem to be a lot of private space left between the dinning tables on the center and the left side of the restaurant. It’s true that the place is bigger now, but it still feels very tight because of the number of tables they have inside.

Pane Caldo is not fully open yet, when I was there last week they had a temporary menu that was really difficult to read, we did not know where one item description ended and that of the next started. We did not know which of the numbers were the prices of what meals.

I am not sure of the number of new items were there on the menu, we had for the starter some mushrooms covered in cheese, which I did not like very much (I am no Super Mario), one of us had one of the calamari starters (photographed below).

For the main course we had some sort of ‘red’ pizza that had beef, pepperoni, chicken strips, and tomato slices on it, which I thought was good, but not mind blowing.

The place is still in the process of changing into its new brand, so it is not surprising that their menu is still not fully developed. I do not think that there was an increase in the prices, but I am not really sure of that as I did not actually compare numbers.

Check our previous review of Santino’s here.

Sep 9, 2007

Review: Mumtaz Mahal – Shatti Al Qurum

Mumtaz Mahal is most probably the finest Indian restaurant in town, it is located on the hill behind the Qurum Natural Park and has been in service since the 80s. It is loved madly by the Oman Today magazine as they gave it the award for the best Indian restaurant four times in the five years they’ve been doing their awards.

A review about Mumtaz Mahal is not complete without talking about the location of the restaurant and the view, especially at night when all the blinders that cover the glass walls are lifted to show the view of the road lights and the movement of the cars from above to make a charming sight of the busy life of modern Muscat.

Mumtaz is very spacious with loads and loads of seats, there are also a couple of tables outside the main hall that people sit at when the weather is good. A live band is supposed to perform in the main hall of the restaurant on some days, but I’ve been to the restaurant twice, once on a weekend and another on a week day, and I did not see this band.

The place can easily be fully occupied on any day of the week, when we got there at 7 .30pm yesterday there was barely anybody at the restaurant, but by the time we left around 9.30pm the place was full. It is recommended to book a table in advance instead of showing up expecting to be seated right away. The crowd at Mumtaz seemed to be older than those at the places we previously reviewed with a lot of expatriate families dinning in.

The staff of Mumtaz were very friendly and talkative, at the two times I’ve been to it they helped us with the menu, chatted about India (as if we’ve never had Indian food before?) and even talked about random stuff like cameras and photography. They food did not take a lot of time to get to our table, they literally put the food on our plates and helped us share the starters, we were very impressed.

The menu of Mumtaz is pretty extensive, in addition to their starters they also serve soups, dry tandoor grilled dishes and curry. There are vegetarian stuff in all sections of the menu and a lot of fish and lobster main courses as well. Spicy dishes are labeled with a small drawing of a chili to warn those who cannot handle spicy food.

For the starters we had the three non-vegeterian items they had on their menu, namely Machli Masaledar, these are deep friend fish fingers cooked with spices (the one at the bottom of the place in the image above), Chennai Murg, these are spicy deep friend chicken fillets (on the right side of the plate in the image above) and Murg Methi Kebab, some tandoor flavoured chicken kebabs cooked with some sort of leaves. I liked the chicken fingers more than anything else, the way they were cooked and the way they tasted made it irresistible. The fish fingers came second and the kebabs came third. They all had a hint of spiciness which I did not think was overly hot.

For the main course we had three different chicken dishes, Murg Angaarey – extra spicy tender chicken pieces cooked with garlic, Balti Murg – chicken cooked in traditional North Indian sauce, Chennai Murg Masala – a spicy dish of dry chicken cubes with coconut, curry leaves and black pepper. We also had a bowl of Ghosht Shahi Khorma -a meat dish cooked in gravy sauce with dry fruits and nuts. We ate those with chicken biryani rice and some garlic nan bread.

The food we had was very good, a couple of dishes we had were extra spicy and I would not recommend them for the weak-hearted. For a first timer I would recommend Balti Murg with plain rice or chicken biryani rice – you can’t go wrong with the basics!

We checked their dessert menu, they had many variations of Indian sweets with cheese, which we did not try and had instead their ‘home-made’ ice creams, it tasted very *unique* and had some saffron in it.

Mumtaz is obviously more expensive than the majority of Indian restaurants in town, the starters cost about RO 1.5 to RO 2 each, while vegeterian, chicken, and meat main courses cost RO 2.5 to RO 4, and sea food dishes cost RO 5 to RO 8.

Mumtaz is also a licensed restaurant, we were probably the only table that did not order any alcohol, you see bottles of wine coming and going all the time. A guy on a table next to us ordered some sort of pinched coffee which was made live right next to him.

We thought that the experience at Mumtaz was amazing, we had a great time, the food was delicious and the service was very good.

Aug 25, 2007

Review: Dhofar Hotel Restaurant – Salalah

I’m currently in Salalah attending a legal workshop for one week. I’m staying at Dhofar Hotel, a 3-star hotel near the city center. I hate my employer for giving me such a small allowance for this trip. I wish I could sue them. I know I can’t.

Dhofar Hotel is surprisingly so much better than what I expected, but this review is not about the hotel, it’s about their restaurant. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the hotel, it is relatively spacious, and it looks like the restaurant serves some sort of buffet at sometime, probably dinner or something, it was not open for lunch today.

The menu that I was offered at the restaurant was a stapled paper photocopy of the *room service* menu, the menu had cold starters such as salads, Lebanese cold starters, avocado with shrimps, and two hot starters, namely fried vegetarian Lebanese kebbeh and samosas. There are also several types of soups which I did not try. I had a season mixed salad for the starter, it was very simple (cucumber, lettece, and tomato) and felt very fresh.

There are several different main course categories in Dhofor Hotel’s restaurant, these include fried meals (breaded hammour fish, fried chicke, and crumbed shrimps), grilled meals (kababs, lamb chops, shish taouk, and arabic mixed grills), Asian and Indian dishes (biryani meals, friend rice, and noodles – meat, chicken, fish or prawn – the same menu as all the Indian/Chinese restaurants all over Oman.)

I had a chinese chili chicken dish with biryani rice. I also ordered a french fries sideline. I thought that the food was good, the rice, salad, and chips were all amazing, the chili chicken was just okay, it was well cooked, but not spicy enough (no schezwan sauce!) I really loved their french fries though, it was very thick and crunchy, something that you do not easily find in restaurants of this class.

No fresh juices are served at this restaurants, I ended up drinking the usual Mountain Dew. So in total I had one salad, a plate of french fries, chili chicken and biryani rice and all that came out for RO 3.600, for some reason, this included an arbitrary 17% tax. (Don’t know where it came from).

I thought that the service of the restaurant was quite slow even though I was the only customer in the restaurant (it looks like the khareer is already over), but I still think that overall I had a great experience at Dhofar Hotel’s restaurant, the place is very clean and the food was good. It is safe to try it out if you happen to come to this hotel.

Aug 9, 2007

Oman2day Restaurant Awards 2007


Oman2day is currently gathering votes for its restaurants awards for the year 2007, I do not how authentic these awards are, but the mere idea of having such a thing is really amazing. I was asked to fill in the voting form at a couple of places, but I was surprised by the greater number of place that did not ask to vote for them even though I saw piles of the voting form at the cashier’s desk.

Is anybody else excited about these awards? Who will you be voting for?

You can vote online for your favourite restaurants in Oman here.

Aug 5, 2007

Review: D’Arcy’s Kitchen – Jawharat Al Shatti

I apologise for not making an update last week, I do have several reviews in the pipelines with photographs and menus, but I got stuck thinking of what to write in my review of Darcy’s Kitchen. My first proper dine in visit was two weeks ago, I had to go to again a last week to collect enough material for my review.

For those that do not know the place, Darcy’s Kitchen is a cafe in Jawharat Al Shatti in Shatti Al Qurum. Though the place is considered by many as a breakfast cafe, it serves a lot of proper meal courses all day long. It differs from the majority of cafes and restaurants here with its laid back casual atmosphere. It has a distinct theme in its table design and colours, and it has a cute looking tabletop paper with a funky drawing of Omani customers.

There are loads of seats at Darcy’s, but the place seems to be constantly busy during all times of the day. I am not sure if there is a non-smoking section in the restaurant, we sat in the lobby of the mall where people were smoking, but we were not disturbed by the smoke, though it was noticeable. Space-wise the place is a bit crowded, I thought that tables were a bit too close to each other and that there wasn’t much personal space left. I guess that is why this is supposed to be more of a cafe and less of a restaurant.

I thought that the staff of Darcy’s were very friendly and talkative, we were served by Emy (pictured above). She remembered us from our first visit, helped us choose our meals and joked with us. (She thinks I’m a photographer).

The restaurant seems to be mostly known for its breakfast meals, which I did not try, but I know that these includes French toast, pancakes, several egg meals, and an English breakfast. The place also serves various soups, salads, burgers, pita bread sandwiches, roll-up sandwiches, pasta dishes, and grilled food dishes.

In my first visit, we had for the starter a plate of Fried Mozzarella Cheese (pictured above) that came a tomato dip which you could optionally add jalapeno to – a piece of information I did not know at the time. Yet regardless, I thought that it was really very good.

The starter we had in our second visit was the Chicken Fingers, those were long thick boneless chicken fingers that come with mashed potato, chunky chips, or french fries and a really good sauce that I cannot remember what it was made of, probably a mixture of mayo and some salad dressing. The quantity was pretty a lot and could easily be considered as a main course for one person. I thought that both starters were great, but if I had to pick between the two I would go for the Fried Mozzarella Cheese because it was a bit different from we have elsewhere.

The first main course I had was the Chicken BBQ Lamisso, a dish of chunky marinated chicken pieces served with a sauce made up of peanut butter, tomato, and onion. I thought that it was really good, the chicken was very well cooked and the sauce was a great addition to it. Acting like a silly kid, I did not touch the cooked vegetables that came with the meal only because I am not a great fan of cooked vegetables.

My friend had some California Friend Chicken – an item from the additional menu of new food. The dish looked like something from KFC, but my friend says that he liked the crunchiness of the chicken skin and the sour taste of the garlic mayo dip.

The main course I had on my second visit to Darcy’s Kitchen was the Chicken Melt Sandwich, a sandwich made of shredded chicken pieces with mayo. You can select to have white or brown bread for your sandwich. I did not think that the sandwich was very memorable, not that it tasted bad or anything, but at the same time I did not think that there was anything special about it.

My friend had his favourite cold Club Sandwich, he asked me to try some of his, but I was already really full. It looks like Club Sandwiches are his favourite and he recommends it strongly.

The average price of a snack (Darcy’s label for starters) is from RO 1 to RO 2.5, a main course costs around RO 2 to Ro 5 on average, drinks cost from RO0.3 (Soda) to RO1.5.

I really liked Darcy’s Kitchen even though place is a bit noise and can get crowded, however, their service is great , their food is good. I think that we need more of these places in town.

Jul 19, 2007

Review: Dosteen – Al Hail



You cannot claim that you have lived in Seeb if you have never dined at Dosteen Restaurant [مطعم دوستين] (Pronounced Dos’tain)- a random generic Indian restaurant that survived throughout the years and managed to hold itself as an era defining landmark, the same way Burj Al Sahwah and Bait Al Barakah do. Nobody I know knows when this place was first opened, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was opened in the 80s or even earlier. Dosteen faces the highway between the Al Khode and Al Hail bridges and is located almost exactly opposite Al Itihad used car showroom.

Before we start, I would like to warn you that Dosteen is certainly not for the weak-hearted or the mysophobic. It is one of few places left on Earth that still serve water in metal glasses just like Indian movies – however, they have recently started offering plastic cups for the picky and dandy.

Dosteen is relatively large in comparison to restaurants of its class, it has an isolated area for families (I do not know who dares going there), an air-conditioned dine in area, and a covered yard with some more tables. It is usually very crowded most of the time, it is normal for people to stand waiting for seats to be available when coming at peak hours. Tables are usually shared in both the outside and the inside seating area.

I don’t think that there is a handout menu in Dosteen, but there is one walled with the names of the dishes in Arabic and English – for some reason, the two sides of the menu are not the same and some dishes went missing in one or another. However, Dosteen serves 48 different wonders of the Indian cuisine. The majority of which are served with rice, naan bread, or chapati bread. Complimentary salad is served with all the dishes.

Even though Dosteen is equipped with a fleet of Indian cooks, waiters and cashiers, the waiters always seem very stressed and can be moderately rude if you cannot quickly decide what you want to eat or if you change your mind, and that, of course, adds to the ambiance of the place.

The funny thing about Dosteen is that their food is actually good, there are people that swear by its food and occasionally crave for a meal at Dosteen. I had a chicken masalah (not photographed) which was spicy the way I like it and pretty good. We ordered other stuff like grilled chicken, humus, and rice with grilled meat cubes.

The average price of a dish at Dosteen is RO 1, I think that the a soft drink can costs a RO 0.100. There isn’t much else that you can order here.

Dosteen is no fancy place, but if you are looking for a different place that has so much attitude, culture, gangster-like atmosphere, and good Indian food then Dosteen is the place to go to.

Jul 14, 2007

Review: CinnZeo – Al Masa Mall

CinnZeo is a bakery coffeeshop that has opened earlier this year in Al Masa Mall. The bakery is dedicated to making cinnamon rolls, its slogan is The Best Tasting Cinnamon Rolls on Earth, and I personally think that it probably is.

The place has two floors, the ground floor has the cashier, the bakery itself, and a couple of wooden tables and chairs, the place upstairs is very spacious, has sofas and is separated by a glass wall from the balling hall of Al Masa Mall, which makes up a a nice view. In the few times that I’ve been there the place was generally quite and not very crowded. (I have never been there during weekends.)

Cinnzeo’s menu starts with standard cinnamon rolls, chocolate cinnamon rolls, and pecan cinnamon rolls. I can’t say much about them other than they’re SO GOOD. I am not a hardcore fan of cinnamon rolls or anything, but I was really blown away by those of Cinnzeo. They’re well cooked, tender, and watery and man the chocolate rolls are so damn good. The rolls come in two sizes, standard (miniroll) and large (cinnaroll).

Cinnzeo also offers cinnamon sticks, dippers, twists, swirls, and a set of take-out packs. None of which I have tried.

For beverages Cinnzeo offers a variety of espressos, iced espressos, cream blenders, fruit smoothies, and some fresh juices and soda drinks. The last thing I had was a Caramel Cooler, a cold caramel and cream drink which I thought was pretty good. A friend of mine had some time ago a more interesting drink, Italian Soda, which is made of plain soda and your choice of fruit syrup that they add to the soda and mix for you.

The price of a regular sized cinnamon roll (miniroll) starts from RO 0.700, and take-away boxes of 4 or 6 rolls start from RO 3. The drinks at CinnZeo cost about Ro 1 to RO 1.5.

I had great time at Cinnzeo, their seating area is awesome and the food is amazing.