Dine in a make-believe 'souk' at this brand new Middle East style restaurant in Chennai
This new Middle Eastern spot on Anderson Road invites you to dine in a make-believe ‘souk’. Much like a buzzing market place, the 79-dish menu is expansive and a fair bit to digest even before your food arrives. Or so we discover as we step into Al Souk, for the first time.
The first thing that grabs us as we settle into our seats is what a liberal dose of ‘Middle Eastern vibes’ we get from the décor — there are carpets on the wall, Moroccan style plates and tiles, and even the occasional word in Arabic.
Managing partner Zackriya Mohamed who previously was one of the partners for Döner Kebab (which was located here before Al Souk) shares with us that the restaurant has been in the pipeline for a year. And from the speedy service and taste of their eclectic mix of cuisines — expect Kafsa (Arabic style Biryani), Mediterranean Mezze platters, Moroccan Chicken Tagine and even a touch of Egyptian, with dishes like Al Faham Dijaj (Chargrilled chicken) — it’s evident that a lot of thought has gone into the food as well.
Hummus where the heart is
“There are a lot of places in the city where you will find Indianised Arabic food or fusion,” managing partner Mohamed Moiz who is heading operations shares, as we dip some spongey homemade Turkish bread into a pot of hummus. “Like, you might have seen a peri peri hummus on a menu for instance, but we wanted to keep ours completely authentic.” True to his word, and we just took a trip to Dubai last year, so the taste is fresh in our memory, this hummus is on the money.
Our table goes from sparse to feast ready in a matter of minutes — as we sample a number of popular staples. Appetisers include a delightful plateful of spanakopita (filo pastry triangles filled with spinach and feta), a hard-to-put down Kibdha Laham (thinly sliced beef liver) and later, a chicken shawarma almost as thick as a fist! We wash it all down with a refreshing albeit heavy Mango Laban (similar to a mango lassi).
Our most rave-worthy recommend however, is the Lamb Kapsa — with meat that literally falls off the bone, laid on a bed of delicately spiced rice. Though there are a handful of lamb dishes on the menu, a quick scan reveals to our surprise, that there is actually a lot more beef available. “The community in this locality actually opts for beef over the other meats,” Moiz tells us, when we inquire about this. “Also, we wanted to make our menu affordable and this way you can enjoy a meal for one, priced anywhere between INR 350 and INR 400.”
Given that a single portion often serves two, this is certainly impressive pricing for uptown Nungambakkam standards. Keep some room for dessert though. We suggest you try the Kunafa over the Baklava. This Levant dessert, if this is your first time, is a decadent-to-the-nines baked pastry with a generous stuffing of homemade cream cheese. Sugar syrup gives the dish its sweetness. Vermicelli like dough and noodle strands on top and chopped pistachio as garnish make this already divine dessert even more layered and glorious.
Meal for two INR 750.
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