When you've got a chance to go to Holland Village, drop by Al Qasr, a restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine. To be honest, I can count with my own fingers the number of times I've tried Middle Eastern fare so far :P Oh, if you come on Saturday night, you'll be able to see belly dance performance (based on the sign I read inside the restaurant).
My friend and I started our meal with four pieces deep-fried balls of chickpeas and broad beans seasoned with garlic, onion, coriander and Lebanese spices. Crunchy on the outside, smooth on the inside, this dish captured my heart. The yogurt, with its slightly sour tang, complemented the fritters well.
The next appetiser was a plate of pastries stuffed with minced lamb meat seasoned with onion and pine kernels. The lamb meat was soft and tender, but it could be seasoned further. By the way, the pastry wasn't crunchy. Oh, the tomatoes served on the side of the two appetiser dishes were fresh, but the salad wasn't. (Ermmm, after looking at the picture again, suddenly I'm craving for curry puff!)
Lebanese Kofta Kebab S$24.00
The last time I ate kebab was ages ago in Indonesia. Anyway, the lamb was tender and slightly better marinated, but it wasn't juicy. The two condiments served on the side were yogurt infused with garlic (very nice!) and dressing which tasted very similar to Thousand Island but had more kick. The oven roasted tomatoes and onion slices were delightfully sweet, and they accompanied the meat well. However, the saffron rice wasn't that aromatic, and I didn't really enjoy the pita bread which texture I found to be very similar to the outer skin of pao (Chinese buns).
Seafood Tajeen S$25.00
Tajeen (some spell them tajine or tagine), is a North African stew named after a particular earthenware pot in which the dish is cooked. The stew had a rich mixture of ingredients such as fish, shrimp, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, long beans, lentils and olives. At first I thought it would be bursting with flavours, but after taking a sip, it turned out to be mildly sweet and salty. The even sweeter aftertaste was really pleasant. The fish used was fresh, but too bad there were only 2 or 3 small shrimp pieces. The stew came with a plate of cous cous which was bland. It would be better if it were, at least, sprinkled with lemon juice. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of cous cous even though it's actually one of the healthiest grain-based product, but the one that I had during my journey to Switzerland the other day was fantastic.
I had to take a close shot of the dessert, sweet indulgence made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts, to capture the layers (and because it came in bite-size). The one served at Al Qasr was sweetened with a simple syrup. It was delightfully sweet and crunchy, although I wasn't too sure what nuts they used as the pastry was too small, but I would love it to be like the one baked in a real Turkish factory, drenched with rose water as soon as it came out of the oven. The authentic ones are made without any machine; each layer of filo pastry is painstakingly put on top of one another by hand.
I'd say, the winner of the day was mohalabia (seems like it is more commonly called mahalabia), milk-based pudding which was infused with almond flavour in Al Qasr. Divinely creamy, it had a soft, interesting texture between that of the usual pudding and cream. In addition to almond flavour, I could also sense rose aroma exuding from this particular dessert. Pika's advice: Take a sip of the mint tea, allow the coolness to spread within your mouth and take a bite of Mohalabia. Awesome!
House Pour White Wine (by the Glass) S$10.00
To my surprise, the wine was pretty good, given the much cheaper price than the rest in the list. I could detect the aroma from a distance away. Pardon me, I'm not really a wine connoisseur so I'm not too sure how to describe the taste of a particular wine, but I believe the wine was light-bodied, and it was refreshingly crisp especially after eating the kebab with the two pretty strong flavoured condiments.
The ambience of the restaurant was a bit ruined when they decided to play Bieber's songs when I was eating my main course. After two songs, mellow Middle Eastern tunes started to play, enhancing the dining experience for sure. Service was actually efficient. Tthe food came hot on time but the waiter wasn't too friendly - not rude, but taciturn with his gloomy face. Melon didn't manage to make him smile.
46 Lorong Mambong
(Daily: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 6.00pm - 11.00pm)
*Prices quoted are subject to 10% service charge and 7% GST.
Have a nice meal,