$40-$60

Al Qasr, Holland Village

Had some difficulty locating the restaurant, especially in the slight rain. If you’re taking the bus, the restaurant is just down the stairs, besides Coffee Club. But if you’re coming from the other direction, from the Crystal Jade direction, you have to walk past 7-11, Haagen Daz, Wala Wala, Everything With Fries to the end of the lane. The decor came as a surprise. At first glance, it is like an Arabian palace. The chairs, couches, walls, floor and napkins come in shades of red. Lit by Arabian lanterns, a scimitar hangs on the wall. A very cosy and exclusive booth corner allows a big group of 8 to 10 people. However, on closer inspection—don’t forget worx, I iz drive lorry for construction company, I know design well–the restaurant appears to have seen better days. The coral pink tiling reminds one of old hospital floors and the upholstery is worn.

I jio-ed my good friend, Foodnotes, here because I iz cheapskate and bought from one of those discounted deals. A 3-course meal for two with a bottle of beer each only cost $40!!! Let the Ali Baba Adventures begin!

Starters

 Hommous and Pita Bread. You know how I know this restaurant is authentic? The weird spelling on their menu. “Hummus” becomes “hommous.” Hummus is a thick paste made from chickpeas, olive oil, lemon, garlic, etc. It’s a dip for bread and is very popular in US. I couldn’t appreciate hummus–you can dip raw carrots and celery in it too–when I was doing my Ah Beng International Relations Course in New York. Hummus is an acquired taste but this one here was very, very good. At first, you can only taste the beany, grainy texture of the dip, almost like unsweetened soy. Not the best tasting food in the world. But as you eat more, the flavor transforms to almost cheese-like. Very addictive.

 Sanbosik, usually spell as “sambousek,” is the middle-eastern curry puff with minced lamb. It came hot but the lamb bits were grainy and tasted very, well, lamby. Not a good choice for me and I pitied the freak curry puff (right side in the picture). Water retention, was it?

Leb Kofta Kebab with Saffron Rice. You know how I know this restaurant is authentic? It spells “lamb” as “leb.” “Kofta” means minced meat with spices and “kebab” means “roasted.” They spell “saffron” correctly. You know how I know if a Middle-Eastern restaurant has localized the food to suit Singaporeans? It’d spell “rice” as “lice.”

I honestly think meat, brown meat, should never be presented in a tubular form. Don’t you think the lamb kebab looks like shit? Not the sexiest look in the world.

The dish came with pita bread, and onion slices so you can roll your lamb into the pita bread if you want to. The lamb itself wasn’t fantastic but it seemed much fresher than the lamb in the sanbosik, the appetizer, and it didn’t have the lamb stench. A forgettable dish.

Chicken Shawarma with french fries. I wish the shoestring fries were made in-house and tasted better because it ruined a perfect dish! The chicken shawarma was tender and bursting with flavor, reminding me of a pumped-up version Hainanese Chicken Rice on drugs/spice.

 Mohalabia (at the back) and Baklawah. What a name, Mohalabia. I wonder who Moha is because I want to reject the goods. The almond pudding with pistachio bits was too firm for my liking, and the jasmine was overpowering. Why was there jasmine in the first place when it was an almond pudding?

Baklawah, commonly spelled as “baklava,” is layers of pastry soaked in honey. It tasted almost like apple struddle except it was much denser, chewier and had a nutty taste. Delicious but the serving size was pathetic. Even my 樱桃小嘴 my cherry-blossom tiny mouth, most prized in Chinese culture, can swallow it like a pill without triggering any gag reflex. This serving size is made for anorexics.

The service was attentive and mostly polite. However, there was an incident that stood out. The entire menu is in indecipherable words, Sanbosik, mohalabia, etc and there isn’t any description of the food so we needed help from the manager. Instead of explaining to us the dishes one by one, he asked us politely if we liked chicken or lamb or beef, etc and ordered the dishes for us without consulting us. For desserts, we asked for the menu so that we could make an informed decision. He didn’t even show us the menu and said to us chummily, “Just leave it to me.” He should join PAP. He was friendly, nice, polite and asked questions like it’s a democratic country but then he made the decisions for us. I couldn’t help to think that he was being presumptuous here. I would very much like to make a choice. I told him twice I wanted the dessert menu but he insisted to pick for us – what could I do? What if we were allergic to some items he picked for us? Don’t play play ok. In Bad Teacher, the Good Teacher got an allergy and couldn’t make it for the overnight school excursion and that’s how the Bad Teacher, Cameron Diaz, got to sleep with the Good Teacher’s boyfriend, Rich Teacher. Allergies are serious, kids! You can lose the love of your life or just lose your life through allergies; the former loss is more serious, of course.

The clientele here seemed to constitute mostly of angmohs who like to sit outside the restaurant, along the corridor, smoking shisha or hookah. We were the only Asians, taking up 1/4 of the occupied tables. I cannot understand why there wasn’t more Singaporeans. If you can get a discount, this is decent food at a low cost, super value-for-money, with attentive service at a prime area and nice decor.

Al Qasr
46 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, Singapore 277698
T: +65 6467 7793
chope-reservations

Mon-Sat (Lunch) 11.30 am – 2.30 pm
Sunday (Lunch) 11.30 am – 3.00 pm
Sun-Thu (Dinner) 5.45 pm – 10.30 pm
Fri-Sat (Dinner) 5.45 pm – 11.45 pm

Rating: 3.207/5 allergies

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