Considered a favorite amongst the local dining scene at Marina Crescent, most people tend to forget that Ayyame is an inspired concept brought by the local, innovative culinary expertise of the Kout Food Group. Open since July 2008, Ayyame continues to reinvigorate traditional Middle Eastern recipes, pioneering in recognizing the trend to contemporize Middle Eastern cuisines for global tastes. Sharing her insight about the concept, Ms. Sula Al Naqeeb, the Chief Innovative Officer at KFG, comments, “Ayyame is a concept that our CEO, Fadwa Al-Homaizi, had been dreaming up for a few years. We wanted to create a concept that celebrates and embraces modern Arab and Middle Eastern culture in food, design and music. We wanted to create a menu that is reflective of the variety and diversity of Middle Eastern food. Rather than have to decide between a Lebanese or Persian restaurant, Ayyame offers a confluence of cuisines.”
A deeply reflective name, Sula also proudly explains the reason why the name Ayyame was chosen. “ ‘Ayyame’ meaning ‘my days’ in Arabic can be understood in the context of the past; a nostalgia for the days of glory from the perspective of an elder. The other interpretation – which is what we are honing for is from the perspective of a young Arab meaning ‘my days to come,’ which connotes a sense of pride, ownership, and agency for what is to manifest.”
Envisioned to incorporate three dining zones, the main restaurant area, the fusion shisha lounge with modern diwan-style settees, and the outdoor café reminiscent of traditional alleyways with niche cafes, is the vision of KFG’s in-house design team. Ayyame’s menu is an award-winning collaboration between the tactical in-house menu engineering team and the Executive chefs at Ayyame. Every ingredient and recipe has been studied, questioned, and revitalized to create a brand new concept in Middle Eastern cuisine. On the transient nature of Ayyame, Sula states, “It was an incredibly exciting and rewarding process as we knew we were birthing a new language in food, design, and experience that had not been done before. We also have a wealth of resources that my mother, Mrs.Fedwa Al Homaizi, CEO, and I, collected over the years that we refer to for inspiration.”
In time for Ramadan, Ayyame presents a bespoke menu, blending the different cultural instances coloring our modern society. At Ayyame, Ramadan is altogether Kuwaiti and Egyptian, Persian and Lebanese, presented in an entirely Middle Eastern interpretation of classical dishes in a modern mezza style. Catching up with Sula and the lovely Mrs. Bibi Al Qatami, Customer & Community Relations Manager of the KFG Innovative Design and Development department as well as the Executive chef, bazaar samples Ayyame’s Ramadan rendition. Preparing us for a stimulating meal, Sula remarks on her favorite dishes, “During Ramadan, we really highlight our Kuwaiti dishes as people tend to waver towards more traditional foods. Before I was vegetarian, I’d have to say it’s our Yereash, which is simply divine. I tend to develop a sweet(er) tooth during Ramadan and there are two desserts which I am in love with, our Kuwaitimisu – Tiramisu with Turkish coffee and cardamom, and our Chocolate Caramel Tart – I dream about this one! It’s infused with orange blossom and is sprinkled with sesame and pistachio brittle.”
Perfect for sohour, or fotour, depending on your preference, we’re firstly presented with the freshly baked breadbasket of Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian and Moroccan Kisra. Bibi excitedly states, “I can just have the breadbasket, give me the Khobz Aroug and that’s enough for me!” Incorporating grated vegetables and herbs, Khobz Aroug is a popular favorite for dipping into the various selection of Mezza like Muhammara, the Labneh drizzled with infused red pepper oil, and the Spinach Hummus. An inspired blend of Lebanese and Iranian cultures, the chickpea, spinach and Tahini dip delivers an all-new tangy taste to a classical dip. Besides the tempting breadbasket, one taste of the Khobz Aroug Tabliya signifies its addictive taste, served in a European wooden pizza peel and garnished with different toppings like white cheese cubes with green and red bell peppers, feta and kashkaval cheese with crunchy rocca, and Labneh with fragrant sumac, thyme, onions and black olives. Complete with local Ramadan favorites like Yereash, a traditional Kuwaiti dish of crushed wheat blended with tender veal pieces and aromatic spices, and Harees, our fotour is suggestive of a family gathering as all the dishes are optimal for sharing and socializing whilst indulging.
Because it is only natural that Ramadan spurs endless cravings of new flavors, the Executive chef also introduced us to the latest Ayyame creation, the Halloumi Sticks. Perfectly skewed and golden breaded cubes to be dipped in honey, one would always appreciate a fun twist to a traditional appetizer. Rather taken with the Halloumi Sticks, we were further urged by Bibi to try the Turkish Grilled Eggplant salad and Yalangie Dolma (Warak Anab). Sweetened with a pomegranate flavor, both dishes executed a calculated taste; the crunchy, savory vine leaves complimented the molasses, and the sharp eggplant cubes tossed with chickpeas and herbs amicably accompanied the sweet pomegranate seeds.
The highlighting culinary event of the traditionalfotour largely focuses on the main course, where Ayyame has created several specials that would be rotated daily throughout the holy month of Ramadan. Starting with a Morrocan Lamb Tagine, the slowly braised lamb with succulent dates, almonds and carrots is served with a light vegetable couscous. For those looking to indulge in a paramount Kuwaiti tradition, the Ayyame Meshwi Jidir is served on a floral Kitschy tray and includes delicious basmati rice with shreds of soft veal infused with Kuwaiti spices and traditional tomato sauce (dauqous). Along with an oven baked potato Galette and Kuwaiti pickles, the Meshwi Jidir makes for a heartwarming fotour option. As well as the Kuwaiti favorite of Chicken Machboos, we also tried Ayyame’s take on the Lebanese Kubba Bil Laban. Finely minced, rolled, and filled with a fusion of ground mixed nuts, cinnamon and cardamom seeds, the mini Kubba rolls are presented with a warm laban dressing and light white rice. Also a new addition to Ayyame’s menu, the Persian Kebab platter presents another lighter choice, as the lean and powerfully spiced minced meat kebabs are offset with a yoghurt dressing and Zuresh rice.
One would normally be starved for sugar at the end of a long and grueling day of fasting during the summertime Ramadan season, and after a while, we watch as our mothers slave away in the kitchen, coming up with new and impressive desserts to proudly show at the daily family gatherings. Bibi firstly presents us with her favorite solution, which she deems absolutely tastes like “Ramadan on a stick!” or Maltouta, and that’s literally what this interesting concoction for a dessert tasted like. Dates rolled in rahash and finely chopped pistachios and drizzled with chocolate infused Arabic coffee syrup; each engineered date is fixed with a fragrant cinnamon stick and the calculated combination is truly unprecedented! Ayyame’s interpretation of an Italian coffee based Tiramisu results in the fabulous Kuwaitimisu, where instead of infusing the fluffy sponge with amaretto, one is astounded with the welcome flavors of cardamom and cinnamon-based Arabic coffee. Finally, we settle to completely consume our last dessert, the Chocolate and Caramel Tart. Considered by the Executive Chef as Ayyame’s take on the traditional chocolate tart, the rich Parisian chocolate tart filling is instilled with the essence of orange blossoms and garnished with a caramel based sesame and pistachio brittle, successfully imparting a truly addictive flavor.
At Ayyame, the notion of multicultural, or modernly known as fusion, cuisine is rather old than new, as the magnificent presentation of perfectly engineered Middle Eastern dishes illustrates a continued focus towards innovation based on a studied growth. Who knew that the flavorful essence of Ramadan could ever exist ‘on a stick’, and Arabic coffee belonged in Tiramisu? Truly a thrilling dining experience, we look forward to many fotours, and suhours, during the Holy month of Ramadan. However, we might not be able to wait that long! To end our wonderful meal, Sula leaves us with a hint of what we should look forward to with Ayyame, “We are in the process of opening our second Kuwait location; a new and charming project called the Village, located in Abu Hasaniya. We are also looking to open in the region and Europe in the near future.”
Ayyame is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is located on the upper floor level at Marina Crescent in Salmiya. Please call 2571 2189 for more information.