There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hours dedicated to the ceremony of gathering, particularly over a meal, in Kuwait. This isn’t exactly what Henry James had in mind but on this brisk winter’s day, walking up towards The Bistro Mais Alghanim, through the Miral Complex, the thought of dining as a ceremony comes to mind. Dish after delicious dish coming out from the kitchen, servers’ arms weighed down by steaming dishes, patient diners taking in the new sights and smells. Indulging in the pleasure of a languorous meal with friends and family is precious in these fast times.
Location is everything, especially if you want your customers to stay and take their time over a meal. The Bistro Mais Alghanim has the advantage of being perfectly situated with an expansive vista for guests to enjoy. The floor to ceiling glass windows, which run along one entire side of the restaurant, give you unrestricted views of the beach and the dancing Miral Fountains, not to mention copious amounts of natural light. We even spotted a ginormous Heron fishing in the shallows!
Bakarat Foods was one of the first companies in Kuwait to value a seaside location as an inviting and relaxing environment for customers and their families, ideal for a restaurant focused complex like Miral. Tucked in at the apex curve of the coast, you are assured of views like no other in Kuwait, as long as the weather behaves, which it does for 99% of the year. With the experience of Mais Alghanim behind them, the Bistro was launched with the key idea being to deliver a quality concept, with a high level of expertise in the kitchen, producing meals made from scratch for discerning customers in the south. Servicing a cosmopolitan clientele with an international understanding of food, it is important to Bistro to maintain a smaller menu of high quality, with the offerings always consistent, from the look and textures to the taste.
Keeping the most popular dishes untouched, the new menu offers select dishes with various influences from European to Asian, keeping in mind all the flavors favored by customers. First, we sampled the Rocket and Halloum salad. The brined cheese is imported from Turkey and slender slices are grilled to produce touches of golden brown, with a salty crust. The rocket itself is locally sourced and distinctly peppery. What may be mistaken by look for fried onion rings is a wonderfully clever idea; strips of eggplant, battered and then fried to add a smoky flavor profile to the salad. This is delicious! There is a drizzle of yogurt dressing, to give a touch of the traditional Levantine ingredient pairing, and an European touch added with a trickle of balsamic dressing over the lot.
Next to arrive hot out of the oven and oozing creamy gloriousness is the oversized vol-au-vent. Coming under the section “B-Special” it certainly is! Large enough for one person to be completely satisfied, this is a great choice to share as well. The flakey, buttery crown puff-pastry is filled to overflowing with a chicken and mushroom sauce packed with sweet kernels of corn. Topped off with a generous amount of shaved parmesan, this is the best comfort food on a cold winters day and we defy you to not eat every bit!
Writing of comfort food, there is one dish that is always popular throughout Kuwait and Bistro has its own version. Dragon Shrimp is truly dynamite, and it is the texture as well as the complex flavors that makes this starter so moreish. Plump shrimp, shorn of tail and clad in seasoned breadcrumbs, are fried and then tossed in a spicy sauce. A large helping is piled high on a bed of shredded Romaine lettuce lining a pastry shell bowl. The shrimp are so skillfully bread-crumbed that even after marinating in the sauce, there is still a discernable crunch when you bite down.
The next two main dishes can be heard before they are even seen. Through clouds of steam and enticing smells, emerges hot Lava plates of thick, cast iron sitting on wooden presentation blocks. The Shrimp Noodle Sizzler and the Surf and Turf have arrived! Both are such a beautiful array of color that it is hard to know where to start. Masterfully the shrimp in the noodle sizzler have been placed atop, rather than through, the noodles, so as to not get overdone while we dig into the meat and fish combo first.
A trio of sauces accompanies the Surf and Turf. While you can confidently use any with each of the three skewers of charcoal grilled chicken, beef and shrimp, there are recommendations. The paprika seasoned chicken pairs well with the home-made garlic sauce; a simple whip of garlic cloves, corn oil and egg-white delivers an unexpectedly lively result. If typically the smell of garlic is a barrier to your enjoyment, this dip is more flavorful than aromatic and all three dips are served on the side on their own platter.
Chunky cubes of beef tenderloin swipe-left with the herbed spinach and fresh cream dipping sauce and it is advised to dip deeply the pink, tail-on shrimp into the rich, gooey butter garlic sauce. Accompanied by a sizeable fluffy potato, glistening with butter and a scattering of freshly chopped, flat-leaf parsley. In order to make sure the Bistro potatoes are at their premium fluffiest, they are sourced from all over the region, depending on when the crop is in season during the year.
Still sizzling gently on the other side of the table is the Shrimp Noodle Sizzler. It is a pleasant surprise to pop in a shrimp and discover it has remained tender and not overcooked on the hot plate. This dish has a more Asian feel to it with a soy sauce base on the noodles. Instead of an egg-noodle, the dish is prepared with al-dente spaghetti, an astute choice as it allows you to focus on all the flavors in the mixture without moving over completely into the realms of Chinese stir-fry.
Having proven resoundingly that the new dishes so far are executed with flair, we are to move on to the desserts but take a short respite to enjoy the new Tea Karak. A traditional tea set with a tall, curvy teapot and colored glasses to fill is placed on to the dining table. With its own stand, a tea-light is lit as a burner to keep the chai warm. A tiny dish of date balls accompanies the warming, spiced drink. Rolled in coconut or kunafa vermicelli, this home-made date confection concoction is so sweet and soft so you can’t help but squish it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue, and the Karak washes it down perfectly.
Chef Ziad Hilal, famed for his pastries and desserts created the new afters menu for Bistro. The first to taste is the three-layered “Chocolate Cheese Fudge”, topped with caramel coated popcorn. The intense cocoa flavor is matched only by the depth of the burnt umber color of the two cake rounds which are layered with a whipped cream cheese filling in the middle. This is an unbelievably moist cake and brilliantly executed.
Next comes the “Chocolate Lotus Fondant” and the “Chocolate Brownie” offerings. Both are topped with a home-made vanilla ice cream which is light, full of flavor and vanilla bean seeds can be seen running through the refreshing topping! This is perfect to complement the rich desserts. The Lotus surprisingly is not super-sweet, despite a slathering of Lotus laying on the top. This of course, means it is entirely possible to devour the entire delicious dish.
Finally, after at first refusing anything else, we do decide to go with the server’s suggestion of Arabic Coffee to finish off. This is a delightfully multi-layered, complex flavor combination of coconut, cloves, saffron, cardamom and Thymol seeds. The care that has been taken to bring these ingredients together in only a simple coffee just reiterates the depth of thought that goes into each offering on the Bistro menu. You would be well advised to give it a try!
The Bistro Mais Alghanim is located on the first floor of the Miral Complex in Mangaf. For more information, please call 2205 4200. Visit their website at www.bistromais.com and follow them on Instagram and Facebook @BistroMais.