by Graham Baker
Back in November 2009 an audaciously ambitious restaurant opened its doors up in the sky and allowed diners to be revolved whilst they marveled at the burgeoning Kuwait skyline, munching on glorious Arabian cuisine imported from that successful chain in Lebanon called, Al Balad.
This outfit had no qualms about their product because Al Balad has space for 270 customers opening for breakfast and remaining open till the last diner disappears into the dark depth of a post-midnight sky. Handily placed for the city crowd and close enough to the main highways for all people to get there quickly, this big boy on the restaurant scene has a no reservations policy so you had better get there early for the place fills up quick.
I took a friend for a dead-time lunch (4pm) to peacefully enjoy the serene views and more importantly kick back for a long, leisurely lunch. I wanted the treat of watching Kuwait unfold before my eyes as the sun set and nights lit up a sparkling sky.
Honest to goodness, wholesome and healthy food was apparent from an inspection of the menu, which unlike many places was simple, comprehensive but manageable and neatly presented on a thinnish wooden block. Lebanese food is sharing food and the whole notion of grazing could have been born in this cultural cuisine. Nibbling olives, breaking bread, gossiping and reflecting were made for this lovely setting as one poured over the options.
Feeling a tad thirsty I was recommended Elham, an in-house cocktail of apple, pineapple and grapes, and this certainly did the job. Full bodied and iceberg cold, this slaked an industrial thirst. In fact during the lunch I was becoming an Elham addict reordering with regularity. My friend had refreshing home style lemonade which she pronounced as well above average. Whenever I am reviewing I want to know what are the best sellers and this was made refreshingly easy on this menu for the most popular items are printed in red. There was plenty of red too!
The hot and cold appetizers all screamed “choose me” but it was the Al Balad salad that had the first outing. This was a crackingly tasty number that was defined by the flavor given by the fried aubergines. This is a must if you are dining here for the first time and will be a repeat item if you are a regular. We had a range of really good hummus, my favorite was the samkeh harra which had hammour and tahini craftily blended, whilst the Hummus pine-meat was my friend’s choice. We both chimed on the hummus Al Balad which was a spicy special that had a tangy after flavor. One surprising feature of this menu is the lack of seafood items. They have calamari and the outstanding samkeh harra but this is clearly a place where the meat lovers and mezzes minions dominate.
What gives Al Balad the edge over many Lebanese restaurants is the fact that they import the spot-on spices and herbs endemic to Lebanon and this gives all the dishes distinct authenticity. My companion, who is fast becoming a local authority on the mixed grill in Kuwait, found this option very satisfying. The minced meat was not fatty and all the meats were soft, tender and meltingly moist with good flavors. The fork just leaned on the meat and it fell.
I was enjoying myself so much with the hot and cold appetizers that I decided to keep this flowing and clutched a plate of calamari which was unusually cut into bite-size bits and the halloum balad, another ‘red’ option, proved to be a substantial wedge of breaded haloumi that might bother a calorie counter but the reckless cheese chancer will enjoy this choice.
They have an oven section and we needed to try one. The meat pie: lahmeh beajine. A thin pie, tasty pizza lookalike, with a good covering of well cooked non-fatty minced meat that was enhanced with squeezed lemon. The kafta wraps can also be given a vote of confidence and the meat here was particularly tasty with an exquisitely fine wrapping of dough. By this time our appetites were sated and the restaurant had taken us a full circle around the downtown skyline and expansive views of the gulf. It takes about 75 minutes to do the full skyline tour. I took a sample of Atayef and Achta w Aassal for dessert, but this was duty rather than need!
There are six cabins available for those who wish for privacy. Al Balad is another mighty player with the food to satisfy the tummy and the views to stimulate your eyes. If you are a lover of Lebanese cuisine then go to Al Balad and enjoy the lift off to the sky where the experience will be stratospheric.
Head down to Sharq Tower and experience the healthy and delicious Lebanese food that will bring joy to your day and satisfaction to your tummy. For more information or to make a reservation please call 2248 2113.