by Jiahui Tan
MMC Catering is in a new drive to expand its entourage with the opening of a new member in its already large collection of heavyweights with the likes of Cafe Arabesque, Crimson Garden and Le Notre. Opened in May 2009, Sawah is a breath of fresh air to the throng of Lebanese restaurant already out there. Located at Phase 2 of The Avenues mall, the concept behind the restaurant is an eclectic blend of the traditional and the contemporary.
Within its comfortably-sized interiors is a menagerie of fascinating artifacts imported from both Lebanon and France. Browse through their myriad of multicolored chairs and other interesting articles like the multi-shaded lamp hanging from its ceiling as well as the beautifully carved patterns adorning its walls and canopy. And who can miss the large contemporary painting of Egyptian Singer, Abdel Halim staring proudly back at them. Yet, despite its à la mode setting, the tableware used is anything but. Similarly imported from Lebanon, the dishes are an intriguing assortment of aged copper and silver wares some even embellished with the “Seen” of Sawah.
If the setting is not enough to wow you, then the food certainly will. Sawah swears by only the freshest of ingredients, with pastries made daily and juices freshly squeezed to order. The kitchen is helmed by veterans, with both Chef Charabel and Chef Yussef hailing from Lebanon. And the quality of the food is certainly testament to the longstanding affair both have with the Mediterranean cuisine.
Under their skillful hands our meal commenced on a very promising note. We began with dishes like the hummus, stuffed vine leaves, tabouleh, fattouche, batata harra and the loubiyeh, all of which arrived, invitingly plated to tantalize any taste buds. Beyond their comfort food labels, these dishes were certainly no pushovers in the taste department. The fattouche was a delightful bowl of fresh crisp lettuce tossed with an assortment of tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice and topped with a little touch of sumac. We too enjoyed the loubiyeh, green string beans simmered with white onions in tomatoes and olive oil to give it a melt-in-your mouth texture complete with a tangy finish. Especially memorable were the stuffed vine leaves which featured a wonderful interplay of sweet and sour. The Batata Harra as well, was an unpretentious rendition of potato cubes cooked to perfection with slight hints of chili and garlic.
Then there were the more unusual takes on your everyday dishes like the Hummus and Yoghurt Fatteh. Showcasing cooked hummus with yoghurt, layered with fried pita bread, sauteed minced meat and topped with a generous sprinkling of pine nuts; the dish was a fusion of luscious creaminess between interludes of crunchy bites. Another unique number on the menu was the Mashrouha Spinach, boasting roman-styled thin crusted pizza topped simply with spinach and pine nuts, yet surprisingly rich in flavors.
But the star of the show had to be the two grilled meats. The Kabab Halabi, minced mutton on skewers not only scored aesthetically but also hit all the right spots with its seasoning and masterful firing by the chefs. Equally commendable was the Shish Taouk, a beautiful artwork of juicy moist chicken chunks executed flawlessly.
Of course, good food cannot go unaccompanied by excellent drinks. To this, Sawah offers diners an exciting choice of non-alcoholic beverages, some of which like the Babylon and Sun Sawah, were conceived right here at Sawah. One such original creation is the wonderfully refreshing Sun Sawah, an interesting concoction of lemonade, rose water, cherry and grenadine syrup. Babylon, another novelty, is a healthy blend of fresh orange, banana and pineapple juice; a sip of which immediately conjures up the tunes of Boney M. And to complement it all, the service was swift and apt with wait time never exceeding ten minutes for every plate. To say the least, our meal at Sawah was nothing but an exercise in elegance.
It surely takes a lot for one to not be blown away by Sawah’s great cuisine. The interesting setting, culinary finesse, refreshing drinks and attentive service has come together seamlessly to create a dining experience one never forgets.
Sawah is located in Phase II at the Avenues Mall. For more information or to make a reservation please call 2259 7701.