I have a penchant for Lebanese gastronomy and leave no occasion to pamper my taste buds to its simple yet rich preparations. The striking feature of this culinary style is the prominence it places on use of fresh produce and its cooking techniques that let the produce hero the dish.
So, on the bygone weekend my friends and I decided to indulge in the cuisine of Mabruk at Hotel Sahara Star, Mumbai that specializes in Lebanese food. The restaurant setting feels like an excerpt from the Arabian Knights tale. The restaurant recreates the feel of an oasis with its simulated flora and a contiguous pond. The art on walls and table arrangement comprising of Persian ceramic transfer plates take you back in time to a city in the Middle East. The seating arrangement bears resemblance to the Bedouin style of perching on thick cushions placed just tad above the ground.
Within a few minutes of us taking our seats, Chef Jehad Al-Shami, who is chef de cuisine at this fine dining eatery made an appearance. He explained that the Lebanese food at this fine dining place boasts of a middle-eastern influence rather than European one. He affably apprised us of the intricacies of the cuisine and various dishes on the menu.
So, here is a look at my gluttony at Mabruk:
The start to the meal took place in the traditional style of indulging in a variety of small patters of food that ranged from dips to fritters to open pies.
Hummus: This was a perfect blend of chick pea puree with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tahini (white sesame sauce) and lemon juice. A garnish of whole chick peas, olive oil and sprinkling of paprika imparted an appetizing presentation to the dish.
Beiruti Hummus: This was a more intense flavored version of the previous dish since it entailed use of onion, tomato, green chillies and generous amount of garlic.
B’Fli Fle Hummus: This preparation was endowed with a subtle amount of heat and sweetness as compared to classic version of the hummus owing to use of roasted red peppers along with the typical hummus ingredients..
Moutabal: This was a creamy dip prepared using char-grilled aubergines, tahini, garlic, parsley and lemon. The smoky flavor of aubergines contrasted well with the freshness of parsley and acidity from the lemon. Tahini went on to provide a nutty and creamy texture to this dip while garlic brought to it a hint of piquancy.
Babaghanoush: In my opinion this is the Lebanese version of our famed Indian delicacy “Baingan ka Bhurta”. Roasted aubergines were mashed and mixed with fresh mint leaves, coriander leaves and bell peppers. This preparation was light and stimulating.
Mou’Hamara: This dip involved use of walnuts, red peppers and garlic. I was underwhelmed by this preparation as it was absolutely dry and chunky in texture. The flavor of walnuts had completely subdued the heat from the peppers and garlic.
The aforementioned dips were enjoyed with oven fresh pita bread dusted with the herb mix, zatar.
Tabouleh: This famed parsley and cracked wheat salad was part of the elaborate mezze we indulged in. The flavors from the lemon dressing balanced out the herbaceous ones from the parsley and earthiness of the cracked wheat. Tomato chunks and pink radish slivers added a refreshing touch to the dish.
Safi’Ha B’Jibneh: These were delectable, bite-sized open pies stuffed with Haloumi shreds and sprinkling of zatar. The baking of the pie had made the cheese filling gooey and delicious.
Safi’Ha B’Sebanek: Spinach and pine nuts were mixed with onion, tomatoes and sumac to form the filling of this tasty mini open pie.
Cigar Al Hout: These were crispy filo pastry rolls stuffed with a seafood mixture that was seasoned with Moroccan spice blend. The filling was generous and the use of spices was cautious to preserve the integrity of the meat.
Kibbeh: These were minced lamb fritters with a crunchy exterior and a nutty interior of pine nuts stuffing. The utilization of spices was restrained and each element asserted its individual flavor profile.
Falafel: Light, crispy fritters of chick peas and broad beans were interestingly presented in heart-shaped form. The fritters were cooked to perfection and had a prominent flavor of cumin.
I downed the sumptuous mezze spread with LEMON MAA WARD, a chilled, herbaceous concoction of mint, lemon juice and rose water. Its appearance may not be very alluring but this non-alcoholic drink is one of the most revitalizing beverage I have had in recent times.
Mahancha Laham: Filo pastry sheets were filled with minced lamb cooked in Ras Al Hanout. The pastry had a lovely flaky and buttery texture while the meat filling was flavorful and moist.
Kharoof Mahshi: This was an opulent dish comprising of lamb braised gradually for hours in middle-eastern spices and served on a bed of pilaf adorned with almond slivers. The braising had ensured that the dish was not only delicious by highly aromatic. The lamb was succulent and falling off the bone.
Baklava: One cannot complete a Lebanese meal without devouring this traditional and sought after sugary delight. However, I found the filo pastry sheets a bit chewy as opposed to flaky. However, the layering of chopped pistachios was substantial and the dousing of sugar syrup was spot on.
Znoud al Set: The sight of this dish immediately draws your attention to the fact that this is a deep fried sweet with a decadent, creamy filling. Crispy filo pastry formed the crust while sweetened cream cheese flavored with orange blossom nectar formed the core of this sweet delight.
I had a wonderful time gourmandizing the fares at Mabruk. So, do try out this place and let me know of your experience.
Till then, HAPPY EATING…
(PS: The dishes were served as part of special bloggers’ table so actual portion sizes may vary. However, my review is subjective and unprejudiced.)
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast