Maneesh and I, both are very fond of Arabic food since we both have spent a considerable amount of time in the Gulf region during our professional careers. But to our dismay and despair, we could hardly find a single restaurant serving good Arabic cuisine in Delhi. The Arabic cuisine is a combination of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian food. There is a strong thrust on Meat, Dairy Products, Breads, Herbs & Spices, Hot Beverages, Grains & Legumes, Fruits & Vegetables and Nuts.

Hyatt Regency Delhi is conducting Arabesque Food Weekat their all-day dining restaurant Café. It will showcase exotic delicacies from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. We were very excited when we got the invite for the trial. We went there a couple of days back and the first thing which struck us was the royal spread. The wide range of cold mezze, soups, kebabs, main course and desserts is enough to blow one’s mind. And the person behind this is Chef Ali Alhaj, Chef-de-Cuisine, Park Hyatt Dubai who has been specially flown down for this promotion. A Syrian national, Chef Ali Alhaj has specially crafted the menu keeping in mind the Indian palate while maintaining the essence of Arabic cuisine. The menu has three rotations to maintain the freshness and variety of the spread.

Chef Ali Alhaj graduated as an electrician from Industrial Institute in Hama, Syria, but was never keen on taking it up as his profession. He had developed an interest in cooking when his father began running a small restaurant in their hometown serving traditional Syrian cuisine. So he used to take up small jobs in hotels and restaurants during his college vacations. Post graduation, he began his culinary career as a commis chef. During his two decade career, he has worked in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and UAE and specializes in Cuisine from the Levant region. The Levant region, also known as the Eastern Mediterranean, is a geographic region consists of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and the parts of southern Turkey.

The cold mezze had Hummus (chick pea dip), Moutabel(aubergine dip), Tabouleh (parsley & bulgur salad), Fattoush (toasted bread salad), Muhammara (hot pepper dip), Crushed Wheat Salad, Mousaka(eggplant based dish), Salatat Shmandar (Beetroot Salad), Labna with Walnut, Green Beans Salad. We loved everything except the hummus as it was too salty. There were interesting breads to be savored with salads and dips. One with the Za’atar (sun-dried herbs – oregano, basil & thyme; mixed with salt, sesame seeds & sumac and moistened with olive oil) on it was the best. The Falafel was another superstar with mild flavors of cumin and chickpeas. Shorba Bi Djaj (Chicken and Vermicelli Soup) is the simplest soup with chicken cooked in water and dash of cinnamon and lemon juice and vermicelli. In main course, we had Kebab Halabi, Stuffed Chicken with Oriental Rice, Green Peas with Lamb Cube, Fish Fillet with Spicy Vegetables, Chicken Liver with Pomegranate Sauce. The food was sumptuous, mildly flavored and tasty. The dessert section had an entire galaxy of Arabic, Indian and Western desserts. We opt for Arabic ones. Baklava (layered nut pastry), Muhallabieh (pounded rice pudding), Basbousa (cooked semolina sweet cake) were some of the ones which we tried.
Chef Ali Alhaj, Chef-de-Cuisine, Park Hyatt Dubai

It was a great evening which reminded us our days in the Gulf. The dinner buffet is priced at Rs 2000 plus taxes. The Arabesque Food Week was started on 25th August and will be culminating on 30thAugust 2014

Picture Courtesy – Hyatt Hotel Delhi

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