To celebrate my belated birthday, my best friend decided to invite me to a famous chef’s restaurant nearby Muscat City Centre. My friend knew the chef as they’d worked together on a project in the past. She always spoke passionately about his delicious fusion cooking style and his signature dish: Omani shuwa.
The chef had created many dishes using the traditional meat delicacy.
He’d stuffed it in pastries and bread; and served it in the traditional way with rice.
My friend was super excited by the fact that we’re going to his restaurant.
She’d texted me 2 weeks before telling me that she’d bumped into him by chance.
She told him about our intended visit and he welcomed the idea, saying to plan it before the end of the month, as he’ll be travelling.
We’d set the date of our visit a couple of days before his travel, so that we’d get the chance to meet and greet him.
We were both enthusiastic about our new adventure.
I’d never been to a famous chef’s restaurant before, as I’m more of a pizza and a sushi person.
Unlike my friend, who loved gourmet food.
She kept describing some signature dishes that we should try while being there.
The boulevard that the restaurant is on has many shops but few parking.
We struggled to find one.
As we entered the venue, we admired its massive size and grand design that included water fountains.
We were directed to sit upstairs.
The place was empty except for us and a group of friends, who’d just entered before us.
We wondered quietly about the reason behind the place’s emptiness and decided that the idea of gourmet dining is still new to many people.
We sat in a corner and the waiter brought us iPad menus, which I really hate.
The font and pictures were so small that I had to read out loud some of the dishes to my friend.
There were not many choices on the menu, especially the appetizers section that lacked salads.
The hot mezzah section seemed to be filled with Arabic bread rolled and stuffed with different ingredients.
My friend opted for the signature dishes: shuwa pastries for starters and shuwa and rice for her main course.
I went for the mixed mezzah platter (lines of humus, mutabal and some fried chicken) and couscous for the main course.
I said jokingly to my excited friend that I wished that the served dishes were much bigger than what’s on the iPad.
In my dictionary, the price you pay for a dish should be equal to the quantity of food served.
The waiter came to take our order and said that they’re running out of shuwa.
My friend was heavily disappointed and chose the chicken biryani instead.
The waiter disappeared for a few seconds and came back with a sheepish smile, they didn’t have the mixed mezzah platter either (what’s so hard about squeezing lines of hummus, mutabal and frying some chicken?) With an obvious irritation, my friend asked to speak to the chef and the surprise answer: he was in Nizwa.
We decided to leave and it wasn’t a surprise to see that the group of friends had left already.
It was almost 9 and we were famished.
We went to a Lebanese restaurant in the City Centre.
I smiled noticing the same group of friends sitting next to us.
The food and the atmosphere were great.
This made us forget instantly our massive disappointment in gourmet dining and signature dishes! Never again!
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.