I’ve never really tried Lebanese food here in Kuala Lumpur so when the invitation came, via FatBoyBakes, to check out Al-Amar Express, I took the opportunity to do so. While I had eaten Middle Eastern food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I was curious to see how Lebanese cuisine fares here.
Poised on a very strategic spot on the famed Bukit Bintang sidewalk at the Fahrenheit 88 shopping mall, Al-Amar Express attracts loads of customers – be they curious locals, tourists or real afficionados of Middle Eastern cuisine. Spotting a modern, hip and contemporary theme, it’s easy to see why the restaurant is such a hit. Lounging on custom-made furniture, patrons were comfortably seated, enjoying their drinks, food and for some, shisha too! The conversation-piece is of course their feature panel with floral motif cut-outs and fitted out in muted red lighting.
Warmly welcomed by Ralph Zeidan (Sales & Marketing Director), we had a long and leisurely sampling of Al-Amar Express’ signature dishes. According to Ralph, the Lebanese love to take time to relax and chill-out with some chicha, wine or beer before going on to food. After some “chillaxing”, we were presented with a variety of appetizers which consisted of mezze, bread and salads.
I learned from Ralph how to fold or roll up the pieces of flat bread and plunge them into the dips served. Yes, you gotta eat this the authentic Lebanese way… and they taste better with sips of their Almaza beer!
We had Labneh, Lebanese cream cheese made from strained yoghurt & topped with olive oil, Moutabal – mashed aubergine mixed with sesame seed paste & lemon juice and Hommos – mashed chick peas and sesame seed paste topped with olive oil … we dipped all these with Lebanese flat breads. The Tabbouleh was not to be missed – a tangy salad of parsley, bulgur wheat, tomatoes, onions with olive oil and lemon dressing. The Warak Enab took a bit of “acquired tasting” though – grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and parsley as the saltish and sourish flavours were very strong. We had some dainty pastries too … Beef Sambousik, Spinach Fatayer and Lebanese Cheese Rolls.
The mains came next…
The Al-Amar Burger – a chargrilled well-seasoned beef patty with melted cheddar cheese, tomato, pickles and onions in between a burger bun, served with thick fries by the side. At this point, we were joined by Joseph Sabeh Afaki, the owner of the restaurant. He showed us the “perfect” way of eating this burger: lining up pieces of the fries on top of the beef patty, slather them generously with their signature garlic dip before sandwiching back everything in place… then take a huge bite and enjoy! So there you have it – a mouthful of tantalizing flavours, aromas and textures in a burger!
Platter of Mixed Chawarma – pieces of grilled chicken and lamb, best eaten with a squeeze of lemon and smearing some of the garlic dip as well.
Falafel – fried beans, chickpea paste, turnip pickles, lettuce, parsley, sesame seed paste sandwiched rolled in thin Lebanese bread. This is a favourite with many…. delicious and easy to eat!
Makanek – baguette sandwich with filling of lamb sausage, tomatoes, pickles and a dash of lemon dressing. I found the lamb sausage was a tad on the salty side.
And then we had the Lebanese Pizzas – Manakeesh…
We had the Spicy Chicken and Kafta manakeesh… totally decadent with thick gooey Lebanese cheese! The fresh basil leaves was a nice touch, complementing the richness of the cheese somewhat.
A whole Roasted Chicken… which was served covered demurely with a thin bread…
We had to do the honours of unveiling the chicken… and letting out the spicy aroma which hit us straight in the nostrils, in a very good way. A well-marinated chicken, roasted to a golden hue, its skin deliciously crispy and the meat oozing with aromatic juices.
We were pretty stuffed by then… but then our gracious hosts insisted we must try their Desserts… something most of us could not resist!
There’s the Lebanese sweet – Achtalieh, own-made icecreams and creme caramel, a clear French influence. Not surprising as Lebanon was under the French after World War 1 upon the defeat of the Ottoman Turks.
My favourite is the Strawberry Sorbet – so light and refreshing! Their Pistachio and Vanilla icecreams were very good too – creamily rich but not too sweet.
As you can see, Al-Amar Express’ menu consists of Lebanese wraps, chawarmas, salads, healthy sandwiches and manakeesh. They are also open for breakfast, serving a wide array of Lebanese pastries – such an exotic alternative to the usual toast and scrambled eggs!
Ground Floor, Fahrenheit 88
179 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur