A Beautiful Date

IT’S THE ONLY “date” that we’re legally allowed to have here in Riyadh and it is high-time that we finally dived into this delectable dessert with Bateel dates and Bateel Cafe
The date, which is known to be the Holy Fruit of Arabia is in fact, the national fruit of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Born out of  the date palm tree (iconic in most Saudi Arabian emblems), this fruit is a part of the Arabian tradition and was even frequently mentioned in the pages of the Qur’an. From dessert to snacks, it’s also a famous fare during Ramadan where it is usually the first thing eaten during the Iftar dinner (you will notice that most of the food they serve during the breaking of fast starts with a plate of dates).
But we won’t be talking about your average grocery/street dates here, we’re going to be featuring the big name (if not the biggest) in the field of gourmet dates: Bateel who has been a plush merchant of these since the early 90s. 
It wasn’t until late last year that I had a hefty serving of Bateel dates, although I have heard of them before. I visited their branch in Kingdom Mall while touring some visiting foreign colleagues and the salesman was more than happy to orient us about the different kinds of dates that they offer:

The most popular kind of gourmet dates: Khidri.

The Khidri dates are soft and chewy in texture and are considered to be the healthier choice when it comes to sugar content since it has less sucrose than the other dates. It is also their most popular item. 

Khidri dates also come in other variants, with different stuffings to choose from: Orange, Lemon Peel, Ginger, Caramelized Pecan and Almonds. I personally like the Khidri with Orange because of the balance of sweet and tangy in its flavors. The lemon proved a little too tangy for my liking. The caramelized pecan stuffing is also another favorite.

The Kholas dates are delicate and characterized by a loose skin. I found this bunch quite syrup-y like in sweetness. Perfect match with Arabic coffee! 
The Sokari date is also known as “Royal Dates.” They are firmer in texture and not as sticky chewy than the rest.

The Segai date is easy to spot with its distinctive appearance of being somewhat two-toned: a crunchy side on end and sleek on the other.

Also referred to as California-style dates, the Madjool‘s amber-colored flesh tastes of honey, caramel and honey rolled into one. Other Arabian countries call this the Fruit of Kings.

The Wanan date is cone-shaped towards the end and has wrinkly, loose skin around it. 
The Holy Date!
Last but definitely not the least, is the Agwa date, which is the most expensive of them all! It is characterized by a much darker skin color and is not smack on sweet but more fruity in taste, almost like a prune. This holy date was indeed, specifically mentioned in the Qur’an by the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) in the Hadith “Whoever has seven agwa dates in the morning, he/she will not be harmed by magic or poison on that day.” This will truly be a special choice to partake. S’ considers this as her favorite amongst them all. 
Apart from the dates itself, Bateel also has other confectionary products that were just as luscious. 
Dainty chocolates, anyone?
Who could resist indulging in sugar-free chocolates? 
These pitted dates dipped in chocolate are UH-MAZING!
They also offer packed Baklavas by grams.
Seeing all these choices easily intrigued us in indulging in a box of dates. The salesmen were very accommodating and kind and it’s quite obvious that they were very knowledgeable about their product (rightly so). 
Fast forward to last week, S and I along with two of our girlfriends walked along Tahlia St. after dinner and decided to have some coffee and dessert at the Bateel Cafe
Upon entering, you will be welcomed by their luxurious counter filled with dates and other products while a flight of stairs will usher you up to the exclusive dining area. We arrived there at past 7PM and the tables were just beginning to fill up. According to our waiter, they are usually packed with a very long waiting list especially after the final prayer. 
We took our seats and enjoyed the posh vibe of the place and noticed that a lot of locals constituted their clientele. Since we already had our dinner somewhere else, we decided to focus on their drinks and dessert menu:
Qahwa (Arabic Coffee)
Of course, we had to order the Qahwa to match the dates that we were having. While I am not a huge fan of the Qahwa personally, it was our friends who actually enjoyed its taste.

Bateel Date Shake, 27SR
Since I got quite hot from our walk, I opted for a cool drink and saw their signature shake in the menu called the “Bateel Date Shake” made with their premium dates. I found the date taste quite mild in this otherwise average milkshake. Comme ci, comme ca (as they say in French).

Hot Chocolate
S’ order of Bateel Cafe’s hot chocolate got us all envious because prior to serving it, we saw that the glass was just filled with large, flat chocolate chips. And then as the waiter set it on the table, he started pouring hot milk over it that got us all, “ooooooooh!” According to S, it could have used two or more chocolate chips to flavor it up a little more but otherwise, it came across as mild.
Cafe Blanc
The taste of their Cafe Blanc is similar to what you would get if you ordered a white chocolate mocha in other coffee shops, but as you can see, they’ve served it in a more creative and memorable manner. And it comes with one piece of date on the side. 🙂 
Bateel’s Chocolate Fondant
Now if you know me, you know I must try every chocolate fondant there is in town. And while appearances got me ooh-la-la-ing, I missed the goeey chocolate that usually oozes out of my favorite chocolate fondant once I slice it. This in particular didn’t do that but in terms of taste, this fondant had some bitter undertones due to the fact that it was made from actual dark chocolates. Very rich, but goes well with the scoop of ice cream on the side.
Date Pudding

While the fondant got me feeling anti-climactic, this date pudding on the other hand raised my spirits high and mighty with its super moist consistency and the just-right sweetness of the date syrup that it sat on. This one is a winner for me. 🙂

While we only featured their drinks and desserts for now, Cafe Bateel actually offers an extensive Italian-inspired menu that we are eager to try on our next visit.

Overall, Bateel’s beautiful dates are a must-try for every Riyadhizen! I highly recommend it for every resident or visitor of Saudi Arabia to taste. Apart from the traditional aspect of it, there’s that Arabian flair as you bite into a Bateel date…rich, flavorful and compelling. Three words I can easily relate to the Saudi Arabian culture itself. 

Until our next food trip! 

(Woman of Food)
Bateel Boutiques can be found at: 

Kingdom Center
Ground Floor
T: 011-211-2042

Thalateen St., Olaya
T: 011-462-6019

Bateel Cafe 
Thalia St., Olaya
T: 011 293-6240

Arabic Food

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The Communications Editor loves rock n' roll, food trips and is a self-proclaimed, arbiter of taste.

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