The holidays are over and I am finally catching up with my writing. 🙂 It’s been a hectic three weeks from my wedding, to the holidays and to moving in to a new house. What can I say, but #adulting. Yes, I got married folks. I announced it on our Facebook Live Year-Ender report last weekend and suffice to say, both your favorite Pink Tarha ladies are now offficially hitched. I think I’ll write about my own wedding event and the transition that has followed in a later entry.
Anyway, before the busy-ness took over, we were invited to the grand opening of Ahwak Restaurant down by Tahlia St. where the Lebanese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Abdul Sattar Issa was in attendance. Janelle was still on her short vacation at that time so I decided to gather my group of “Smarty Pants” friends to come and join me during the event so I could have some people to share the food with. Knowing Arabic food, I had a feeling there was going to be plenty so it was a good thing that I brought along three extra stomachs to go with me to taste their menu.
The opening was organized by Kudos Events and the facade of the restaurant was adorned by a red carpet, a photo-op background and a velvet rope leading up to the ribbon cutting area for the big reveal. As expected, we were the only Filipinos in a crowd full of Middle Easterns. And because I don’t speak Arabic, I did not take notice when the special guests had already arrived and were walking towards the entrance. That is why, if you were tuned in to our Facebook Live that time, you would see that I started broadcasting quite abruptly without even an intro about Ahwak etc.
After around 10 minutes of Arabic speeches from the owners owner and the Lebanese ambassador, I simply and politely introduced myself to them before proceeding to eat with my friends.
The restaurant is decorated with minty green walls accented with light brown wood. It was spacious and we were seated in the open area. Since it was a launch, we didn’t get to order anything and just waited to see what they would be serving us. We started with their drinks, which I must say were rich in variety and equally delicious. T’was so good, I ordered one of them twice! Have a look:
In true Arabic cuisine form, we started with the mezzes. Their hummus was traditional and went along just fine with their hot, freshly made khubbus.
As the appetizers were delivered, we were already overwhelmed with how much food were in our table. But we gladly took a bite out of each one of them. My friend Z enjoyed the entire plate of vine leaves as the rest of us were not quite fond of it. I particularly took seconds on the fatouche and tabouleh salads as I like the combination of crunch and spice in the fatouche and the zesty fresh aftertaste of tabouleh. The sausages were not dry and sufficiently tender, however I would add a dash of falt into it for more flavor. The spicy potatoes with coriander were easy comfort bites with a kick (because of the chilli) and interestingly enough, I managed to take two bites of the fried liver in pomegranate molasses. If you know me, there are two things I never eat: liver and bitter gourd. But the sweetness of the sauce masked the grainy taste I always avoid, so congratulations Ahwak, you managed to make me taste liver! 🙂
For the rest of the main dish, here’s what we had:
At this point, I was extremely happy with my decision to bring my friends with me because I wouldn’t have had any idea on how to eat all of these food if I were by myself. You can see how much food there is, right? Haha. Anyway, as for the verdict; The shrimp was a tad too bland; the chicken kebab paired with the pomegranate sauce was really tasty because of the marinated flavors of the chicken were intensified by the sweet sauce; the mixed grill was textbook grilled meat; the pesto chicken…we LOVE! It was creamy and fulfilling to eat however I got feedback from our Instagram that when one of our readers went to the restaurant to look for it, it wasn’t in their menu. :/ I hope Ahwak makes it a mainstay. The baked chicken and yogurt were just okay. I can’t say they really wowed my palate but they were adequately good.
So, are we done yet? Of course not! We still have dessert:
For our final plates, we had a beautifully arranged Ousmaliyeh (fried vermicelli used as a dessert) with some custard and strawberry slices in between. The crunch of the phyllo pastry paired with the softness of the custard and strawberry provided ample balance. For the last photo of the dessert item, I can’t quite remember what it was called anymore, but I do remember it being some kind of a cheese/dairy mould that’s topped with pieces of Turkish delight. The cheese and tartiness of the sweet gelatin complemented each other; perfect to eat with some tea.
Overall, I would say that you would go to a restaurant like Ahwak mainly for the ambience and the service. The food is quite good but there is an abundance of similar dishes sprawling all over the Riyadh scene that serves mixed grills and other traditional Lebanese/Middle Eastern food. Their elegant and chic setting can cater to a more trendy and up-and-coming crowd who still like the comforts of their Arabic palates. And if anything, being situated along Tahlia street with a sidewalk coffee area is symbolic enough.