IMAGINE ARABIAN SUNSETS meeting the European flair. Think of the aroma of a bustling grill amidst a palatial rendezvous. Discover and have a taste of a culture that has long been subdued. That is how I experienced the newly opened restaurant in town called, Lusin.
The Opening Soon sign beside The Noodle House was up for quite some time and it was to my delight to find that it was finally open for business! Lucky for me I had the chance to peek in before the actual opening which I featured previously here. This time around, I was able to check out more of the fantastic view that this restaurant had to offer:
The maroon-like colors showered by the bright yellow lighting reminds me of an Arabian sunset and yet the sparkle of gold accents and brass interiors brings about a certain “bling” of the 21st century.
The veranda is still hoping for some touch-ups during the time I visited, but at this point, I could honestly say that standing from this view, it looked simply marvelous.
Sitting in the restaurant during the soft opening, I was not sure what to expect. Outside, the sign read, “Lusin: Armenian Cuisine” – but I wasn’t anywhere near familiar to what Armenian food really is. The good thing is that the manager and crew were hospitable and kind enough to introduce us to what Armenian food is all about. Starting off with our drinks, we were offered the Pomegranate juice – which we were told, was the national fruit of Armenia. It’s color is also
the binding theme of the restaurant, and you will notice that the crew’s uniform is also adorned with this symbol. Too bad I wasn’t able to take a photo of both the juice and the men in uniform but I can assure you that both were delicious and a delight to look at.
Let’s move on to the starters shall we?
We were paraded with an exquisite line-up of all the kinds of dips one could imagine. Now, I am a Filipina and I naturally did not grow up to homegrown Middle-Eastern cooking despite growing up in Riyadh, therefore from here on end, do take into consideration that I have more of an Asian-tempered palette. Nevertheless, I am a hummus lover and being exposed to at least four different kinds of hummus (or at least I thought they were hummus) was indeed, beyond my imagination (and consumption):
Some Khubz bread to wipe off the hummus with. Note: Bread is “refillable.”
A parade of starters. From Top to Bottom: Itch – Traditional Armenian burgul red salad with parsley. Yalanji Grape Leaves – Stuffed grape leaves served with Armenian matzone yogurt. (Four sets of dips to be identified in next photo) Mohammarah (The red one) – Traditional Armenian red pepper paste with grated walnuts. Taboulah – Traditional Lebanese Taboulah from parsley, burgul and tomato and lastly, Beetroot Salad with sesame cream.
Clockwise from Top: Mutabal – Traditional Lebanese grilled eggplant mashed with sesame paste, (Forgot the name) but it’s practically hummus but with bits of meat in them; Hummus – Traditional Lebanese style; and Tajin Samak – Cold slices of fish fillet with sesame paste and onions.
Now from this set of cold starters, I must say that in general, they all tasted delicious. But what stood out for me was the Mohammarah and the Tajin Samak. The texture of the pepper paste coupled with the right amount of sour and a kick of the spice worked wonders with the Khubz bread. Also, it was my first time to try the Tajin Samak and it tasted like an Armenian counterpart to our version of a tuna salad, if I may say so.
As for the rest, the Taboulah was freshly made and the Mutabal and Hummus were richer than the usual ones I’d have on a regular basis (i.e. a weekend snack from our local diner). Like all fine restaurants such as these, it was obvious that the choice and quality of ingredients does make the difference.
Although, I wish I could say the same for the hot starters (featured below), for me, they were okay. But it isn’t something to rave about. I would rather order another round of Mohammarah and Tajin Samak.
Beef Bourak – Fried pastries stuffed with minced beef.
As we were enjoying the starters, I could already catch a faint smell of the grill coming from the kitchen as the crew were preparing to serve the main dishes. It’s a good thing that I was preoccupied with the good conversation I was having with my family that it was just a matter of time that another parade of plates invaded our table.
The main course:
If I am not mistaken, I believe this dish is called “Manti“.
It has meat-stuffed pillows of ravioli, blanketed by rich yogurt cream.
I don’t know how I was still able to down any of the main courses seeing that I was already stuffed with all the appetizers we had. Nevertheless, the scenery of grilled meat was too enticing to ignore. Out of all the main courses we had, I just have to give a standing ovation to the Grilled Lamb Chops. (clap, clap, clap) It was tasty, soft and such a simple dish that was made elegant in my mouth. Second place would have to go to the Kebab in cherry sauce as I have never tasted such fine pureed cherry so far in my life. The fine-ness of the sauce meshed well with the coarse, ground meat. I can’t say that there was anything special with the mixed platter of shish taouk and kebabs, although it would be a safe choice for those with a less adventurous inclination when it comes to food. The Manti, for me, was a bit on the sour side – as it should be. However, sour taste is not particularly my soft side.
I didn’t think we had enough space for a desert round, so my family and I settled for a shot of what they call “White Coffee.“
It is actually a herbal tea made from orange blossom water. We were told by our waiter that it aims to help one’s digestion, particularly after a heavy meal. It may look like a shot of vodka to you, but it’s not. 😛 The scent is calming and holding the warm glass with your fingertips is actually relaxing.
As we were getting ready to leave, the restaurant was already packed and most of the guests were Saudis and/or Middle-Eastern. I can tell that the restaurant was off to a promising start. In general, the ambiance of Lusin is nothing short of luxurious and I believe that it is best to put in your reservation before heading there. It may be easy for most people to assume that the food they offer is similar to other Turkish or Lebanese restaurants, but as the name suggests, they have dubbed it as “Armenian Cuisine” and thus it is the Armenian experience that awaits you at Lusin — a culture that is as ancient as Rome and Arabia and yet, not as known to the world.
For reservations and inquiries:
2nd Floor, Centria Mall,
Olaya St., Riyadh
Their website is currently under construction but can be primarily viewed at: http://www.lusinrestaurant.com