Al-Hamra Tasting Session

October 30, 2015 Ivan Teh - RunningMan 0 Comments

Al-Hamra Tasting Session
23 Lorong Mambong

Opening Hours:
Daily: 11:30am - 2:30pm, 6pm - 10:30pm



http://chutneymary.com.sg/alhamra/Al%20Hamra.html

This was an invited media review. I did not pay for the meal during the free hosted tasting session.
Attended with representatives from HungryGoWhere, Chubby Botak Koala, and The Arctic Star.


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Delicious, Authentic Lebanese & Middle Eastern Cuisine

(Ratings: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = Worst and 10 = Best)
Overall: 7
Ambience & Setting: 8
Food & Beverage: 7
Service: 8
Value for Money: 7
Budget about SGD $32 ++ per person.


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Established by the same owners behind Chutney Mary, the casual North Indian / South Indian bistro, Al-Hamra is a Lebanese, Middle Eastern / Mediterranean restaurant that has been in operation within Holland Village for over 10 years. Having outlasted many of the other restaurants in the area, Al-Hamra is still quietly plodding along, serving up tasty, authentic Lebanese cuisine. Personally, I'm more familiar with Turkish cuisine, but as the Middle Eastern / Mediterranean area shares many common elements, Al-Hamra still treads somewhat familiar ground.

Al-Hamra Signage



Ambience at Al-Hamra is elegant, with a primarily Middle Eastern / Mediterranean theme. Paintings of buildings with Islamic architecture, the use of ornate framed mirrors, comfortable dark coloured furniture with plush embroidered cushions, earth coloured mosiac floor tiles, and the faux flame torch lighting overhead all contribute to the magical feeling of being whisked away on a magic carpet, to a setting straight out of Arabian nights. Really traditional! As befits the theme, Al-Hamra is not fully air-conditioned, though I still found it rather cool.

Al-Hamra Exterior


Al-Hamra Interior



Service at Al-Hamra is attentive and professional. Staff are polite and courteous, attending quickly to guests. I also commend their menu product knowledge, they're able to make astute recommendations, as well as introduce and describe each dish. Thumbs up for their proactiveness in clearing empty / dirty plates, and offering to change plates as well. However, I suspect staff may be overwhelmed during peak periods, because of low manpower.

Al-Hamra Seating


Al-Hamra Seating



Al-Hamra is one of the few remaining restaurants that still offer shisha in Singapore, until June 2016. Really destructive to health, but I love the apple flavoured shisha!

Shisha Equipment


Retro Shisha Equipment & Hand Bags



Food at Al-Hamra is distinctly Middle Eastern / Mediterranean, with a focus on Lebanese cuisine, which is very similar to Turkish cuisine, just with different names for dishes. Generally, I find their food to be of acceptable standard in taste, though it's much better when eaten immediately upon serving, when it's hot and fresh. Portions are designed for communal dining, and I recommend a minimum of at least 3 - 4 diners for it to be value for money. Prices are typical of most other lower-end fine dining Middle Eastern / Mediterranean restaurants, budget about SGD $32 ++ per person for a meal here.

Lebanese Meal



The Manakish Bi Zaatar / Zatar Bread (SGD $6.50) starts with a round, all-purpose flour dough base called a Manakish / Manakeesh, usually topped with thyme and various other ingredients, then baked. In this case, the topping is Zaatar / Zatar / Za'atar, a herb condiment consisting of thyme, oregano, knotted marjoram, salt, sesame seeds, sumac berries / dried sumac, cumin, and fennel seeds. The result is an aromatic bread, fragrant with earthy, floral, spice notes, with a taste that is fresh and savoury sweet. Texture is chewy and crunchy, rather appealing. Closely resembles a pizza, good!

Manakish Bi Zaatar / Zatar Bread (SGD $6.50)


Manakish Bi Zaatar / Zatar Bread



My personal preference is Turkish Pita Bread, as opposed to this Lebanese Pita Bread (SGD $6). The difference is that this Lebanese version is a bit more hollow and puffed up, with less dough, closely resembling the shape of a Turkish Balloon Bread, or the South Indian Puri. Still, it's a decent enough accompaniment for a meal.

Lebanese Pita Bread (SGD $6)



The Cold Mezza Platter (SGD $35) features 6 of their siganture cold appetizers, and is worth sharing between 3 - 4 people. Basically a clean, vegetarian dish. It could also be a full meal in itself!

Cold Mezza Platter (SGD $35)



The Hommos Beyrouty / Hummus Beyrouti (SGD $12), also known as Mashed Chickpeas Salad, is a popular chilled appetizer served in Turkish, Lebanese, and Egyptian cuisine. The smooth, mashed chickpeas are garnished with a blend of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, garlic, and sesame paste, served with chickpeas arranged in the middle. Light savoury flavour, you get the freshness of the sauce, and the rich, creamy, yet grainy texture. Highly recommend!

Hommos Beyrouty / Hummus Beyrouti (SGD $12)



The Moutabbal / Moutabal (SGD $12), known as Mashed Eggplant Salad, is a simpler version of the classic chilled Baba Ghanoush dish served in Turkish, Lebanese, and Egyptian cuisine. Eggplant is baked till the pulp is soft, gaining a savoury smoky taste, then mashed with a blend of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, garlic, sesame paste, cumin, and chili powder, then garnished with pomegranate seeds. No other vegetables are used in this dish. It has a savoury, smoky, slightly zesty, slightly sweet flavour, with a thick, creamy texture. Good!

Moutabbal / Moutabal (SGD $12)



The Mahshi Warak Areesh / Dolma (SGD $15), or Stuffed Grape Vine Leaves, is a savoury sour chilled appetizer that is an acquired taste. Crunchy grape vine leaves are stuffed with a mixture of Egyptian white rice, parsley, mint, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice, tomatoes, and garlic. The result is a strongly sour taste, with a hint of savoury, and texture of crunchy and chewy. I like that their version is slightly more refreshing and clean tasting, and also isn't swimming in oil.

Mahshi Warak Areesh / Dolma (SGD $15)



The Tabbouleh (SGD $12) is a refreshing, crunchy, chilled salad of rough chopped parsely, onions, tomatoes, cracked wheat, mine leaves, lemon juice, and olive oil. Very fresh, clean flavours, perfect for pairing with bread, rice, or meat dishes! Good!

Tabbouleh (SGD $12)



The Fattoush (SGD $12) is a refreshing, crunchy, chilled salad of diced cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, salt, sumac powder, toasted pita bread chips, and olive oil. Sweet with a zesty citrus flavour, and a slight sour taste. Texture is crunchy, juicy, and feels completely healthy. Excellent!

Fattoush (SGD $12)



The Hot Mezza Platter (SGD $35) features 6 of their siganture hot / warm appetizers, and is worth sharing between 3 - 4 people. Basically a heavy, meaty dish. It could also be a full meal in itself!

Hot Mezza Platter (SGD $35)



The Falafel (SGD $14) is a classic Middle Eastern / Mediterranean hot appetizer, a deep-fried ball made from ground chickpeas, broad beans, onions, garlic, coriander, and cumin. Texture is semi-crumbly, grainy, and chewy within, with a slightly crisp, golden brown exterior. Love how tightly packed this is! Taste is savoury and earthy, with a slight hint of floral spices. Excellent, highly recommended!

Falafel (SGD $14)



The Lahem Bil Ajine / Lahm Bi Ajeen (SGD $14.50) is a classic Lebanese meat pie, a traditional and ubiquitous hot snack found in almost any bakery in Lebanon. Often eaten for breakfast, it consists of an all-purpose flour dough pastry shell, stuffed with a filling of minced lamb meat, onions, yoghurt, pine nuts, salt, garlic, powdered cinnamon, powdered cardamom, lemon juice, and parsley. It's often shaped like a square pillow, with a crunch to texture on the outside, yet chewy inside. Savoury, but the minced lamb meat has a slight gamey taste though.

Lahem Bil Ajine / Lahm Bi Ajeen (SGD $14.50)



The Fatayer Bi Sabanegh / Sabanekh Fatayer (SGD $12), or Triangle Spinach Turnover Pastry, is a classic Lebanese baked triangle shaped hot pastry, commonly found in most Lebanon bakeries. A crisp, deep fried, all-purpose flour dough pastry, is stuffed with a filling of sauteed spinach, onions, tomatoes, sumac powder, pine nuts, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. While crisp, I find the texture of the pastry shell a little thick. Also, the filling was more towards the dry side, but still edible. Taste is pretty good, with the earthy, mineral taste from the spinach, but the execution in textures could be better.

Fatayer Bi Sabanegh / Sabanekh Fatayer (SGD $12)



The Kibbey Mekli / Kibbeh Maklieh (SGD $16) is a torpedo shaped minced meat ball / croquette, a hot appetizer usually served in appetizer served in Turkish, Lebanese, and Egyptian cuisine. The version here is made with minced lamb meat, pine nuts, cracked wheat, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, all-spice, salt, and sprinkled with lemon juice. Texture is crisp outside, with a crumbly inside, and leans towards being slightly dry. Taste is intense, with a strong meaty and gamey flavour, which is how it traditionally tastes, though it may not appeal to some Singaporeans. The lemon juice is key here, sprinkle it over to cut through the heavy flavours and dry texture, making it more palatable. Bold and unashamed taste!

Kibbey Mekli / Kibbeh Maklieh (SGD $16)



The Cheese Reqaq (SGD $12) was possibly the best hot appetizer we had here, an in-house Al-Hamra creation, inspired by the Chinese spring roll. A crisp, rolled filo pastry stuffed with feta cheese, onions, and parsley, simple but so good! Texture is crisp and crunchy, while you get the tastes of the mild, slightly pungent cheese, the sharp acidity of the onions, and the bright floral taste of the parsley. Highly recommended!

Cheese Reqaq (SGD $12)



The Meat Sambousik / Meat Sambousek (SGD $14.50) is a type of hot appetizer, shaped like a curry puff. A half crescent all-purpose flour dough pastry shell is filled with a mixture of minced lamb meat, onions, pine nuts, salt, garlic, lemon juice, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, all-spice, and pepper. The version here I didn't quite like, as the texture of the pastry shell was thick and doughy, while the inside was very dry.

Meat Sambousik / Meat Sambousek (SGD $14.50)



The Chicken Shawarma (SGD $25) is best eaten immediately upon serving, when it's hot and fresh, as it tastes much better. Loses some of the smoky, savoury flavour when it cools off. The stuffing of sliced grilled chicken, marinated with vinegar, sesame paste, powdered cardamom, salt, garlic, lemon juice, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, all-spice, and pepper, is served in a Lebanese pita bread, presented like a boat. The thin texture of the pita bread here means the savoury gravy tends to seep through quickly, making this messy to eat with hands. Taste is decent, and this makes for a value for money, filling meal. Good!

Chicken Shawarma (SGD $25)



The Al-Hamra Mixed Grill (SGD $35) is a carnivore's platter of grilled lamb chunks, chicken chunks, and minced lamb kebabs, served along with tomatoes, onions, and parsley. The best thing about this dish was the savoury, smoky, incredibly juicy chicken chunks, so addictive I wished for more! The weakest thing about this dish was the incredibly salty lamb chunks, though the texture is at least tender. Chef says this is the typical level of saltiness, as it's marinated to bring out this flavour... I'm not sure how many Singaporeans will find this appealing. The minced lamb kebabs were very good, moist soft texture, good savoury flavour without too much gamey taste. A hit and miss dish.

Al-Hamra Mixed Grill (SGD $35)


Al-Hamra Mixed Grill



The Lamb Cous Cous / Lamb Tajine With Cashew Nut & Raisin Couscous (SGD $29) is worth ordering. A warm, hearty, lamb stew, featuring tender, boneless lamb chunks and potatoes, served in a savoury sweet but thin tomato stew, presented in a beautiful traditional tajine pot. The couscous is nice, with a fragrant aroma and a range of textures; soft, chewy, crunchy. While each component is good on its own, it's excellent when paired, as the couscous helps to absorb and hold the thin tomato stew gravy. Highly recommended!

Lamb Cous Cous / Lamb Tajine With Cashew Nut & Raisin Couscous (SGD $29)


Cashew Nut & Raisin Couscous


Lamb Tajine



The Arabic Rice With Dried Fruits And Nuts (SGD $7.50) is a classic Middle Eastern / Mediterranean staple accompaniment. Incredibly pretty with its golden and glistening yellow rice colour, studded with raisins, cashew nuts, and almonds. Beautifully fragrant!

Arabic Rice With Dried Fruits And Nuts (SGD $7.50)



Staff tell me that the Apricot Juice (SGD $6) is made in-house. Felt it was decent, though slightly sweet for my liking. Texture seems like it was blended with a packaged drink, as it's a little too smooth.

Apricot Juice (SGD $6)



Personally didn't like the Beklawa / Baklava (SGD $6), as I was expecting a crisp, flaky filo pastry shell, and a crumbly interior of crushed pistachio nuts. This was the complete opposite with regards to texture, being dense and firm. At least the taste is sweet, with the pronounced flavour of the pistachio nuts.

Beklawa / Baklava (SGD $6)



The Umali / Umm Ali (SGD $7.50) is a warm Egyptian dessert similar to a bread pudding. Chunks of flaky puff pastry are baked along with almonds, raisins, full cream milk, cashew nuts, and sugar, till the exterior is caramelised into a sultry golden brown crust, with the interior a soft, delightful mess. Not too sweet, this dessert is rather filling despite the small serving size. Good!

Umali / Umm Ali (SGD $7.50)



Absolutely loved the Muhallabia / Muhallebi (SGD $6), which is a chilled almond cream pudding sweet dessert served in Turkish, Lebanese, and Egyptian cuisine. Made with rice flour, almond milk / full cream milk, sugar, ground almonds, and rose water, then topped with crushed pistachio nuts (a distinctly Lebanese topping) and maraschino cherry. Sweet, fragrant, smooth, creamy, luscious, decadent... excellent! Highly recommended!

Muhallabia / Muhallebi (SGD $6)



Overall, Al-Hamra serves up above average, tasty and authentic Lebanese, Middle Eastern / Mediterranean food in a posh setting, with great service from the friendly staff. The longevity of Al-Hamra in Holland Village speaks of its quiet success, and I feel it's worth visiting, if you're in the area.


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