And now I feel like some Sem Som!

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Its a good time to be a foodie in Muscat! With all these great restaurants opening up, many cuisines are coming up and some bringing their own new twist to the mix…
Thats exactly what SemSom is to Lebanese food! The new twists on all the traditional foods make this place a must visit at least for its surprising new flavors…let alone the traditional yummies!DSC_0700

So lets start off with the first thing I had from there!
Jullab is a very unique drink, it has a sweet taste of rose but with a hint of date…I know, it sounds strange but this drink is very light and refreshing. Bonus…..you get to have the pistachios, pine nuts and raisins after you finish drinking, they become soft and soak up the flavor of the Jullab! (I must have had 4 of these!!!)

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Next on the menu was the famed Lebanese starters, the hummus trio and baba ghanouj.
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The traditional hummus is very flavorsome…. actually that’s where I heavily evaluate a Lebanese restaurant. If the hummus is dry or tasteless then its a major downer for me…..in this case, the hummus was so amazing I would consider bread and hummus for lunch! it was so smooth and creamy!
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Next up was the green hummus infused with olives…they did say Lebanese with a twist!
You could really feel the flavor of the olives, It does hit you by surprise as you don’t expect that much of a different flavor! aah very yummy!
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Ok seriously……I think everyone just wants to know about the pink hummus, well here you go! This is one thing that I will surely come here for over and over again! its infused with Zaatar (thyme) and sumac (a wonderful spice), and you can really feel the flavor of the zaatar! im a big fan of zaatar so having a creamy hummus with zaatar infused to it is perfect for me…its really making me hungry as i’m typing this 😦
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The baba ghanouj was also another flavor filled dish, but with the two hummus twists, it was the underdog of the starters, especially when you have the pink hummus next to it!
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One thing worth mentioning is the bread and olive oil! the bread comes fresh and HOT….its easy to get carried away and loose track of how much bread you consume as its VERY soft and it keeps coming.
The oil comes from Lebanon and it has a very different flavor from any olive oil I have tasted….make sure you add a drizzle to the hummus! if you want to really taste the flavors just dip some bread into the oil and you will see what I mean by “it tastes very different”….I’ll try convincing the wait staff to let me take some home! 😛
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The salads were up next!
Fatoush is my staple salad for lunch, so having one here with its new flavor was a much needed change! the sauce has a certain after taste that I liked and was not your typical recipe.
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I grew up having tabouleh…..when I was a kid, I use to have it as lunch or dinner, and it remains on the top of my favorite salad list! this was no exception, while i didn’t feel a wow factor, it tasted exactly what you would expect out of a good tabouleh.
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Next was another round of starters! (These Lebanese really know how to eat well!)

Laham Bil Ajeen (meat pastry) was brought to us and the smell was divine! after sniffing for a while we devoured it! my colleague Smitha who writes foodishly in love said “The pastry was soft, the meat succulent and packed with oodles of fresh-burst in your mouth flavours.”…I wouldn’t disagree!!!
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Next up was the Fish Kibbeh, this was my favorite starter!!! the crusting is made from borghul and fish, so you don’t get any of that fishy taste….instead, you are treated with a zesty light flavor and a rich after taste.
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The next platter was a mix of cheese, chicken and Lebanese style sausage all wrapped in a crispy coating!
The whole platter is a burst of flavors but the chicken stood out! big time!!! cheese lovers will love the raw taste of the cheese even though it is melted.
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The Kibbeh was ok….well compared to the rest of the dishes, this wouldn’t be on my top rated list….but as far as kibbeh’s go? this beats many places around!
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My initial response to the next dish was: Nop, noooo, Noop….NOOOOO.
I’m glad I changed my mind because oh boy this was a treat!!!
The chicken liver in pomegranate sauce looked appetizing but i’m not a fan of liver…
The first bite was a nice surprise, I absolutely loved the sauce and everything about this dish! it really shows that even an ingredient you hate can be made very well with the right chef…this opened my eyes to trying even more things that I wouldn’t normally order! By the end, I was just hogging the chicken livers :p
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Finally, the mains! after eating so much we all had to take a break, but then the mixed grill platter came and it was a free for all battle!
This is by far the best grill I have had in Muscat…..the chicken was so soft it could melt in your mouth. The seikh kabab was so full of rich flavors that my tongue was battling to identify them! but the big surprise was the beef cubes…..usually beef cubes are dry and over cooked but this shows you how they should be cooked! 
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After a break and some nice foodie conversations, desserts came!
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First up is the amareddine mehallabieh (apricot). The taste of this dish slowly builds up in your mouth and leaves you with a wonderful after taste! an amazing start but was dwarfed by the next two dishes!
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If you are looking for a traditional Lebanese sweet, then Mafrouket pistachio is the thing for you! Iv had one when I was in Lebanon and these guys brought that same taste!
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Next up was a chocolaty blast of chocolate ice cream osmalieh. The traditional Lebanese ingredients mixed with ice cream, pistachios and cream is the perfect thing for the chocolate lovers.
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My favorite though was the strawberry muhalabiya….the touch of orange blossom makes it so light, and it has a slight rose taste. its very refreshing and it goes so perfectly well with a Turkish coffee…..I see myself having one of these with a Turkish coffee on the balcony around winter here!
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After such a big meal, I wanted to draw up my favorites and put in a list of what I would recommend for a meal…..at this point, I have no idea and I just suggest you pick randomly! everything iv had was superb!
This place has become my favorite Lebanese restaurant, let alone the Lebanese ambiance that comes with it!
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A New Take on Golden Oryx

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I’ve always loved Chinese food! It was always a treat for my family to go for a meal and poorly attempt to eat with chopsticks!! Back then, the choices were limited …..and the one that you dressed up for was the Golden Oryx! It was one of those places that we all got excited to go to… and when we were invited, we felt like we had won something!

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Its been a while since I’ve been there……but this time I get a new treat! they recently introduced a Japanese menu which also happens to be one of my favorite cuisines!! We got welcomed by an awesome introduction to the new menu and a cheat sheet to remind us of all the dishes we were going to taste….and there were MANY of them!!! I won’t cover them all so ill just dive into my favorites!! DSC_0715 DSC_0714

We started off with the Edamame.
Already one of my favorite dishes, you couldn’t go wrong! and it didn’t. but there’s a twist! This Edamame wasn’t typically served……you get interesting condiments to go along! The chili paste, green tea salt and salty 7 blended spices were a very interesting addition to the salt typically served. My favorite was the chili paste but then the salty 7 spices were very unusual as well……needless to say, refills were ordered. DSC_0721 DSC_0720

The next dish I liked was the Peking Duck spring rolls… They were very well matched with the hoisin sauce but they needed to be just a little more tender….something I would gladly order again!

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But the big shocker for me was the tofu! I’m not a big fan of tofu unless its in miso soup….but I loved this! it had a very rich taste which wasn’t usual for what im use to from tofu. DSC_0723

The mushroom dim-sum’s were very earthy and flavorsome, I love the taste of mushrooms, especially the earthy flavored ones like Shiitake or Matsutake mushrooms…..The filling was just that, perfectly balanced and very raw! the parcels were a little thin but I liked them that way. DSC_0724

The Sashimi was next and I was pretty happy with it….little hint, they have two types of wassabi…..the first one we got wasn’t strong enough to my liking but the second one was perfect! The octopus sashimi was my favorite but the salmon wasn’t far behind.

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The best bits of the Japanese menu were definitely the sushi options that we tried  ! the three that REALLY stood our were cocktail roll, the three seasons roll and the negima roll (in order of photo from top to bottom) But the California roll (bottom photo)was my favorite! I think out of all the dishes this would be my second favorite.

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The Hunan chicken was also a highlight……after eating so many dishes, I would have assumed that liking anything would be difficult, however I kept trying to make some room for this. DSC_0749

My absolute favorite though was the szechuan chicken. everyone agreed that it was a favorite! its perfectly crunchy from the outside and soft on the inside! the flavors were just delicious. DSC_0747

The ups? Its a nice place to have a meal and a drink…..and the additions to the menu add flavor

The downs? The new menu has its kinks in using certain produce, while I liked the dishes that are on here, there are some that didn’t work…..but every single one of them was in the right direction. after talking to the chef, im sure he will work on our comments and get them to the same standard as my favorites.

What my meal from there would be like? Id start with the edamame, share a California roll and then get the Szechuan chicken with garlic rice for the main…..I haven’t tried the desserts yet but I can’t wait for the next time I do!

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For the love of food!

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The first time I went to Love at First Bite (L@FB), I remember my reaction…….This is not Oman! The creative concept i was surprised by is unique and I was very surprised that it was created by a passionate Omani entrepreneur! everything from the menu to the furnaiture was his brainchild.

The name just puts you onto the owners mindset! The satirical names of the dishes alone should make you try this place out……can you picture going on a first date and ordering “Marry Me”?

When you see themed restaurants, usually the experience isinteresting but the actual food isn’t the highlight……….that is certainly not the case with L@FB……the restaurant owner (Khalid) oversees the creation of the dishes himself and has his own inputs, so you feel that individual touch to each dish…how do I know?

Well……I was at the OpenMinds forum a while back, and someone recognized me from the Freezing Omanis, as I was talking to him and updating him on what iv been upto, Khalid walked by……he walked by at the same time that I was getting to talk about my food photography.

Khalid talked to me about doing some shots with his restaurant but these weren’t average food shots………..he wants the personality of his restaurant to come out in the themes…..and in doing that I saw how immersed he is in the love of his restaurants……….nothing less than perfect came out and I didn’t have to step into the kitchen once!

This was the nicest yet most difficult shoot I have done so far……….I spent a week just thinking of the concepts for each dish and a lot of will power to not eat everything I saw! and it got harder after I tried the food!!!

So lets dive into my favorite foods and images!

“I can’t make you love me” ……except if I offered you this heavenly sandwich……..the cheese and chicken are just a perfect match!

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“Deception” I tell you! ……this devilishly fresh asparagus soup tricks you into thinking its an ordinary soup but shows its true flavors at the first sip.

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“She Loves Me”…….you don’t have to take a gamble on whether you love this dish or not……the prawns are nicely battered and crispy while the sauce just adds that zing to it!

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“Lies”……This is definitely my favorite sandwich! the sauce mixes so well with the cheese and meat…..ok this is making me so hungry that im gonna go off to eat something now….

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WARNING…….the next photos aren’t for the faint hearted or anyone with a sweet tooth “Addiction”

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If you want something to share, “its complicated” will take the complication out of the equation!

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Or you can end the night with an “Affair”

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Well……….these are my top picks but its difficult to say as there are many more noteworthy dishes! the choices will just drive you “Bananas”

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All puns aside, this place has my attention……….and serving till 12 midnight makes this a perfect classy place to go to if you are out till late!

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An experience with Alfredo Russo

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Im a foodie…..iv always loved everything to do with food! cooking it, watching people cook or going out for a meal! so when I heard that chef Alfredo Russo is coming to town I jumped up and calculated my salary to book my experience!

A good evening for me is enjoying a nicely cooked meal with good friends and I do love going to the fine dining establishments every once in a while….but fine dining and experiencing meals from a Michelin star rated chef are two different things!  When I wrote the first draft of this blog I thought….nah I cant publish it, I feel like I might have enjoyed this too much! but when I talked to the people who I went with, I heard the same words.

Chef Russo got it down to a science, each bite was a real experience on its own as each flavor mixed….see what I mean when I said that it felt like I was going mad?

We arrived at the Husn hotel at Shangrila…a place I haven’t been to yet and entered Sultana which I will go to again for sure!

overlooking the rest of the resort with a beautiful glass wall and an even nicer balcony….it was the perfect spot for chef Alfredo to show off his magnificent food.

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Lets start with the …well….starters 😛

The veal wrapped tuna was so refreshing and unique in taste….the tuna was so smooth and it mixed perfectly with the sauce and the veal! a very unique blend of flavors which I didn’t think should mix but it was a perfect match! it was matched by the royal service…..all the waiters came at the same time! a whole bunch of them! they all served the dishes like it was orchestrated… but you know….pictures speak louder than words!

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Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised! then the next dish came and it was as if Alfredo Russo knew my taste! it was a beautiful polenta, a north Italian dish that is crispy from the outside and soft on the inside, which was laid on a bed of mushrooms and a delicious sauce……i smelled the cheese before the dish arrived!

Cheese, mushrooms, crispy outside and soft inside……how can you go wrong?! well you cant and each plate was polished off as we all got some bread and didn’t waste a bit of the sauce!

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The next dish was the most unique in my opinion…..it was a zucchini lasagna with Parmesan cheese but oh wow how much flavor can be brought out from a zucchini!!! it wasn’t your typical lasagna and the hints of Parmesan cheese just complement everything, that sauce was just the perfect amount to not overpower the other flavors and give enough attention to the cheese and zucchini!

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Has anyone ever asked you: if you had only one dish that you are allowed to eat forever….what would it be?

well my answer came in the next dish; a roasted lamb shoulder with pink peppers and potato cream!

By far the best thing I have ever tasted in my life……the top of the lamb was so crispy and nice but as you dig through it falls apart….it melts in your mouth!

the cream was just the best sauce for the lamb so I was confused….I loved the lamb alone and I loved it with the sauce…I never ended up making my mind!

I have a thing where I look for the best part of a meal (the best mix of pepperoni and sauce on a pizza for example) and leave it for the last bite so I can keep that best bite for last……with this dish I couldn’t….it was all just perfect!!

At this point…..I would realistically pay 100 riyals just to have this dish again…..im not uber rich so ill have to live off instant noodles for the rest of the month but it will be worth it!

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Chef Russo couldn’t have hit the spot more if he had asked me for my favorite tastes before hand….but you know…there was dessert too!! A chocolate millefeuille with mint……now im not a huge fan of chocolate but this was nice, a good blend of chocolate and mint and that bit of ice cream in the middle was just right! chocolate lovers, this will be your heaven!

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The chef came to us at the end of the meal and he got the applause of a performer on stage! I wouldn’t have expected less!!

By far, this was the best dining experience iv had and ill be looking forward of seeing what the shangrila will bring next!

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