Ismaeel Nakhuda wrote ‘A Turkish Delight’ for Arab News back in 2006. He recently submitted the article to Jeddah Food, here we have posted an extract of it where he reviews Al-Fairouz a Turkish Restaurant in Jeddah. A Link to the Full Article can be found here.
It isn’t rocket science to realize that Turkish food is very different to Indian cuisine. But nevertheless being a Brit I do have a taste for English-type stews, smelly cheeses and soups. Taking this into consideration, while seated at the Al-Fairouz restaurant, I ordered a range of dishes.
But before I really get stuck into the nitty-gritty and intricacies of what I briefly encountered at Al-Fairouz, let me assure you that Al-Fairouz is definitely not a grotty dump. The decor is classy and the place serves some of the most delicious soups, grilled meats and other Turkish dishes. More importantly, Al-Fairouz is immaculately clean and staffed by a handful of polite well-natured Turks.
When I think of a Turk I usually think of a big burly guy, with a large red nose, stubble, a bushy mustache, large hairy forearms and dressed in a wooly hat together with a checked shirt. At Al-Fairouz you’re definitely not going to meet such characters in fact the person who served me, called Ali, was a most pleasant and well-groomed chap. Sometimes, restaurants serve absolutely fantastic food but for me the arrogance and haughtiness of waiters really spoil the meal. The service, and care exercised by waiters is truly reflective of how passionate an establishment is about the foods they serve. I have to say that while seated at Al-Fairouz, Ali made a point of hastily, with the utmost care and attention, fulfilling my every need with a smile on his face.
So I sat down and for starters ordered Corbalar (red lentil soup), for my main meal a dish called Et Guvec (lamb casserole) with peynirli (feta cheese) on top and to complement the meal mineral water and a large glass of freshly squeezed ice-cold pomegranate juice. In the meantime Ali brought me a basket full of irresistible freshly baked warm flatbread that came straight from the oven and was sliced into manageable small pieces. While I waited for my soup, I became overwhelmed by the irresistible smell of the crusty bread and so eagerly began nibbling away only to realize that I was quite close to annihilating the entire basket. It’s at times like this that we really are able to test the competency of waiters. Noticing that my basket was about to finish, Ali quickly came to my aid and refilled my basket without even my asking him. Now that’s what I call service.
Soon, my Corbalar arrived, which tasted absolutely fabulous. Corbalar as a starter is truly wonderful, refreshing and warm. Just the type of stuff you could do on a cold winter’s evening in Preston, Lancashire, as the wind howls outside and the rain clatters against the windows. From what I gathered Corbalar is made of red lentils, water, olive oil, sliced onions, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt and pepper, mint, garlic and hot pepper. As I began gulping one spoonful after another, the taste reminded me of the Corbalar I had tasted while on holiday at a nice stone restaurant just outside Istanbul overlooking a courtyard outside the Mosque and mausoleum of Abu Aiyub Al-Ansari, the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Anyway, while lost in fond memories I was about to finish my Corbalar when Ali promptly laid out the lamb casserole straight from the oven. The casserole was in a small hot and dark cast-iron pot with feta cheese bubbling away on top. The stew could be seen below the cheese mouthwateringly oozing out of little cracks and at the edges.
Guvec is the Turkish word for casserole and is cooked in a variety of ways. At times it is cooked using vegetables such as aubergine, okra and tomatoes together with various spices and herbs and at times chicken or lamb is also included. Sometimes Guvec is made using either just lamb or just chicken and can be served with or without melted cheese on top.
Key ingredients include butter, meat stock, mushrooms, tomato paste, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, thyme, salt and ground black pepper. Finally Guvec is never complete without some fresh crusty bread straight from the oven, something that Al-Fairouz promptly and readily provides.
I dipped my bread into the casserole and tasted the flavorsome cheese together with the succulent lamb cooked in all those wonderful spices and herbs and was left in a sublime state by the delicious appetizing taste. I quickly got stuck in and having devoured every morsel, I was finally left licking my fingers and full-stomached.
Having traveled and visited Istanbul and Konya, the charmingly beautiful and picturesque home of the medieval Sufi-poet Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, and tasted local Turkish delicacies I have to say Al-Fairouz is surely an authentic Turkish culinary experience. The dishes served there are definitely not an Arabized version of dishes that perhaps even once stood proudly on the tables of many an Ottoman sultan.
Anyway, as I finished the casserole and had some water, Ali arrived presenting me with a complimentary glass of Turkish tea on the house. Turkish tea is extremely dark and very bitter while in Turkey I had an opportunity of drinking it on many occasions but was always left wishing for home brewed Typhoo Tips. Not wanting to turn down Ali’s generosity I quickly dissolved in my glass a couple of extra cubes of sugar and took a few swigs ensuring the tea quickly and speedily transcended my throat.
Al-Fairouz is a wonderful place. With the bottom floor dedicated to singles and the upper floor (side entrance) especially set aside for families and couples Al-Fairouz is a definite must and a delightful experience. The service is brilliant and like eateries across Jeddah, Al-Fairouz is extremely economical. The meal set me back less than SR30.
Address: Al-Fairouz Restaurant serves Turkish Cuisine and has branches on the following streets in Jeddah Siteen Street (02 6703911), Heraa Street (02 6227366), Al-Safa Street and Al-Rawdah Street (0202 721067).Al Fairouz,
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