Tony Romas

Rating: 3.1. From 28 votes.
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12 Reviews
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Mall of Arabia

Tony Roma’s…rings a bell doesn’t it? That’s because its a well-known American international chain of casual dining restaurants with almost 200 of them scattered across the globe, who is well-known for its signature ribs. Their byline actually reads “ribs-seafood-steaks.”

Here in Jeddah, their first flagship restaurant opened at the Mall of Arabia (MOA). I have already sampled Tony Roma’s offerings in their Alabang branch location in Manila before and reassured by that enjoyable encounter, I told myself why not relive my Tony Roma’s dining experience in Jeddah and invite some friends too who haven’t tried this restaurant?

I didn’t quite subscribe to the idea of Tony Roma’s opening in the food court galleria of MOA. Although they’ve cordoned off a generous seating area specially reserved for their customers and aside from the several tables and booths dressed in dark wood & brown mock leather they had inside the restaurant proper that would guarantee you a seat (pity those other food stalls whose customers are left hunting for tables around the vast courtyard!), the high-decibel noise levels of the crowd that reverberated and echoed across the cavernous hall is quite discomforting for proper dining ambience. I would love to see a big and spacious stand-alone Tony Roma’s restaurant, like a Friday’s or Uno Chicago, where customers would be more comfortable.

Their menu neatly featured starters, salads and pasta, their signature beef ribs, signature steaks, burgers and sandwiches, chicken and seafood choices. For families, they also offered a Kid’s Menu (a main entree – chicken strips, hamburger or beef rib, with dessert and a drink) for only SR 18 that would satisfy the young ‘uns.

For starters, we got a full order (at SR 24) of their famous Onion Loaf – these are large, breaded and seasoned onion rings deep-fried and formed into a tower-like block that comes with a rich barbecue dipping sauce. Delectably crunchy on the outside and tenderly juicy inside with the sweet taste of white onions… Instantly, that opened a floodgate of my Manila memories with every bite!

Veering away from the typical Ceasar’s Salad choices that normally accompany many a rib or steak dinner, we gave Tony’s Asian Salad a fair try. An interesting choice – fresh Asian greens with fried noodles, and sprinkled generously with red peppers, cilantro and sesame seeds with a choice of grilled chicken breast or hammour. We opted for a full order with the grilled chicken breast, which at SR 35, was enough to share between 2-3 diners with average appetites! What made it a stand-out was the special Asian flavored dressing (a sweet & spicy blend of citrus balanced with soy and garlic) and the crunchiness of the fried won-ton noodles that gave it some character and ooomph! (for want of a better adjective). So far, so good…

Finally, for the main entree, the signature bountiful beef ribs was a must-have. A half-slab order at SR 57 gave one four medium-sized ribs, the sight of which however left me and my friends a little disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong now – it looked simply tempting with the requisite charcoal grill patterns across the bone and amply drenched in Carolina honey sauce. What got me a little stumped with it was the sparse amount of meat that clung to the bones which I would simply describe as “bony.” I just managed to gnaw at what available flesh there was – a little chewy too – to satisfy myself. It was a far cry from the Jurassic ultra-beefy ribs being served up by Chili’s (one of their all time favorites), two tender dino-sized pieces which you couldn’t finish in one sitting.

Afterwards, we inquired with our waiter how come the ribs were wanting in meat and they just replied that this was their standard serving size – a convenient stock reply which left me with more questions than answers. Strange, but I recall my Manila experience was something different altogether. Maybe the restaurant, having just opened at the time, was still going through birthing pains and we caught them when they got a less than meaty supply of ribs at the time (take note Tony Roma’s waiters – a better answer!)

I would welcome anyone who’ve dined there recently who would say otherwise about the ribs because that would reassure me that this Tony Roma’s gaffe was just that – a temporary glitch – that has since been corrected by its management. When the time comes that somebody does, I would come back in a jiffy, if only for Manila!

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