Arabian Bites

Tifa Asrianti in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - From the curious spelling of the restaurant name, its location off the trendy Jakarta dining belt and its modest appearance, there is a friendliness about Sindbad restaurant that other eateries lack and make it an ideal place for families. And it also has very good food.

Located on Jl. K.S. Tubun, Central Jakarta, the one-story Middle Eastern restaurant's rust-colored fa?ade bears the caricature of a grinning young man in a turban holding a plate (Mr. Sinbad we presume). The interior is similarly unpretentious, with its colorful carpets and dim lighting creating an intimate ambiance.

The humble appearance belies the fact that the restaurant's hearty fare has won international acclaim, including the 25th International Award for the Tourist, Hotel and Catering Industry in Madrid in January 2000, and the Quality Summit, New York 2001, Gold Award for Excellence and Business Prestige by Jose E. Prieto, July 12, 2001.

The meat-focused cuisine includes kaware or magadim soup (lamb's leg soup) and syawerma (sandwich with chicken or beef and potatoes). For diners interested in more than meat, vegetable-based dishes are found in the cold appetizer section, such as hummus (ground chickpeas), mutabbal (eggplant dip) and idham musyakal (mixed vegetables with tomato sauce).

With most patrons eating the traditional communal Middle Eastern way in groups of families or friends, dishes come in large portions. For those who want to satisfy their carnivorous urgings, there is a quarter lamb or a half lamb to chew on. The waitress said that one of the restaurant's best-selling dishes is Khuzi Fahat Mashwi, leg of lamb marinated in spices and grilled.

That would have been too much to stomach for me as the lone female guest on this particular weekday afternoon. I sought dining tips for one person from the waitress, who happily recommended rice dishes. The restaurant has four types of rice dishes: Indian-style biryani and kebuli, Yemen-style mandi and Saudi Arabian-style kabsah.

The waitress gave samples of each dish for me to choose from (I opted for the mandi and kabsah, as the restaurant can prepare one dish with two types of rice). She said Indonesians usually order kebuli or biryani, while foreigners prefer mandi or kabsah. Diners also may ask for the addition of meat with their rice.

Another tasty dish suitable for a single diner is sambusak (meat-stuffed curry puffs, similar to samosa), with a filling of chicken or lamb. They can also prepare it with cheese, which the chef dolls out in generous portions.

For my beverage, I chose the date smoothie topped with whipped cream and chopped dates, a perfect drink to replenish my energy after battling the traffic in the scorching Jakarta sun.