The Levant, a region of the world steeped in history, culture and renowned for it’s great food…and also the buzzword de jour of many primarily Lebanese restaurant trying to stand out and Tawasy Restaurant & Grill is no different.
The borderline clinical feeling casual dining restaurant with its grey and sky blue palette doesn’t initially scream Levant, Mediterranean or even Middle Eastern with the only nods to the regional inspirations being a few – albeit beautiful – hand painted serving dishes mounted on the wall (sourced from Turkey) and what looks to be some type of olive tree decal on one wall. But it’s comfortable, it’s clean and it’s unfussy, perfect for its purpose.
The menu offers more than your standard grills and mezze which is an appreciated change, with Jordanian and Palestinian inspired dishes including lamb mansaf, freekeh, kofta b’tahini and musakhan as well as classic shawarmas, kebabs and wraps the menu offers a fairly impressive choice – but vegetarians take note, there isn’t much on offer sans meat.
Our meal didn’t get off to the greatest of starts, of the four juices on offer they only had mint lemonade available, no orange, pineapple or fruit cocktail was left – curious – so we decided to forego the juice and stuck with water. From there we chose our mezze starters, a hummus platter, fried kebbeh, falafel, grilled halloumi and of course a bowl of fattoush.
My favourite thing about arabic food is the speed and freshness of the food, but when our hummus arrived more than 20 minutes before the rest of the starters and we waited about 40 or so minutes for everything I can’t say I was too impressed with service.
When our hummus platter arrived I was pleasantly surprised, a perfectly portioned amount of six different types of hummus just waiting to be devoured. Unfortunately our waitress didn’t take the time to tell us what each one was so I’m going to take an educated guess but I believe there was classic, roasted red peppers, meat and pomegranate – maybe liver, meat and pine nuts, pistachio and beetroot. As a lover of all things pureed chickpea and an avid flavour experimenter when I make my own I have to say I was expecting more but the classic flavours are their and it’s got a great tang; the beetroot one was probably my least favourite, a little too thin, I would honestly forego the platter and just order a bowl of your favourite hummus from the menu and enjoy that.
When the rest of our mezze dishes I am happy to say it was worth the uncomfortably long wait, the kibbeh was some of the best we had tried in Dubai with a perfectly crisp shell and succulent stuffing perfectly seasoned and generously filled with pine nuts. The haloumi was equally good, cooked to perfection the cheese was filled with flavour, not too salty; the fattoush was also a mouthwatering delight, with a light dressing and fresh crunchy vegetables it was a welcome accompaniment to the heavier dishes we had ordered. The falafel – much like the kebbeh – was perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside but still soft and moist inside with a vibrant and beautiful green inside that just screamed out to be eaten.
Our mains consisted of musakhan, sumak marinated chicken served on a bed of onions, pine nuts and served on a warm piece of bread. From my experience I know this dish to be flavourful and the chicken to have the most beautiful colour from the slow cooking process but this one was a little bit of a let down, the chicken was a little dry and had not be cooked – as promised – in the sumak marinade but rather had the fine middle eastern spice sprinkled over it just before serving, there was no flavour from the onions it should have been cooked with and seemed a little more like a put together job that a slow cooked warming dish. We also enjoyed the mixed grill platter with a delicious and perfectly cooked shish tawook and succulent kebabs served with a variety of side salads and grilled vegetables; it was simple, flavoursome and welcome on our table.
One thing I did love about the food at the restaurant was the portion sizes, perfect for one hungry person or two people to share the dishes are not massive as I was expecting they might be. I appreciated that they had kept things small and humble leaving diners able to enjoy their meal without feeling over stuffed.
Finally, for dessert we tried their kunefeh, a sweet, cheesy treat topped with crushed pistachios and it was a thumbs up, so save room!
My final piece of advice for anyone considering visiting this restaurant is to research a few dishes and familiarize yourself with some of the things on the menu before you go as the staff are not always the most knowledgable or helpful when you are unfamiliar with dishes. I really do hope that many of the problems I noticed during our visit to Tawasy Restaurant & Grill were just teething issues and soon the eatery finds its feet and becomes a go to for casual arabic dining in Dubai Festival City, but for now I would say it is worth a visit but expect some speed bumps.
This is a sponsored post. I was compensated, but all opinions are my own.