On the top floor of Ninex Mall on Sohna Road, there is a desert oasis waiting to be discovered. Opened three weeks ago, FOA – The Flavours of Arabia promises to take you on an Arabian adventure without having to travel to Dubai for it.
The music is lilting, and the décor is middle-eastern. The outside has rooms resembling Bedouin tents as well as an outdoor grill, which, come winters, should be a welcome addition to Gurgaon’s nightlife. Right now, with the mercury soaring, I choose the cool climes of the main dining area, with the tents providing an interesting backdrop against the Gurgaon skyline.
I am greeted by the proprietor Debashish Bhattacharya, a veteran of the hospitality industry, with years of hospitality teaching experience in the Gulf. I ask him what kind of food I should expect. His simple answer is “authentic Arab food”. It is time to test his claim.
The first starter, as is customary for any middle-eastern culinary voyage, is hummus (Rs 349), a dip that is the best known symbol of the cuisine. The dish dates back to the thirteenth century, and is a staple in the entire Arab world. The rendition here is spot-on. Presented beautifully on the plate, the texture, the seasoning and the amount of olive oil added are all just right. Served along with pita chips, this appetizer is a treat for the palate.
Encouraged by this, I decide to order some starters. The popular (and restaurant recommended) shish tawouk (Rs 499) has two generous skewers of chicken chunks that have been perfectly cooked. It is however, a bit under seasoned, lacking somewhat in the Arabic flavours. The mutton sheesh kabab (Rs 499) misses the mark because it is tad dry, and does not have the moistly delicate mouth feel that is essential to enjoy this kabab. The accompanying babaghanoush and muttabal are excellent.
The middle-east is capable of doing great vegetarian food, and I turn my attention to trying some of it. The veg moussaka (Rs 349) excels as a dish. I am served its Turkish version, which is a sautéed combo of brinjal and chickpeas in a yummy onion and tomato sauce, seasoned with Arabic seven spices and sumac, the wonder spice that provides a beautiful tart flavour to the dish. This is a dish I would recommend heartily. The spinach and feta wrap (Rs 189) sounds more exotic than it tastes but has some exciting thoum and a mango-chilly dip accompanying it.
As I end the meal with the complimentary suleimany tea in the traditional dainty little cup, I am in no doubt that I have enjoyed this meal. But with this only authentic Arabic restaurant in Gurgaon being just three weeks old, it is early days yet. If it does fine-tune its pricing to more reasonable levels, and fix the problems that some of its dishes face, it is bound to be the hot spot in Gurgaon for the coming winter season.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 3.5 | Ambiance: 4.0 | Service: 3.5 |Overall: 3.5
Meal for Two: Rs 2000 | Alcohol: Not yet | Credit Card: Yes| Timing: 11 AM – 1 AM
Address: 3rd Floor, 1/2, Ninex Citymart, Sector 49, Sohna Road, Gurgaon | Phone: 0124 4088115