Saturday, March 22, 2008

Samar, Bali Lane

I had tried looking up this place sometime late last year when I visited Alaturka, and saw that the older premise at Kandahar Street had closed. Stuck upon the doors, was a crude paper sign which read that they have moved to somewhere in the east side. So I was actually taking a stroll down to Cafe Le Caire and was surprised to come across the current location for Samar (17 Bali Lane, tel : 6398 0530). Yours truly decided to give these guys a try instead and pend the former location for another time.

I don't know how long has the establishment been located at the current premise in Bali Lane, but the feeling I got was that they hadn't been here for too long. They seem to be out of several of the items on the menu and the place was quiet. Which made it a rather pleasant sanctum to hide from the bustle of being at the outskirts of the city area. In fact, the second storey of the restaurant was a rug strewn area with low coffee tables that one had to enter without footwear. Throw in a couple of shishar smoking customers around and the covered up windows, it did look like some sort of a Middle Eastern opium den. It was such a nice quiet seclusion that I lingered around for more than two hours, rooted to the peacefully atmospheric......albeit slightly musty smelling sanctuary.

The food in this place revolves around the usual styled grilled meats, Arabic flat breads, dips and various caffeine and milk based beverages. They were out of saffron and couscous for today which was a bummer for me. So we ended up having a serving of the hummus and a grilled meat platter which I had originally thought to be a large serving meant for two. It turned out that it's probably just good for one very hungry person. The hummus had more lemon juice than most and was otherwise quite the norm for these pureed chick pea dips, but it came with freshly hot bread which was pretty good. The pleasant surprise here was actually the lamb from the meat platter which was tender that when I tried to pick a rib up, the meat simply slide off the bone. There was also a small potato which seemed to be infused with spices before it got baked making the root a dull shade of orangy brown rather than the usual yellow. I'll be back for these lamb someday.

I'm quite taken in with their honey milk drinks. Since they were out of saffron, we grabbed the almond and rose flavors. The former is simply honey and milk blended with almond nuts. So you get a sweet milk which is lightly accented with almond flavor and many sediments for you to chew on at the bottom of the drink. I don't know how these guys do their rose milk, but it didn't look or taste much like bandungs. The milk was actually snow white and the rose flavor was definitely much more aromatic then the usual overly sweet and flatter tasting pink syrup.

Service was slow but very polite. These people apparently take their time to prepare the food, but it did feel worthwhile on the whole if you're not in a hurry to eat and leave.

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