Five Maudies – Highly Recommended
Location: Souk Al Kuwait, I wish I could be more specific, I will try and identify it on a satellite map next time I go there
Short story is that I have had the best two meals in Kuwait in this tiny restaurant with only outdoor seating on the edge of the Old Souq (market) in the downtown area. The prices are incredibly reasonable, and have what appears to be an almost exclusively local clientele. That is always a good sign, not an American or even other foreigner in sight when we were there, but head-covered women with children, couples and groups of men are what I’ve seen here. They don’t speak English, except for one guy who speaks a bit and they bring him over when needed. The wait staff, including the chef and other back of house people, are all friendly and seemed genuinely happy that we enjoyed our meals and experience there.
Back behind the restaurant is a sheesha place, where you can get a hookah with tobacco and tea. We saw many Arab men there, socializing and drinking tea. Tea is huge in Arab and other middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan and Turkey and they make it well.
There are two parts to the restaurant, actually, and they specialize in Turkish type foods with a Kuwaiti twist. Meaning they have donner kebab, called shawarma (Arabic) here. And lots of grilled chicken and lamb, as well as the minced lamb kebabs called koobideh. I am not a chicken fan, but the chicken shawarma is to die for, usually served either on a bun or wrapped in a flatbread, with sauted tomatos and parsley with a yogurt tzatziki type sauce.
One half of the restaurant had the aforementioned types of food, along with other things like hummus, chicken and lamb chunks on kebabs, pureed eggplant, chili dishes, some stews, and more. They make their flat bread the traditional way, in a coal fired brick oven. The other part of the restaurant kitchen make various types of “pizzas” and stuffed breads of various kinds, again in a wood/charcoal fired brick oven. Next time we go will be to try the “pizzas.”
The first time we arrived, we were seated and, once the waiter figured out we didn’t speak Arabic he brought over their one menu with English on it. We ordered by pointing to the Arabic word for the dish. Not a problem, plus there was the English speaker who helped in a pinch. These folks were incredbly friendly and the prices were quite low. I knew the food would be good just from looking at the shawarma rotating in its cooker outside and all the wonderful smells. Although the photo I took when we left shows mostly empty tables, there were a lot of customers coming through, plus they were doing deliveries, especially of the inexpensive shawarma sandwiches. This is Arabic fast food and it is a pleasure to see fast food that actually has high quality.
My buddy Mark and I noticed that people ate with their hands and shared the food, then washed their hands in two outdoor sinks on the outside of the restaurant. This is typical and how I ate with the Afghan National Police. We did the same, although forks, etc., were available.
Our first meal consisted of hummus, lamb chili fry, and chicken shawarma on a plate. I had a lemonade (I have found that the juices in Kuwait are always excellent). The waiter brought over a plate full of arugula, lemon slices and raw onions. This seems to be the defacto salad here, I have seen it everywhere, sometimes it comes with tomato slices and sometimes feta type cheese.
There was a group of three teenagers in western garb sitting with an older Arab man in traditional dress and long beard. One of the boys reached over and grabbed a handful of the greens and put them in his mouth. So, how to eat the salad was solved. A sprinkle of lemon over the arugula cuts the bitter taste and makes for a nice contrast. This is a refreshing salad compared to the typical US salad loaded down with dressings. The waiter also set down a plate with three flat breads (nan) piping hot out of the oven and the hummus. Then came the chili lamb and chicken schwarma.
We dug in Kuwaiti style, tearing off a piece of bread and using it to grab some hummus, schwarma or lamb. I just ate the salad by itself and ocassionally tried the chicken and lamb sans bread to get the full flavor. The meal was excellent, the bread being tender, hot, and perfectly cooked.
The hummus was the best I’ve had here, but no garlic. It didn’t matter, it was smooth and creamy and tasted wonderful. The chicken was moist and had the char spots I so love that give it extra flavor. I don’t know what they marinate the meat in, but it is excellent. The lamb (I never met lamb I didn’t like) was incredible. It was mixed with a green vegetable, possibly spinach, and fresh chopped hot chilis and other spices. It was spicy, but I like it that way, and had a great flavor. All in all, a perfect meal in a perfect setting.
We went back the next day after hitting the Kuwait National Museum (excellent) and walking around the Old Souq some more (also excellent). This time we had the same salad, flat bread, and hummus. I ordered a pureed eggplant dish and grilled lamb kebabs. Mark got the chicken schwarma again and, of course, we shared all of it and dug in with our hands.
The stuff we had before was just as good and the lamb kebabs and eggplant were also stellar. The eggplant was pureed with olive oil and some spices I am not sure about. The lamb was grilled to perfection and very tender. We will be back here again as long as we are in Kuwait. I am not looking forward to getting back to mess hall food in Iraq!
Tags: arugula, chicken, chili lamb, doner kebab, Eggplant, flat bread, hummus, Kuwait, Kuwait City, lamb, lamb kebab, Old Souq, restaurant, restaurant review, review, schwarma, Souk Al Kuwait, Tanor Al Deera, travel