Friday, May 15, 2015

RESTAURANTS IN OMAN: Bait Al Bahr's Sustainable Menu at Shangri-La

The OPNO girls were invited by Shangri-la [ www.shangri-la.com/muscat ]
to attend a media/bloggers event on sustainable elements the resort is trying to include in the food served in their restaurants. As I was free, but do not ever at any time in my life, ever eat sea food, and am extremely picky on top of that, and the other OPNO girl, is like, missing, Shangri-la kindly accepted that my Omani husband come and sample the food instead, at their beach-front restaurant, Bait al Bahr [ http://www.shangri-la.com/muscat/barraljissahresort/dining/restaurants/bait-al-bahr/ ].

Which should make our review unique, because when it comes to food, although my husband is experimental, and likes to travel and taste new things, his preferences are in-line with the majority of Omanis, unlike my own.

However, as this review was an invitation, we will only comment on food quality and mood/decor elements of the restaurant, as I never review service when someone knows our blog. Also, since it was a set menu, I will be a gentle critic, because I may personally never like something or choose it, on a set menu, and the point of this set menu was to speak about local elements in dishes. Which most Omanis, totally support.

Bait al Bahr is located between Al Waha hotel, and Al Bandar hotel, right on the beach. We arrived a little late, for I believe we parked at one of the hotels, and walked five minutes along the paved (important for Omani women who wear nice shoes) path just above the beach, to Bait al Bahr (The Beach House, in Arabic). We enjoyed the walk, as the lighting around the hotel pool and the along the beach keeps things pretty private, which is good, for Omanis or Khaleejis;).
We joked, walking along, that the hotel could be all the way to the end of where we could see, if we were talking in my country's terms, of something being a five-minute walk away, or it could be the first set of lights (less than a five-minute walk by our pacing) we saw, if we were going by Omani women's pacing. As we were a bit late, and we are into Oman's warmer months now, it was better that is was the Omani "five minutes" rather than my definition of five-minutes. We arrived and met the other media bloggers/attendees, and had some drinks on the terrace.

My husband and I tried two of three non-alcoholic options. We has the "Lush Puppy" which was strawberry, banana, and pineapple with cream (the pineapple was strong but I liked it well enough---would be delicious with a thicker cream I think or icecream but then we're going all Omani-coffee-shop on y'all). The first drink was our favourite (I forget its name), it was raspberries with nuts, but was the best of the two. I love raspberries.  With drinks we had nuts, olives (those were good, properly marinated olives---a rare thing in Oman), and feta cheese.
Afterwards we were invited down for dinner. I like the resort-vibe of the decor, blue water glasses, large conch shells for centerpieces, et al. . The napkins folded into ships reminded me a little of my French Grandmother, but on the plain wood of the tables, it worked without being fussy. As it is May now, Oman is hot, and the night was humid, so inside it was still a little warm for myself and we wished the ACs were a little stonger, although most tourists who stay in hotels actually don't like full on AC but us GCC people really need it. However, I did see couples sitting outside on the terrace, so I think in colder months it would be a really romantic location, with the sound of the waves from the beach and no road in front of you. Not the best catch-the-sunset location however, due to the sun setting in the West, but beautiful stars.
Before the appetizer arrived we were given bread with olive pate, and this cream of crab soup which my husband adored (I gave him mine as well and didn't have time to take a photo of it before he finished it so... ;) ). Then the chef came out and kindly explained the goals of the resort in terms of fostering sustainability in terms of their menu, such as helping set up proper hot houses (green houses) for growing organic and healthy tomatoes in Barka, which they hope to eventually supply the entire resort's tomatoe requirements with in the coming years.

I lived on a farm in Barka next to a tomatoe farm, so I can say, I really wanted to teach the farmers there too, how to grow nicer tomatoes and how NOT TO destroy the land by over-using it, draining its nutrients and covering everything in pesticides. Many farms do not care about sustainability of the land, and farm land is reduced to infertile dust. And... a fact you may not (want to) know, is many Omani famers now use what would be ILLEGAL ammounts of poison which goes into your foods (even UAE turns away Omani produce trucks at the border) so my Omani husband really cares about this issue. I am not a super healthy eater so I am like, meh, but I DO however care that Oman still retains an agricultural strip in the al Batinah Region.

So, the tomatoe consume: really strong tomatoe taste, which worked well with the shrimp (from Salalah) in a milk dumping. I don't know, as I had labneh or feta or something in tomatoe consume, and I like my tomatoe to be a bit sweeter (it is something people who make homemade pasta sauce often will echoe). But Omani husband loved the dish (it was his favourite) although he did say he would expect a bigger portion of shrimp if it was something he ordered off of the restaurant menu for a sit down meal. I'd say three shrimp dumplings for fine dining. My husband (Omanis in general) would say 9 or more;).
The main dish was tuna with potatoe roesti and kind of a grilled vegetable salsa. My husband really liked the tuna (although he remarked, as an Omani, he would need some more spices on it---which he needs on EVERYTHING) and the salsa. As he didn't remark on the roesti, I have no idea what he thought. I had roasted chicken for the main and the chicken was moist  and fresh---although I probably would pair  it with with something different than the same salsa and potatoe that went with the tuna mains. The vegetable salsa didn't go with the flavour of my chicken, and the texture of the potatoe roesti didn't match the chicken somehow. Still, it was super nice of them to include me anyways.

{The tuna, kingfish, and other local Omani fish, comes fresh from local fishermen in Qantab everday, which makes the taste better than a lot of restaurants}. My husband said he would probably like to order, if we come here on our own and choose from the menu, what the chefs do to Omani kingfish, as that is his favourite.
The desert was a labneh cheese roll. In my defense, I never ever eat labneh (I hate it) but the desert looked so pretty (even though my husband's--Omani-- relatives made fun of the biscuit when they saw the photos) that its "prettiness" made me want to try it.

I did. I still do not like labneh. And for the majority of the bloggers on my side of the table, they liked labneh but didn't like the candied fruit inside the labneh.

I would have liked it if it was cream with rose water or something, with that pomegranite on the plate.

My husband, he didn't like it, although said if you ate it with the mint garnish the pastry worked better. I tried that, and found it was true, but who but my husband eats the garnish, I wonder? I think my Omani sister-in-law would really like it, without the candied fruit in the labneh, as she likes labneh, healthy-ish pastries, and pomegranite and date. But my husband and I prefer fard (less sweet date) to khalas date. And I wonder how many expats or tourists love labneh and sweet date AND candied fruit?

Everyone did like the biscuit.

I think for sure, set menus are not my thing (I am the pickiest eater) so if we go back we have to go in a cooler month, at 6:30-7 to walk the beach before dinner, and 7-9:40 for dinner itself. I think for a seafood loving Omani couple, the privacy of the beach paired with the options in the restaurant it would make a nice semi-formal dining option for special or semi-special occasions. They do kindly cater specially made-for you options from the restaurant menu, if you, like me, happen to abhor seafood.;) Bait al Bahr menu here

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