Levant - Middle Eastern Cuisine
I was invited to Levant, a cosy Middle Eastern restaurant located at Greenwood, for a tasting last month. I'd heard of this restaurant from acquaintances but didn't get to check it out as most of my friends are not into Middle Eastern food. 'Levant' means 'the sun rises in the east' and is also used to refer to the Eastern Mediterranean region comprising Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and part of Southern Turkey. Egyptian-born Executive Chef Hany Moustafa's menu at Levant showcases a wide range of culinary specialties from the region.Mixed Appetizer Platter @ S$28 Hummus, Moutabal, Taboula, Vine Leaves & Green Salad
I'm a bit of an Arabophile. I would be happy to eat fresh Hummus with Pita daily with every meal, which I pretty much did while I was visiting Jordan and Dubai. The Mixed Appetizer Platter offers an excellent mix of classic Mezze (Lebanese version of tapas) dishes such as Hummus (Chickpea dip), Moutabal (smoked eggplant dip with Tahini & lemon juice), Taboula (parsley salad), Vine Leaves & Shirazi (Iranian Salad).
I loved most of the items in the Mezze platter as I am a huge fan of sesame seeds (Tahini is a smooth sesame seed paste that is also used in Hummus). Taboula aka Tabbouleh is one of my favourite salads in the Mezze! It is a refreshing mix of chopped parsley tossed with tomatoes, bulgur wheat, lemon juice and olive oil. I’ve found that not that many people like it as its an acquired taste. Unless you hate parsley, you’ll find that the tart dressing helps to whet the appetite and to refresh the palate throughout the meal. I wished there was just a little more lemon juice in the Taboula but perhaps the Egyptians like it less tart? I visited Egypt in my late teens and didn't realize back then that there was a whole new world of Mezze dishes to discover. The Mixed Appetizer Platter is a Must-Try!Lentil Soup (Special) @ S$6.50
I was lucky that Levant was serving a special item, Spiced Lentil Soup, that day. Don't be fooled by the appearance of the soup for it was bursting with flavour! A tasty combination of warm spices, lentils and chicken broth, the soup left me wishing I had a larger appetite so I could finish it along with the rest of the dishes that were being served. I love lentil soup and given the cooler temperatures that Singapore has been experiencing lately, this would make for a most comforting start to the meal. The Lentil Soup is a Must-Try!Grilled Meat (tasting portion) From left: Chicken Yogurt Kebab, Halabi Kebab & Shish Tawooq A la carte portion consist of 2 skewers
Levant offers over a dozen types of Kebabs. I sampled three of the favourites from their menu. The Chicken Yogurt Kebab ($24) was my favourite because the succulent chicken pieces had a mouthwatering tang from the yogurt and the spices didn't overwhelm the natural sweetness of the chicken. The Halabi Kebab ($29) was made from minced lamb, parsley, onion and Arab spices. The Halabi Kebab was tender and chockful of lamb flavour without a strong gamey taste. Though saffron is one of my favourite spices, I felt that the Shish Tawooq ($28 - chicken marinated with saffron and spices) tasted a tad bitter that day (probably from just a little too much turmeric). I hope it will be less bitter on my next visit. The Chicken Yogurt Kebab and Halabi Kebab are a Must-Try!Lamb Shank Briyani @ S$32 (serves 2)
The Lamb Shank Briyani at Levant was hot in more ways than one. A very popular item on the menu, the Lamb Briyani was served steaming hot in a beautiful brass pot. Fork-tender and juicy chunks of lamb fell off the bone when prodded, adding more flavour to the saffron-infused rice that lay beneath. Though it was served with a bowl of gravy for added flavour, I preferred to eat the Briyani on it's own. The thick gravy that clung to the meat and formed a paste-like coating on the rice grains was so rich and flavourful, a little went a long way with the rice. In spite of how full I was feeling, I ate almost half a pot of Lamb Shank Briyani. The Lamb Shank Briyani is absolutely a Must-Try!Baagh-lava, Turkish Delight & Turkish Coffee
By this time, I was feeling really lethargic from having had so much to eat. Yet I had to sample some Baagh-lava and Turkish Delight, for (um) research purposes. The Baagh-lava had a light and crispy crust and a sweet and nutty filling. Thankfully, it wasn't cloyingly sweet unlike the ones I had in Jordan. I lo0ked warily at the Turkish Delight because just about every one that I've tried have always been too sweet for my taste. This was no exception even though it was made less sweet than usual. I needed a caffeine fix to rouse me from the food coma that my body was lapsing into. The Turkish Coffee ($5) here did a good job of it. Unfortunately, they'd run out of Green Cardamom that day, else I would have had been able to savour the version that I like best - slightly sweetened and with a few cardamom pods.
The restaurant seats 56 diners and is child-friendly. Cosy without being excessively opulent, the interior combines modern minimalism with elaborate Middle Eastern elements.Levant Middle Eastern Restaurant 8 Greenwood Avenue, Singapore 289198 Reservations: +65 9640-4866 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LevantSingapore Operating Hours: Lunch: 12 pm to 3 pm (daily) Dinner: 5.30 pm to 11 pm (weekdays) & 5.30 pm to 12 am (weekends) * Complimentary valet parking. ** Belly Dance performances from 8 pm to 9 pm on Saturdays
PS: Thank you, Suresh & Anil, for the kind hospitality.