Cuisine Dreams: South Indian Bliss
While joy riding on a little rickety and old bus filled with foreign laborers, I noticed a restaurant labeled “Persian Cuisine.” I instantly thought: How exotic sounding. I made a mental note to remember where it was, and to get there as soon as possible.
After bringing a couple of coworkers there and finding it too meaty, pricey and overloaded with rice, we left and vowed not to return.
After walking about 100 meters back towards our abodes, I spotted a little dive that could only be noticed while on foot. I walked in and saw signs for different masala dishes. I immediately thought: Great. Here’s another new place that I’ve got to check out as soon as possible.
I’ve ranted and raved over a couple of South Indian restaurants in Riyadh. But now, there’s a place that ranks even higher. I’ve found it to be better than the other two combined.
I’ve now been to this new South Indian place on a handful of occasions. It’s currently my favorite restaurant in Riyadh. Let me show you why:
This fiery Soft Shell Crab Masala may be the best thing I’ve eaten during my three months in Saudi’s capital. The flesh was succulent and cooked to perfection. The sauce was super-spicy and delicious. The coriander or cilantro complimented the shellfish well.
While in India I stuck exclusively to vegetables. However, it was the first time I’d ever even heard of eating mutton or sheep. Because I’m open to trying everything, I had to go along with this Mutton Masala which tasted as good as it looks.
Here I had the opportunity to try quail for the first time. Like all of the sauces, the one that’s part of this Quail Masala was absolutely delicious. The quail itself I found to be a little bit overcooked. This was the only dish that I don’t want to have again. I found it awkward eating small amounts of meat off of a little bird. It’s just not the thing for someone who thought they’d be a full-fledged vegetarian just a short time ago.
Here you see South Indian Thali. The five items on each tray include Parotta (bread in the center), potatoes and veggies, dal, gravy and eggplant or aubergine (bottom right of the tray). This subcontinental style eggplant has made me a lover of this vegetable that I’d never cared for. It’s either that my taste buds have matured or it’s the way they prepared it.
This entire table full of gastronomical bliss including chai and water cost 71 Rial or $18.93 and was split four ways. There are no taxes in this part of the world. Tips are not expected at inexpensive places such as this one.
NOTE: The Hindi word masala means mixed.
Al-Afra Restaurant is located on Kalid Bin Waleed Street in the Rowdha district of Riyadh. Besides the staple Thali dish, if you want to know what other four to six dishes are on the menu, you can call Navas at 0506991269.
I highly recommend eating there in the evenings after 7 pm as that’s when the exotic dishes are available. During lunch there are only two options plus the Thali.
Have you ever had Indian food that looks this good?