Al Qalaa Restaurant - The True Essence of Inventive Fine Dining

A good dining experience is all about expectations especially when you are staying in a resort like Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, an isolated location – 2000 metres above sea level in the mountains of Oman, two hours scenic drive from Muscat – you’d expect something beyond the norm in order to have a truly memorable dining experience at Al Qaala, the latest addition to the resort. Mylifestylenews writes.

Designers of high end restaurants go out of their way to create weird and wonderful spaces and quite often miss the mark, but Al Qaala restaurant proved to be an exception on many levels. This signature restaurant in the heart of the resort is graced with the iconic architecture of a Musandam Tower. Beautiful light fittings and magical interplays of light and starry motifs painted on a domed ceiling high above the dining tables create an ambience that is truly inspired.

Dining high up in the mountains at night is not about light, but reflecting what the night means in this part of the Middle Eastern realm that is Oman. Spectacular does not begin to describe what has been created, but before we have even begun our evening of gastronomy you wonder can everything be equally splendid and indeed it was.

You must consider pre-dinner drinks and walk up to the 1st floor bar at Al Burj “The Tower” Lounge. We started off with pre-dinner drinks and were mesmerized by the interior design – not overstated but incredibly chic! It was quiet upstairs and we enjoyed the fact that we could chat and survey the scene without any interference from other guests who were seemingly impervious to this bar location.

Looking down at a magical evocation of stars and the ethereal astronomical sky that we live in and observe from a distance, taking design inspiration from Oman’s traditional forts, Al Burj is a Moroccan inspired lounge. Once a natural defence, prized for its lofty height, steep sides and inaccessibility, Al Jabal Al Akhdar was used as a fortress in the mid-20 century when a warring faction sought refuge.

Then when we headed downstairs to Al Qalaa restaurant for what we thought would be a quiet night, but it was surprisingly busy, yet our waiter did not miss a step, nor did we feel that other guests intruded on our conversation and enjoyment of such a memorable evening.

We were advised in advance that we had to try the Josper Charcoal Oven menu items - a superb piece of kitchen equipment created in 1970 by Josep Armanque & Pere Juli. It ‘s a premium natural charcoal lit grill, hitting temperature of over 400c and gives a unique smoky flavor  in such a way to leave meat at its most juiciest and tender point when served. So, that meant steak was to be savoured this evening. But before we had selected our dishes, we were quite taken by the Lebanese wines on the menu and decided that we would create our menu based on these wines and what a spectacular choice this was, aided by the recommendations of the expert service team. The sommelier was able to surprise us with a flight of wines from the renowned Lebanon wineries such as Massaya and Chateau Musar from which delighted and danced on our palate in a most unexpected way.

Steeped in the culinary roots of the region, Al Qalaa serves inventive Omani and Arabic cuisine crafted to a gastronomic perfection using time-honoured dishes and secret recipes. Food wise, it was so easy to identify what would be our focus for the evening. The menu is not big but very well crafted by covering most basics and most importantly, it was done right.

<Shorbat Adas>
Middle Eastern lentil soup with a twist served with crisp pita thread and a lemon infused olive oil reduction is no ordinary lentil soup that you would have had before. The silky creamy texture is light yet airy and the taste is pleasantly complex and delightful. A must order!

<Shrimp and Potato Fritters>
An unexpected way of presentation where crispy, fluffy and tasty “tempura” like prawn fritters accompanied with thick sliced freshly fried “black’ potato chips on a bed of rice paper cracker served with Persian cucumber yoghurt has become one of Al Qalaa's all time favorite appetizers.

<Whole Roasted Corn Fed Baby Chicken>
Stuffed with figs, orange and dates marinated in Arabic spices and served with butternut squash puree and white asparagus, orange shallot reduction, fig and plum compote. How can anyone resist such a combination of exotic ingredients used to create this inventive recipe? There is no word to describe how delicious this dish is but only to taste it yourself. Double Thumbs up!

<Omani Mixed Grill>
The mix grill comes with succulent lamb, chicken and Angus beef served on lemongrass skewers with Loubieh B’zeit beans, French fries – mint, lemon and shallot nage. Well marinated meats charcoal grilled bring out the best of its taste.

<250 gram Beef Tenderloin Filet>
Served with fondant potatoes and Loubieh B’zeit beans with a choice of peppercorn or wild mushroom reduction and we chose the latter. Such an incredible combination of flavour by highlighting the tenderness and juicy piece of premium cut meat. This dish with Josper charcoal grilled cooking method is certainly to die for.

<Traditional Umm Ali>
There were only two choices for the sweet ending and we had one each. The Traditional Umm Ali equivalent to some kind of bread pudding served with a local rose water crème Anglaise and berry compote may not excite you by its presentation but the milky custardy texture combined with berry compote is an elevated way to enjoy a supposedly known pudding.

<Al Qalaa Signature Chocolate Bombe>
This signature dessert filled with ganache, crunch mascarpone and coffee parfait and served table side with warm date and caramel sauce is simply the best!

The hostess was brimming with personality, the waiter was so knowledgeable about every item on the menu and the Chef and his team knows what they are doing by bring the freshest market produce from local farmers and the Sea of Oman. The evening was not hurried and we contemplated every morsel of food and every sip of wine, such was the elevated impression we were receiving and enjoying, as nothing was out of step with our anticipation. If every restaurant could match this level of refinement, then the gastronomy world would be a better place, because so many other establishments are lacking such essentials.

From the tableware, to the restaurant layout, we lapped up every detail and left with heavy hearts, because they managed to leave us wanting more, which is rare in this day and age of fast food and average service. Al Qalaa is not only bringing you ambient fine dining but the service is also one of the keys to an exceptional night out, whether it is a special occasion or special destination such as the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhtar Resort and Al Qaala provided us with a night to remember.

Tried & Tested:
Location: 5/5
Design & Decor: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Food & Beverage: 5/5
Value For Money: 5/5
Experience: 5/5

Shorbat Adas
Josper Charcoal Grilled Menu

110, Al Jabal Al Akhdar,
Nizwa 621, Oman
Tel: +968 25 218 000

Reviews are based on actual day of visit and experience. mylifestylenews reserves the right of final decision in case of any disputes. All images are photographed by mylifestylenews team without any photoshop enhancement and are the property owned by mylifestylenews unless otherwise stated. 

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