By Andreas Vou
There is never a shortage of restaurants to choose from in Larnaca, especially the closer to the centre you go. Most streets are lined with a number of different establishments offering various cuisines which can leave you struggling which one to choose.
Sawa Syrian restaurant, located in one of the side roads not far behind the Pancyprian Lyceum, remains one of Larnaca’s hidden gems. From the outside, it looks like an elegant house and somewhat blends in with the surroundings but, inside, it is a luxurious setting for a very high quality restaurant serving up a wide range of Syrian food from dips, salads, vegetarian dishes, seafood, meat, everything.
Dips such as its homemade Hommus or Moutabbal, made from grilled aubergines mixed with tahini and yogurt, are always a great way to ready the pallet.
The highlights of what is an endless list must be the Shish Tawouk, which is succulent charcoal-grilled pieces of marinated boneless chicken breast, as well as the Shukaf which is its lamb equivalent.
Not to be distracted by usual options, for main course, I opted for the Fattet Lahm, which is a rich traditional meal made of rice, chunks of lamb mixed with fried pieces of bread, tahini and yogurt, and also a Jarjeer salad made with fresh rocket leaves, tomatoes, onions dressed with olive oil and lemon. In what was a very generous portion, the main meal set me back €10 while the side salad was €3.50; value hard to match in independently run restaurants in Cyprus.
The meat was cooked to perfection while there was a typically rich infusion of flavour within the dish as Middle Eastern cuisine is well known for.
There is a wide range of cold and hot appetizers which can also be ordered along with the main meal. Standouts include Fater Pane which is fried mushroom covered in breadcrumbs as well as the Bazinjan Makle – which are pieces of fried aubergine covered in a sauce of your choice, either pomegranate or tahini.
Sawa has a very warm atmosphere which makes for a more than pleasurable dining experience. Each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9pm there is live music which adds to the already vibrant ambiance.
The menu contains a vast selection of wines to choose from but instead I went for its much-touted homemade sangria, which was made to perfection. Most restaurants and even self-proclaimed specialised cocktail bars often make a poor spinoff version of the famous Spanish drink but this one contained all the right ingredients and measurements.
Service is always of a high standard at Sawa, with waiters and managers always attentive – there is a genuine sense that they take care about the food they make and are therefore keen to know how the meal is going.
After a big meal, it’s easy to shun dessert with a simple coffee to help the food go down – their coffee is indeed of high quality – but it was hard for me to resist their homemade
Mahallepi, a lightly scented aromatic Syrian milk pudding which is served with sweet rose water and chunky pieces of pistachio nuts. It is not the most exotic, nor that hard to find in what is a very common dessert in Cyprus but, being a traditional Syrian recipe, you can really taste the difference in comparison to others found elsewhere.
If you have a real sweet tooth, however, perhaps an assortment of Lebanese sweets will be to your fancy, but you might need some water to wash them down.
All in all, Sawa Syrian Restaurant provides an excellent dining experience, full of quality in both food and service.
SPECIALTY: Shish Tawouk or Shukaf (both €8) and homemade Sangria to drink
WHERE: 21 Kimonos Street, Larnaca
CONTACT: 24 400420
PRICE: €25 – appetizer, main, side salad, dessert, drink