By Tracy Roth-Rotsas
The night I took my Glaswegian friend for a long sought-after Lebanese meal, it was absolutely gushing down with rain! Thankfully, inside, it was neither cold nor wet as we made our way to a central table with a birds’ eye view of the open kitchen. We passed a healthy selection of hookah pipes on our way to sitting down on cushioned chairs in an assortment of colours. I was relieved to see that people smoking these were in the outside area, walled in by the heavy-duty nylon/plastic that can be rolled up/away in good weather to reveal a roadside open-air terrace in the centre of the Limassol tourist area.
I find decorations in many Arabic restaurants to be overdone with gold and ornate items, but in this instance, the mis-matched selection of decorative plates on the wall and simple trinkets displayed around the space I found to be quite charming and welcoming.
Aromas of charred meat mingled with spices wafted across the room as we were greeted by a polite and energetic waitress, who handed us menus and promptly disappeared into the kitchen.
We considered many of the options but discovered that most were included in a meze-style choice. As we were quite hungry, we decided to go for it, aptly named the Premium Lebanese Assortment consisting of 12 different traditional items.
I won’t lie: it started badly. The first few dishes were hummus, baba ganouj and dolmades and their presentation was lovely. Unfortunately, my friend quickly noted that the dolmades were tinned (I’d never had tinned dolmades before!) and although accompanying the dips was some gorgeous warm pitta, the dips themselves were very bland and quite flavourless – hugely disappointing.
Eggplant moussaka followed, which was tastier and more flavoursome, along with the chicken shawarma platter which looked extremely appetising and I’m happy to say, actually was! The meat was nicely spiced and quite moist, not oily or dried out and was accompanied by some salad items, and pitta with a tomato base and sprinkles of coriander.
Vegetarian options of falafel and sambousek were given the thumbs up by my friend, who felt they were nice and light and of a decent size.
The next item that arrived was the mixed oriental grill. Ahh – now that was worth waiting for! A substantial array of meats including chicken, lamb and kebabs, with a layer of onion-tomato-and-coriander-topped pitta to protect it. Lemon, cucumber and tomato pieces garnished the platter as well as some yoghurt and more of the bland hummus, which sort of worked at this point, given the seasoning of the meat.
The meat was mouth-watering, juicy, well-seasoned and absolutely delicious! The pieces were bite-sized and just small enough to enjoy a charred effect on the exterior of each piece, but large enough to maintain the quality and natural juices and flavour inside. Our trip had been worth it just for this dish alone and I regretted the greed of ordering all the rest, wishing I’d just focussed on this one as in the end it was too much for us, and we didn’t manage to finish it all.
We had been given the choice of tabbouleh or Fattoush, and we opted for the latter, as it’s one of my favourite dishes. Full of lovely, crisp vegetables, its lemony vinaigrette dressing was refreshing to the palate and only served to enhance the flavours of the meat dishes.
Our plates were removed and we waited for the included dessert – a Lebanese sweet of the day. And we waited. And waited. Finally – after about half an hour – we received a few tiny pieces of Arabic pistachio sweets, which we had with our tea and coffee, giggling at our interpretation of what Sweet of the Day actually implied.
Overall, our experience was a positive one. The atmosphere of the Yasemin was cosy but its size ample enough for larger parties. The meat was the definitely the highlight of the meal and for just over €20 per person, we found the evening’s fare to be pretty good value for money.
SPECIALTY Arabic food
WHERE Yasemin Lebanese Cuisine, Ampelakion Street 2, Limassol
CONTACT 25-102851, www.facebook.com/yaseminlebanesecuisine
HOW MUCH Premium Lebanese Assortment €21 per head