This was our second dinner in Altrincham in a week and the second where we were the only customers. Which is a bit of a shame for Samimi’s which has only been open for a few weeks. You’d hope it might be more popular. In comparision with other local Middle Eastern places, the room has an upmarket feel to it, the family members who work front of house are friendly and welcoming and there’s a shortish menu of Syrian/Lebanese staples. However, and this may be a big however for the local dining population, the restaurant is an alcohol free zone, presumably for religious reasons.
With most “ethnic” restaurants, we have our dishes that are the yardstick of a place. A seekh kebab in a South Asian, gong bao chicken in a Sichuan and so on. We know how we expect them to taste and can therefore measure any new place against those expectations. Well, for Middle Eastern, it’s baba ganoush and tabouleh. And Samimi doesn’t half hit the mark with these. Baba ganoush was silky smooth aubergine, spiked with tahini and with a sweetness coming from pomegranate molasses. Absolutely lovely, even if it was not as smoky as some versions. The tabouleh performed exactly as expected – lots of parsley, lots of lemon juice. Bread was some of the best we can recall in a Middle Eastern place. We also took an order of Harra’ Osbaou, simply because we’d never heard of it. This was a belter of a dish which, Google tells me, translates as something like “finger burner”. Yep, it’s a hot dish – that’s hot in temperature, not chilli hot. There’s lentils cooked in a coriander/tomato sauce, mixed with small dough balls (think gnocchi – and they may actually have been gnocchi) and small squares of crisp pitta. I could have eaten a main course portion of this, had they done one, and gone away a happy man. We also ordered some pickles and, as everywhere including our home, a jar was surely opened, rather than anything prepared in house
Speaking of main courses, they were a bit of a let down in comparison with the starters. Now, just to explain how they work things here – you’re offered the alternative of eating in traditional western style of starters, followed by mains, or the middle eastern way of taking the dishes in the order that the kitchen prepares them. We chose the latter – it makes for a bigger mezze style of meal. Shish tawook brought tender, juicy pieces of marinated and grilled chicken, accompanied by bulgher. Across the table, lamb sharwama looked the part but was both underflavoured and overly chewy. That came with spicy potato wedges, which weren’t spicy enough.
Have to say that, much as we enjoy this cuisine and style of eating, there’s others in the area doing much the same food, but better. But it was good to try somewhere new and I wish them well – although I fear the alcohol policy may be their undoing.
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