Aqaba - Journey to Middle East


Reminding us of our travels to Middle East, Aqaba in Mumbai scores quite a few points, with room for much more

By: Karishma Suri

Posted on: October 8, 2014

Reminding us of our travels to Middle East, Aqaba in Mumbai scores quite a few points, with room for much more
 
Aqaba, the name of a quaint and beautiful coastal city in Jordan, is now also a new restaurant in Mumbai, India. Much like the city - an oasis in the middle of a vast desert, literally and figuratively, the restaurant too stands unusually in Peninsula Business Park. Nestled amidst the city's hustle and bustle, this restaurant is an attempt at an oasis for food, sangria and Arabic spices. A beautiful lawn and Mumbai's ever so fabulous skyline completes the frame for Aqaba. So step in for dishes from Jordan, the Mediterranean and surrounding areas.
 
Welcoming guests with a sense of comfort and an elegant environment, join them as they pay homage to the beauty, people and above all food of the city, it presents to you the style and ambience of the Mediterranean, serving cuisine with flavors quite approved by the discerning Indian palate.
 
Varying from soothing shades of taupe to cerulean blue, I found myself falling in love with the decor as Aqaba has minimalist yet modern interiors, and can accommodate approximately 70 guests indoors, and 25 guests in the al fresco area. Open spaces and classy interiors make this place a lovely option for a party. My favorite part of the restaurant is the long bar that has four subtle butterflies adding that chic factor along with the most gorgeous artificial cherry blossom trees. Don't forget to take a selfie there.
 
So take a seat, and grab the drinks menu. "We wanted to position ourselves as a casual dining chic luxury restaurant and have given as much time and thought to the cocktail and drinks menu as the food menu. We also find that this particular cuisine is best enjoyed when paired with wine or sangria, and have worked with a wine sommelier to curate a wine list for Aqaba,” says Aditya Parikh, Founder and Director at Aqaba. So what drink should you order to start with? Their Jalapeño martini tops their most wanted list and will make you shake yourself till the yummy but pungent spices tantalise your taste buds. Their chocolate martini also calls for attention. So if you really need that pick me up before your meal, go ahead and sip on this heavenly chocolate concoction of vodka. 
 
A different kind of yummy
Aqaba brings together a cornucopia of dishes from Greece, Turkey and Lebanon with provincial specialties from Southern Italy, Spain and Northern Africa to offer its patrons an innovative meal peppered with various influences. If al fresco works for you, the open skies and a combination of world cuisine is a lovely alternative.
 

Catering to the demand for international Mediterranean cuisine in India, Aqaba tries to save the day and succeeds to an extent. Riding high on the cuisine that is a refreshing change from the much recycled Indian, Italian, and Oriental or bar food, this under represented cuisine has Mumbaikars doing the talk. This stylish restaurant invites guests to savor the taste and feel of the Mediterranean region through its food, wine and ambience. However, there is room for improvement in their staff, who is unsure of their offerings, yet eager to learn and help you out to the best of their abilities. But a smile or two wouldn't hurt their otherwise stoic face, would it?
 
Food, for your senses
Starting with their Domates Shorbe was a good idea as this hearty tomato and barley soup, flavoured with Arabic spices and bulgur wheat, was fulfilling and opened up my throat! Served with a breadstick, their in house bakery could be given a proud pat on the back. Other soup options range from smoked minestrone to even a chicken shorba. Nibbling into their smoked Caesars salad, the balance between the pungent vinegar and the smoky taste was absolutely perfect.  
 
Moving on to the mezze, I opted for the vegetarian mezze platter that has a selection of any six Mezze served with pita. On the servers recommendation and my previous love for mezze, I opted for Tzatziki, Falafel, Arabic cottage cheese, Hummus, Kisir, Spanakopita and Labneh. Each of them came in tiny bowls accompanied with fresh and warm pita. Unfortunately the cottage cheese was hard and chewy which absolutely killed the entire dish and the spanakopita too was ice cold. Do not miss their garlic cream which is so delectable that you will be licking your fingers. There are more than 20 mezzes to choose from but what stands out as a common factor in all is that they’re light and best start to the evening or perfect accompaniment with drinks.
 
For the main course, I sampled their Vegetable Kofta (made with cottage cheese and haloumi) with Sayadieh which came along with Arabic rice lightly spiced with cinnamon and dried mint. The grilled vegetables were well cooked and the gravy was tasty too. The Vegetable Tagine with couscous was a great recommendation and many health freaks will find their true love in this. Don’t be afraid to load up on another serving of the tomato stew with fresh seasonal vegetables, olives, chickpea and dates, It is worth piling up a few pounds for.
 

My companion had the Chicken Shwarma and the Chicken Gyro. While both were fulfilling, they were pretty much same in taste. It would have been appreciated had the staff given a slight heads up about it. Keep some space for the fries that accompany them and load up on the garlic yoghurt which completely changes the taste as it was absolutely bland and lacked spices.
 
As an after thought to fill the last empty pocket in our stomachs, we opted for the Mediterranean pizza. While it was quite bland for the Indian palate, I did appreciate the attempt to blend at least one Italian dish with Mediterranean flavors.
 
Don't miss the Mansaf as that comes specially recommended by Mr Parikh. "I’m very partial to the Mansaf, a traditional Jordanian dish made of lamb and fermented yoghurt and served with rice, but also fancy our range of Mezze. The Mansaf is a very simple dish and it’s because of its simplicity that the flavours are more pronounced,” he said.
 
The final spoon
No meal can be complete without dessert. Their baked cheesecake stands the true test of talk and is one of the best I have had in the city. Not too sweet, not too overwhelming. The baklava too is reminiscent of an exotic holiday to the Mediterranean, but unfortunately the tiramisu fails to deliver the coffee punch that it is supposed to pick you up.
 
With an extensive menu of dishes inspired from all across the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Aqaba truly allows its guests to undertake a culinary journey through the region. With a little more fine tuning and time, we can only hope that our next visit to Aqaba will please as much as the decor did.
 
Coordinates: Club House, Level P5, Peninsula Business Park, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai

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