The sun has set over the waters of the Straits of Malacca, signalling the end of yet another relaxing day surrounded by the luxurious comforts of The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa. Blessed with inspiring natural vistas of the sand and sea, this resplendent jewel that resides in the island of Langkawi serves as a sanctuary for local and international travellers weary from the rapid pace of big city life.
In more recent years, the island has a seen a surge of tourists hailing from the Middle East who have travelled thousands of kilometers in search for a slice of island paradise that exists in the jewel of Kedah. While there is certainly no shortage of fancy restaurants in Langkawi, there are tourists who might yearn for the familiar flavours of home during their visit to the island.
To cater to their specific dietary needs, the resort has decided to introduce a unique pop-up food festival called BHAR that celebrates the multitude of exotic flavours found in Arabic cuisine. Going the extra mile to ensure the authenticity of the entire dining experience, the resort decided to reach out to respected chefs Mohanad Alshamali and Khaldon of the world-class Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Dubai to devise an a la carte menu that offers a contemporary twist to classic Middle Eastern recipes.
For Chef Mohanad, who credits his mother for inspiring his passion for food, what makes every single dish in the BHAR menu so unique is the thoughtful combination of local produce and ingredients sourced from the Middle East.
Every BHAR experience begins at Tide, the resort’s al-fresco-style restaurant that offers stunning views of the sea. The interiors of the restaurant has also been decorated with a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours and intricate geometric patterns similar to those found in Islamic art. Other interesting details to look forward to during one’s experience include a market-style display counter showcasing various exotic spices and botanicals, while soothing Middle Eastern melodies chime in the background, almost seemingly in sync with the calming sounds of the nearby ocean.
To prepare the palette, BHAR offers a variety of cold dishes as well as salads to whet one’s appetite for the feast that’s to come. The most memorable: a modest vegetarian dish of creamy eggplant grilled to perfection with splashes of sweet vinaigrette infused with medjoul dates and finished off with dukkah, an aromatic Egyptian condiment made by toasting a mixture of herbs, nuts and various other heady spices. Topped off with freshly chopped greens, every single bite of this dish represents pure bliss and is worth experiencing at least once in one’s lifetime.
Diners with a longstanding love affair for savoury snacks will also have plenty of reasons to rejoice should they decide to give in to temptation during their visit to BHAR. If carbs are what you’re after, have a go at the Harra chips. Inspired by the classic Lebanese vegetable dish known as batata harra, this mini tower of freshly cut potato wedges has been uplifted using pungent ingredients such as garlic, red chillies and pickled green chillies, before being deep fried to perfect crispness. According to chef, the secret to achieving this delicate texture is by frying the chips in delicious duck fat which allows it to be cooked at higher temperatures without altering its flavour profile.
There’s also plenty of meatier morsels to look forward to when dining at BHAR. Among our favourites is the dawood basha, a classic Lebanese delicacy comprising hand-rolled meatballs stewed in a rich tomato paste infused with foie gras and a special all-purpose spice blend known as bahārāt. Best savoured with heaping spoonfuls of fluffy white rice, this seemingly innocuous dish packs a flavourful punch with every bite.
Diners with voracious appetites will also be spoilt for choice by the dishes listed under the ‘Mashawi’ section of the menu which consists of deliciously decadent meats and vegetables that have been either roasted, grilled or barbecued over an open flame. Highlights to be had include tender lamb cutlets marinaded in spices before being grilled to desired doneness. Served in an earthenware bowl, the cutlets come paired with pickled baby vegetables and cooling mint labneh, a popular Middle Eastern soft cheese made from strained yogurt.
Pescatarians need not feel left out as BHAR also offers several delicious seafood options to stave off one’s cravings. These blessings from the sea include chargrilled Tiger prawns enhanced with flavours of preserved lemons and butter infused with saffron and herbs, and a baked whole sea bass gently arranged on a bed of tahini yogurt topped with a flavourful crust made from finely-chopped walnuts and herbs.
Of course, no festive feast could possibly be complete without sampling the many delightful desserts offered in the BHAR menu. Popular choices here include le-ge-matt, a mouthwatering snack comprising fried mini dough balls trickled with sticky syrup made from sweet dates; and the dramatic OUD Manjari chocolate mousse paired with a cherry spiced compote, crushed pistachios and topped with cherry ice cream. The only thing left to do is to wash it all down with a refreshing glass of aromatic mint-infused Arabic tea.
The BHAR pop-up food festival is currently ongoing until 31st September. A complimentary dinner for two experience is also available for guests who sign up for the 4D3N package at The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa. For further inquiries, email [email protected].