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Ziryab Restaurant: Celebrating a 7th-century musician, food connoisseur

Lebanese chef Fadi said the Mediterranean quinoa salad is quite popular.
The mashawi mushakal (assortment of grilled meats) is a customer favourite, according to chef Fadi.
An in-house specialty: Fish baked in a coat of rock salt and lemon mustard sauce.
The Ziryab Restaurant in Alkhobar celebrates the 7th-century revolutionary food connoisseur, Ziryab.
Popular dessert options include panacotta with pomegranate coulis and chocolate ball with ice-cream and chocolate sauce.
Abul Hasan Ali bin Nafi, better known as Ziryab, was a 7th-century oud player, entertainer and gastronome. He has gone down in Arab history as the man who changed the lifestyle of the royal court of Cordoba, Al-Andalus, in present-day Spain.
As the originator of the “fifth string” in the oud and inventor of the “three-course meal,” Ziryab is known to have introduced several revolutionary changes in music, fashion, dining and grooming. Before Ziryab, the prevalent Byzantine custom in Spain was to pile different types of food on bare, wooden tables. Everything was consumed together.
Ziryab revolutionized the art of dining and table setting by declaring that palace dinners be served in a sequence, starting with the lighter broths or soups, moving on to meats, and finishing with bowls of nuts, fruits and desserts, a precursor to the three-course meal that we know today. According to Robert W. Lebling’s "Cities of Light," the English expression “from soup to nuts,” can be traced back to Ziryab’s Andalusian table.
Having created several innovative dishes, he has to his credit modern-day versions of taqliyat Ziryab (a white bean stew), zalabia (sweet fritters) and ziriabi (a fried dough and meatball dish). The Ziryab restaurant in Alkhobar is a celebration of this revolutionary food connoisseur.
The restaurant marries elements of Arab and Andalusian culture to create a unique dine-in experience. Iraqi chandeliers, paintings and ceramics are a reflection of Ziryab’s origins and an oud on a pedestal signifies his connection to music.
Following Ziryab’s idea of a three-course meal, we first tried the lentil soup and bite-sized olive bread with sour cream. The dynamite shrimp (a popular choice) is a dish of fried shrimp tossed in a spicy mustard sauce. The soup of the day and dynamite shrimp are priced at SR19 and SR35 respectively.
Tajin Samak, a cold appetizer, is a Mediterranean staple fish smothered in sesame paste and spice, priced at SR27. Lebanese chef Fadi said the Mediterranean quinoa salad is a favorite with customers; the dish made from quinoa, avocado, lemon mustard sauce, mango and haloumi cheese always has them asking for more. The Mediterranean salad is priced at SR38. Other popular options include tapas and kibbeh sajieh (kibbeh with walnut and pomegranate molasses).
The main menu is extensive, and largely comprises fresh, organic and locally-sourced produce. It has options for everyone — burgers, pasta, seafood and steak. To experience food like that in the palaces of Andalus, we opted for oriental rice with lamb, which is accompanied by a gravy. The lamb and meat dish is priced at SR68.
Other dishes inspired by Ziryab are the salt-baked fish (an in-house specialty, with fish baked in a coat of rock salt and lemon mustard sauce), classic Spanish paella (seafood with rice and spices), chicken Ziryab (chicken breast stuffed with basil and nuts), and the mashawi mushakal (assortment of grilled meats) ranging from SR68 to SR120.
Popular dessert options include panacotta with pomegranate coulis, sizzling brownie with homemade ice-cream, chocolate lava cake and chocolate ball with ice-cream and chocolate sauce. The dessert menu ranges from SR25 to SR30. The restaurant offers an innovative beverage menu with mocktails, milkshakes and hot drinks ranging in price from SR12 to SR30.

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