DAMMAM: Turning up the temperature this summer in Al-Khobar is a “modern home cuisine” restaurant, founded and run by a young Saudi-Kuwaiti female chef, Farah Al-Ohali. Temperature is just seven months old, but Sharqawis are already familiar with Al-Ohali’s unusual offerings that could be called the ultimate comfort food.
The 22-year old credits her Kuwaiti genes for her innate desire to explore new palates and cuisines.
“The dining scene in Kuwait is much more developed; and people are much more open to experimenting with their palates, compared to other GCC countries,” she told Arab News. Coming from a family of innovative cooks — her aunt is known to cook up a notoriously delightful kabsa with turkey, instead of the traditional chicken — Al-Ohali has always loved cooking and would spend hours preparing and hosting elaborate dinner parties for friends and family.
In 2015, Al-Ohali left for Florence, to pursue the culinary arts professionally. She enrolled in an intensive certification program, learning techniques for over 250 dishes, assisting the chef in his kitchen, and working in a high-pressure environment. Coming back to the Kingdom, Al-Ohali was happy to cook for her family, but they weren’t impressed.
“The butter, cream, and flour characteristic to [what they thought] of Italian cooking was missing and they hated the ‘Italian’ I made for them,” she said with a rambunctious laugh. And thus began her journey to adapt flavors to the Saudi culture.
Her research was simple: She just asked Saudis what they ate and why they liked eating a particular dish. From there, she started an Instagram-based business and a pop-up food kiosk for public events. Some of her most popular creations have been chicken tenders in a waffle cone; nachos with chutney; mac and cheese grilled sandwiches; and coffee-marinated brisket sandwiches. Before long, Al-Ohali was approached by a marketing and talent management agency who helped her set up the restaurant.
Now, Al-Ohali is the creative force and chef behind Temperature (the most important element of every dish). The ambience reflects her effervescent personality: a snazzy beverage bar, bistro-style furniture and fittings, and rose, gold and green accents.
The breakfast menu is Al-Ohali’s personal favorite and it’s easy to see why.
First, we tried The Anita, a grilled brioche sandwich brim-full of layers of beetroot pesto, basil pesto, labnah, kashkawan and mozzarella cheese. Elevating a standard pesto sandwich, The Anita is worthy of weekend-morning indulgence. Plus points too for its Instagram-worthy pink hues.
“I use simple flavors that you would eat at home, but they are paired unusually with an ingredient that is not commonly used here or with an ingredient that you wouldn’t think of normally using,” Al-Ohali explained.
The Mushroom on Toast bears testament to her approach. Brioche bread topped with mushrooms, an in-house special cream, parmesan, arugula, sunny-side-up eggs, and, finally, balsamic vinegar drizzle. The tart vinegar offsets the sweet mushroom cream and creates an interesting fusion of flavors.
The Messy French, a crunchy brioche bread with salted caramel and maple syrup served with ice-cream, makes for a perfect accompaniment to the hazelnut latte. The menu is limited, but you can be assured that ,whatever you order, your expectations of comfort food are elevated a notch or two.
The Temperature is definitely on the rise.