RIYADH: Shababik restaurant’s pop-up location in Diriyah, Riyadh, made headlines recently when Portuguese football legend Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently signed for local team Al Nassr, stopped by for dinner with Saudi Minister for Sport Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.
Shababik serves authentic Levantine cuisine. It launched in 2014 in Jeddah, and the pop-up will be open until Feb. 22 as part of Diriyah Nights.
Shababik’s outdoor terrace makes it an ideal place to visit while the weather is cool (there are heaters provided to make sure it’s not too chilly). Sitting outside gives you the opportunity to take in the surrounding palm trees and urban art, and the nearby architecture, which is inspired by the traditional Najdi style. It’s a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere — although the restaurant does occasionally host live music.
We visited earlier this month to sample a little of the Ronaldo lifestyle.
For starters, we selected the hummus with meat. It was fresh and tasty, but lacked the all-important final touch: a drizzle of olive oil. The Fattah — a staple dish of cooked eggplant and toasted croutons — was a great way to begin the meal, and we also enjoyed the cheese roll, which was dusted in wild thyme and served grilled rather than fried, giving it that slight crunch without the grease.
The oriental potatoes were fine, if a little lackluster. They needed more flavor to really bring the dish to life.
From the seafood menu, we selected the grilled prawns in a marinade of buttery garlic and lemon sauce with chopped cilantro. The prawns were tender and beautifully cooked, and the sauce complemented them well.
The highlight of the meal was the lamb shank oriental rice wrapped in pita bread. The cinnamon-and-pistachio aftertaste was especially interesting and really worked to enhance the flavors of the meat.
Throughout our visit, the staff were friendly, prompt and eager to help.
As you might expect, given the restaurant’s recent high profile, those wishing to dine at Shababik must first reserve a table on the MyTable app and pay SR350 per person up front.
Overall, the food was good, but it’s the Diriyah location that really makes a visit to Shababik worthwhile — giving it a vibe inspired by authentic Saudi roots.