Avak was supposed to be strictly Armenian. Then the owners developed a menu with Italian, Greek and Arabic dishes, and called it Mediterranean. And we’re glad they did.
At this northern Riyadh restaurant you’re not limited to just one cuisine — go where the mood takes you. Take a short hop to Beirut with everyone’s favorite tabbouleh as a starter, then whisk yourself off to Italy for some saffron and chicken risotto, beef and cherry tomatoes or maybe a spinach truffle tortellini.
Why? Because you can.
Then order some kebbeh with pine nuts and pomegranate garnishes to bring you back closer to home. Go on, they’re delicious.
But don’t forget the Armenian food, which is always a treat.
Gapama — a huge hollowed pumpkin stuffed with rice, dried fruits and meat, baked, then topped with even more meat — is one of Avak’s most popular dishes. While it’s usually for Christmas, we can dig into this delight any time of the year.
Avak has been pulling in the crowds for some time now and ratings on popular websites show just how much appreciation there is for the restaurant. Foursquare and other sites are filled with great reviews: “The mixed hummus is a must,” “Try date salad 10/10,” “Go for vine leaves fata!” There’s a lot of love.
As for the venue, the general vibes are calming, the seating is comfortable, the dining tables are wide so it’s good for large groups, and the waiters and waitresses are friendly.
The interior is inspired by classic Greek decor, with dark and rich colors adding warmth and coziness.
For more information, visit their Instagram @avak.sa.
Where We Are Going Today: ‘Cwtch’ - European dining experience
Cwtch’s menu showcases elevated European flavors, with a focus on quality ingredients and meticulous attention to detail
Updated 22 September 2023
Located in Al-Murjan district, Jeddah, Cwtch is a culinary gem that offers a refined European dining experience, taking gastronomy to new heights. The restaurant’s name, derived from the Welsh language, perfectly captures the essence of comfort and affection that every guest is meant to experience through their delightful dishes.
Some may find the overall simplicity of the place to be slightly underwhelming. However, the focus on quality ingredients and attention to detail may overshadow the desire for bold and innovative culinary creations.
Whether you visit for a regular meal or to celebrate a special occasion like Saudi National Day, Cwtch promises to delight your senses and leave a lasting impression.
Cwtch’s menu showcases elevated European flavors, with a focus on quality ingredients and meticulous attention to detail. From the starters, such as the wagyu beef tartar mixed with Cwtch’s signature tartar sauce, to the Andalusian prawns PIL PIL served with homemade baguette, and the delectable Rockefeller oysters baked with a creamy white wine sauce, each dish is a testament to the culinary expertise of the kitchen team.
The salad bar at Cwtch offers exciting choices, including the creamy burratina salad served with serrano tomato carpaccio and rocket salad, as well as the prawn and kimchi salad, which combines flavors in a unique and refreshing way. The commitment to using the finest ingredients is evident in every dish, such as the slow-cooked chicken and the oven-baked gnocchi with cream, bacon, broccoli, mushroom and parmesan.
When it comes to the main courses, Cwtch delivers exceptional flavors. The Dover Sole Meuniere, pan-fried with butter, capers, and a white wine sauce, offers a delicate and delightful seafood experience. The roasted whole corn-fed chicken Provencale, cooked with Provencale herbs and served with roasted potatoes, is a mouthwatering option.
For meat lovers, the wagyu rib eye and the veal cutlet Milanese, with their golden and crunchy exteriors, are truly satisfying. The sides, including truffled mashed potatoes, asparagus and rainbow carrots, perfectly complement these main dishes. Do not forget to pair your meal with their curated drinks, such as the refreshing mojito passion fruit or the captivating blue unicorn.
The culinary delights at Cwtch are accompanied by exemplary service. The staff members are attentive, knowledgeable, and dedicated to ensuring that every guest’s needs are met. From the moment you step into the restaurant until the end of your meal, you are treated like a VIP, receiving personalized care and service that enhances the overall dining experience.
In addition to their regular menu, Cwtch offers special culinary creations to celebrate Saudi National Day. Indulge in the heavenly Pistachio White Chocolate Crisp Nebrow, a baked treat coated with luxurious white chocolate and sprinkled with pistachio slivers. The Grenisher’s Pistachio Mousse with white chocolate crumble is another must-try, with its dense and creamy texture that combines pistachio paste, fluffy egg whites, cream, and crumbles for a truly decadent experience.
Where We Are Going Today: Fatoosh restaurant in Dhahran
Updated 21 September 2023
If you find yourself at the Dhahran Mall food court and want to sink your teeth into something that isn’t wrapped in a bun or drenched in pasta sauce, consider Fatoosh. The distinct neon-green light invites you to come closer and choose one of the healthier options.
The SR12 plate of fatta is a delightful meatless medley that perfectly captures an array of flavors and textures in one perfect bite. The creamy hummus at the bottom serves as a smooth base while the cubes of cooked eggplant, bits of chickpeas, tangy pomegranate molasses drizzled atop a small layer of fried pita bread — and sprinkled in some greens — makes for a colorful and flavorful taste symphony. The plate is good for sharing but you may want to eat it all for yourself.
For the same price, there are individual plates of fatoosh salad, grape leaves, baba ghanoj, tabboulah and a few other options. If you can’t decide, then there’s an offer of any three salads for SR24.
They also serve meatballs, kushari, stuffed cabbage and several other hot dishes. If you want to mix and match between a serving of salad and one or more of the hot dishes, there’s an offer for any three (you could include a salad as a choice) for SR35.
The spot is popular with health-conscious food lovers, as it offers perfect alternative to a rice bowl or something involving meat and bread.
Fatoosh also offer freshly squeezed orange juice as an option as well as a selection of boxed juices and sodas.
Where We Are Going Today: ‘8 Portions Pizza’ in Dhahran and Riyadh
The waiter recommended their most popular salad, the quinoa salad, which goes for SR46
Updated 19 September 2023
With branches in Dhahran and Riyadh, 8 Portions Pizza is making a name for itself in Saudi Arabia. We visited on a busy weeknight where service was attentive but not overbearing.
We tried the recommended cold peach habaq (basil) drink, with minty habaq syrup over sparkling peach juice. It was fragrant and aesthetically-pleasing but tasted like iced perfume, costing SR35 ($9).
The waiter recommended their most popular salad, the quinoa salad, which goes for SR46. It consisted of a bed of red and white quinoa mixed over a layer of mango puree with chopped bits of colorful vegetables and fresh avocado bits and topped with whipped feta cheese. It was topped with a layer of crisp arugula and spinach leaves drizzled with a tangy homemade citrus and balsamic dressing. It was delicious.
The pizzas, their specialty, came in two sizes, either small or medium. We tried the Isfahani option, inspired by the Persian city, which cost SR41 for the small and SR69 for the medium. The crispy crust came with a layer of mozzarella cheese sprinkled with Iranian zereshk bits, Persian spiced chicken and drizzled with a mint sauce. It was surprisingly satisfying.
We ended with the only dessert on the menu — and the only item that you can’t carry home — their tiramisu. For SR46, it is a decadent delight, served in a clear glass.
They also offer pastas and several sides.
For more details and the menu, check out their Instagram @8portionspizza.
Where We Are Going Today: Al-Nofarah cafe in Riyadh
Savory food options at Al-Nofarah are limited as the cafe specializes in sweets
Updated 16 September 2023
In the heart of the busy As Sulimaniyah neighborhood in Riyadh, Al-Nofarah opens daily and from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. six days a week, offering customers a variety of coffee options, fresh juices and fruits, and Arabian sweets.
The cafe opened in 2019 for takeaway orders, and recently opened for customers to dine in.
The atmosphere and decor at Al-Nofarah, including its fountains and art, are distinctly Syrian and evoke walking along the streets of old Damascus. Even the cafe’s name is reminiscent of a classic Syrian spot.
From the fragrance of Turkish coffee and Syrian jasmine in every corner to the classical Arabic music playing in the background, the cafe is the ideal spot for a late-night hangout with friends or family, or to grab an indulgent bite on the weekends.
The juice menu and snacks are delectable. Among the highly recommended options is the fruit salad with local cream, or one of the drinks from the list of fresh fruit juices.
Savory food options at Al-Nofarah are limited as the cafe specializes in sweets.
However, it offers a Syrian breakfast and a selection of manakeesh, which is a Levantine flatbread topped with herbs, cheese, ground meat, or vegetables.
Manakeesh is like a pizza but boasts Middle Eastern flavors. It can be eaten for breakfast with tea or as an appetizer or late snack. It can also be sliced or folded, depending on personal preference.
For dessert, try halawa with cheese, baklava, or basbousa if you are craving something classic. Or you can browse the seasonal menu which includes Levantine ice cream options in summer or sahlab, a creamy drink, which is perfect during winter.
For updates and more information, check out the cafe’s Instagram @nofarah.sa.
Yusr and Yara Al-Otaibi’s wellness brand hopes to create joy, comfort through sustainable practices, ‘global perspective’
Updated 16 September 2023
RIYADH: As the global fitness industry slowly gets back on its feet following the pandemic, brands are finding leverage through community engagement and mindfulness.
Rolly, a Saudi brand established in 2021, focuses on creating fitness experiences and products while platforming sustainable practices through a “global perspective,” Yusr Al-Otaibi, co-founder of the brand, told Arab News.
Her sister, co-founder Yara Al-Otaibi, said: “In Saudi Arabia it’s really important to set a standard because we no longer settle for the minimum or the normal. We really want the best in terms of our brand, or products, or initiatives.”
Saudis are no strangers to sedentary lifestyles. Days are outlined by long car rides through scorching sun-stroked streets. Only in the colder months can joggers and cyclists be found roaming Riyadh’s Wadi Hanifa or Jeddah’s Corniche. While there are no recent statistics on the topic, according to the 2021 Household Sports Practice Survey by the General Authority for Statistics, 29.7 percent of people are involved in moderate physical activity.
Rolly looks to create safe spaces and products for individuals to integrate movement into their daily lives.
• Rolly, a Saudi brand established in 2021, focuses on creating fitness experiences and products.
• Rolly Experiences are curated wellness and fitness events that include mindfulness activities.
Yusr said: “We started with a question: Why weren’t there sustainable products that look fun and are also high performance? We took the challenge.”
After suffering a knee injury, cutting into her active lifestyle and gym routine, Yara found conventional yoga mats caused more pain than support. An idea resulted from the two sisters’ need for products and spaces that are comfortable, safe, and help all types of movement.
Yusr said: “We found a gap in the Saudi market, and the Middle East as a whole, and we’re hoping through this we can spread awareness of the importance of movement while taking care of the Earth.”
After three years of testing alongside physiotherapists, the sisters’ first product saw the light of day. Their plastic-free and anti-humidity yoga mat is constructed using rubber and a top layer of vegan leather. The wide structure was designed by Yara to ensure that it is suitable for most body types and fitness exercises.
They have also developed a mat carrier, made of local fabrics, to promote the idea that safe spaces to practice can also be portable.
Yusr explained: “I think through the product design, perhaps Rolly opened the door for a new category of products in the Kingdom in terms of fitness that are approached by both male and female, or whether you’re a yogi, or a physiotherapist or pilates trainer, or a high school girl who loves movement.”
We found a gap in the Saudi market, and the Middle East as a whole, and we’re hoping through this we can spread awareness of the importance of movement while taking care of the Earth.
Yusr Al-Otaibi, Rolly co-founder
Their company is built under the three core values of sustainability, performance, and creativity.
Yara said: “As entrepreneurs we do really believe that businesses that don’t have a social, environmental, or an economic responsibility in Saudi Arabia will not flourish.
“We focus on these three aspects that are (components of) international sustainability … It’s not only the fact that we have products that are sustainable; socially, we are encouraging people to move, which has a sustainability aspect as well.”
By working with Friends of Rolly — who are local instructors — fitness talent, investors, local businesses and studios get to boost their exposure.
The Jeddah-based brand this year began Rolly Experiences, which the sisters explained is at the “core of what Rolly does.” Their curated events captivate the senses of their clients, whether it is the weight of the mat they stand on, the music, or the environment they are placed in.
Mindfulness techniques are incorporated to engage mind as well as body.
Rolly has been able to promote mindfulness and fitness through experimental events, using lights to help encourage curiosity from onlookers.
Yusr said: “People are excited now to know what’s next because our experiences move from one location to another.
“The trainers are people who also fuse different types of sports together and these things are very exciting. It’s very heartwarming to see and know there is a demand for it.”
The sisters’ most recent event, called “Shells by the Beach,” which was run in collaboration with local studios and instructors, focused on locating and tuning into inner fluidity.
Yusr said: “We wanted it to be by the beach so the participants could feel and visualize the waves and recreate that feeling inside them. Human bodies are made up of 70 percent water so it made sense to be there.”
While they are currently based in Jeddah, they plan to expand into other parts of the region in the near future.
Yusr added: “The ultimate goal is to redefine the idea of fitness experiences in the country.
“People are interested in Pilates and yoga, and so on, but they also want a fresh perspective on making it something new: a very high-performance, high-quality experience.”