Where We Are Going Today: ‘Grill It’ - a fast-food chain in Saudi Arabia

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Updated 03 November 2023
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘Grill It’ - a fast-food chain in Saudi Arabia

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  • The hummus costs SR18 and comes with a piece of freshly baked bread — it doesn’t feel like it is from a fast-food chain. We devoured every last bit

Grill It welcomes customers with a neon-light greeting — “Free Smells.” And, indeed, the smell of grilled meat and fried food is in the air even before you open the door.

With several branches in Riyadh and, so far, one in Alkhobar, Grill It is a fast-food chain that offers quality options such as fresh salads and can serve up a semi-fancy meal without breaking the bank.

Famous for its chicken shawarma, gourmet burgers and signature appetizers, the menu has enough variety to keep you trying new meals each time. There is also the usual favorites for repeat orders.

The classic fries come in a plastic cup, and the last fry is just as crispy and enjoyable as the first. At SR12 ($3), they are a delicious treat.

The hummus costs SR18 and comes with a piece of freshly baked bread — it doesn’t feel like it is from a fast-food chain. We devoured every last bit.

Visitors might also try the chicken shawarma, which is of a good size. There is a variety of options for shawarmas, and burgers as well. There are a few catering items available — great for your next office meeting or family gathering, but most sandwiches come solo. Fries and drinks need to be ordered separately.

Delivery is available via the usual apps.

For operating hours and specials, visit @Grill_it_ksa on Instagram.

 

 


Recipes for success: Chef Andres Marcelo offers advice and a recipe for short rib tacos 

Recipes for success: Chef Andres Marcelo offers advice and a recipe for short rib tacos 
Updated 25 July 2024
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Recipes for success: Chef Andres Marcelo offers advice and a recipe for short rib tacos 

Recipes for success: Chef Andres Marcelo offers advice and a recipe for short rib tacos 
  • The executive chef at The St. Regis Red Sea Resort began his culinary journey aged 13.

DUBAI: Bolivian chef Andres Marcelo began his culinary journey aged 13, cooking for friends, family, and as the dedicated cook for his Boy Scouts troop.  

“It was always a hobby. I always enjoyed it. For me, cooking was about bringing together people, enjoying moments, and the social aspect of cooking,” he tells Arab News. 

And for a while it seemed as if a hobby was all cooking would be for him.  

“I come from a middle, upper-class family, and it’s not traditional to choose a career in the service or hospitality industry,” Marcelo explains. He did four years of civil engineering but realized it was not the career he wanted. 

At 20, he opened an online gaming cafe. To persuade his guests to stay longer, he started making food for them. It was then that he decided to enroll in a three-year culinary arts program in Argentina.  

Since then, he has traveled to 13 countries, training in prestigious restaurants, including three-Michelin-starred establishments in Spain and Japan. His career began in 2013 at Grand Hyatt Dubai, and he is now the executive chef of The St. Regis Red Sea Resort.  

Here, he discusses his favorite dish and his top tips for amateur chefs. He also shares a recipe for short rib tacos.   

When you started out, what was the most common mistake you made?  

Not paying attention and not really being aware of the environment around me. I used to burn myself a lot, and I still have a couple of marks that remind me to not rush myself, even if it’s busy. You have to take a moment to plan and to organize yourself. As long as you have your mise en place ready, you’ll always be fine — that means, for example, having your spoon in the right place for when you need it, and having something to hold hot items with.  

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs? 

Always have a sharp knife. If you have a dull knife, you’re more likely to hurt yourself, because you will have to use a lot more pressure, and then, if the knife slips, you’ll get hurt. With a sharp knife, you barely need to put any effort in to cut things. So always have a sharp knife. And always taste your food. You cannot serve something if you don’t taste it.  

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

I love lemon zest. It goes in both savory and sweet preparations, and it really brings up a lot of flavors.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food? 

Not really. Food is very subjective. If someone puts something in front of me, I’d think that they think it tastes good to them. I might comment on something technical — like if I order a medium steak and it comes well done — but I don’t comment on the taste or the composition of a dish, because, like I said, cooking is very subjective. Something that I find delicious might not be for others. I remember I used to have a chef who didn’t like coriander at all. I love the taste of coriander, especially in Asian cuisine. But if I presented a dish with coriander in it to this chef, he wouldn’t like it.  

What’s the most common issue you find in other restaurants? 

Since the pandemic, I feel staff are not paying enough attention to the guests. There is a major shortage of staff all over the world in hospitality, in restaurants. We’re overworking them. Sometimes restaurants now might have one waiter serving 10 tables. This is the big mistake that is happening in the industry now.  

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

I love Asian cuisine. It takes me back to my childhood. At least once a week, we would go out for Chinese food — well, Chinese-Bolivian food to be exact. Then, when I started traveling and I went to Japan and China, it was something completely different. I love the taste. I love the flavors and the textures. Dumplings are one of the best. I could eat dumplings every day.  

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home?  

I’d do a mushroom risotto or a pasta carbonara — something simple with no more than five ingredients. If you have guests, they’ll never be upset with a nice mushroom risotto. 

What customer request most annoys you? 

When people disrespect the staff. This is what annoys me most. 

What’s your favorite dish to cook?  

My favorite is paella. My dad, being Spanish, used to cook very good paella. He learned from my grandfather. One of my earliest memories of being in a kitchen is helping him to prepare this dish. So, I really enjoy cooking paella or ceviche. That’s also something we used to cook together. It brings back fond memories of my childhood and being with my father. 

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right?  

I would say the most difficult things are the simplest things. Like, spaghetti with tomato sauce can be the trickiest, because everyone has eaten spaghetti with tomato sauce, so they will compare your dish with all the others they’ve tried and with what they think is the best. Now, being in the Middle East, and in Saudi Arabia, if you make a dish that their mothers used to make a lot, let’s say, they’ll compare it to what they love. So, for me, the most complicated thing to do is to cook the best version of something that’s local. You’re trying to beat the fond memories before you create a new one.  

As a head chef, what are you like? Do you shout a lot? 

Discipline is very important in the kitchen, but I don’t think that being disciplined means you can’t be kind and respectful. I very rarely shout. It would have to be something really, really, really, really, really, really bad for me to get upset and get to that point. I’m a very patient person. For me, it’s about respect. And that comes from both sides. If you respect your team, your team will respect you back. It’s all about working together. The kitchen is not a one-person show. You cannot do everything on your own. If you create an environment where the team are not happy, they will certainly not give good food.  

I’ve worked in places where everyone shouts. People still work, but it’s not sustainable. In the long run, people get tired and frustrated. People need to come into an environment where they are happy to work.  

Chef Andres Marcelo’s short rib tacos recipe  

For the short rib 

INGREDIENTS:  

4kg short rib; 40g salt; 20g black pepper, freshly crushed; 150g butter 

INSTRUCTIONS:  

1. Rub the salt, pepper and butter into the meat. Let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. 

2. Preheat oven to 220C. 

3. Cover the meat in aluminum foil and cook for 20 minutes. 

4. Reduce heat to 110C and cook for 4 hours.  

5. Uncover the meat and remove the bones. If the meat doesn’t pull off the bone easily, cook for another hour at 110C. 

6. Place the meat aside for later use. 

For the wheat tortilla 

INGREDIENTS:  

800g all-purpose flour; 3.5g salt; 100g warm water; 100g corn oil 

INSTRUCTIONS: 

1. Mix the salt, flour and corn oil until it becomes crumbly. 

2. Slowly mix in the water to form the dough. 

3. Cover with a damp cloth for 20 minutes. 

4. Divide the mixture into three. 

5. Roll out each piece of dough into a 12cm-diameter circle. 

6. Cook both sides of each piece of dough in a hot non-stick pan. 

For the guacamole 

INGREDIENTS: 

4 ripe Hass avocados; Juice of 2 limes; 3g fresh coriander, chopped; salt and pepper to taste 

INSTRUCTIONS: 

1. Crush the avocado pulp roughly. 

2. Add the lime juice and the chopped coriander. 

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

For the pico de gallo 

INGREDIENTS:  

200g tomato, chopped; 4g fresh coriander, chopped; juice of 1 lime; 100g red onion, chopped; 1 pickled jalapeno, chopped; salt and pepper to taste 

INSTRUCTIONS:  

Mix all ingredients and reserve for later use. 

For the final dish 

INGREDIENTS: 

250g of the short rib meat; 3 of the homemade tortillas; 60g guacamole; 40g pico de gallo; 10g fresh cheese of your choice, grated; 20g pickle onion; 3 grilled limes; 2 grilled chilis; 5g fresh coriander  

INSTRUCTIONS: 

1. Top the tortillas with the warm meat. 

2. Top with guacamole, pico de gallo, pickled onion, and coriander. 

3. Serve with extra pico de gallo, cheese, guacamole, limes, and chilis. 


Where We Are Going Today: ‘911 Pizza’ in Riyadh’s Sulaymaniyah

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Updated 23 July 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘911 Pizza’ in Riyadh’s Sulaymaniyah

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If you have not done so already, and for a welcome change to the usual fare in Riyadh, it is time to try 911 Pizza. This American-style outlet offers a unique twist on the pie for those who prefer a crispy, thin crust.

It has a lively, diner-like atmosphere, complete with American pop culture-inspired decor and neon lights.

The menu, though limited, focuses on quality rather than quantity, featuring a selection of classic margherita, buffalo, pepperoni and truffle varieties.

One of the standout features of 911 Pizza is its commitment to the thin crust experience. Unlike many of the thicker options found elsewhere in Riyadh, the pies here are crisp and allow the flavors to shine through.

The margherita offering, with its rich tomato sauce and melty cheese, is a particular highlight, while the truffle mushroom pizza offers a more sophisticated and indulgent flavor profile.

The pricing is reasonable, with a medium-sized pie starting at SR44 ($12). This makes it an accessible option for families, groups, or anyone looking for a satisfying and affordable meal.

While the menu may not cater to those who prefer thicker crusts, the quality and attention to detail more than makes up for it.

The chicken wings are a must-try and provide a delicious counterpoint to the crispy, flavorful pizzas. But they were a bit too moist for my liking as I was expecting crispier wings.

911 Pizza has wisely chosen its first Riyadh location in the Sulaymaniyah neighborhood, a district renowned for its growing concentration of fine-dining establishments.

This strategic positioning speaks volumes about the restaurant’s understanding of the local market and its desire to cater to a discerning clientele.

Overall, the eatery is a welcome addition to the capital’s dining scene, offering a satisfying experience for those seeking a break from the norm.

With its lively atmosphere, high-quality ingredients, and attentive service, it is sure to become a new favorite for pizza enthusiasts in the city.

For updates and more details check their Instagram @911pizzasa.

 


Where We Are Going Today: ‘Croi Bakehouse’ in Riyadh

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Updated 22 July 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘Croi Bakehouse’ in Riyadh

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  • Their coffee is expertly brewed, using high-quality beans; from rich espressos to salted caramel lattes, there’s something to satisfy every coffee lover’s palate

Located in the bustling city of Riyadh, Croi Bakehouse offers a delightful escape into the world of artisanal pastries and gourmet coffee. Nestled in a cozy corner of the city, this bakery has quickly gained a reputation for its inviting ambiance and mouth-watering treats.

Upon entering the bakery, you’re immediately struck by the inviting smell of freshly baked goods. The interior is tastefully decorated with a blend of modern and rustic elements, creating a relaxed environment perfect for enjoying a leisurely breakfast or catching up with friends over afternoon tea or coffee.

The star of the show at Croi is undoubtedly their selection of viennoiseries, which are baked fresh daily. Whether you’re craving a flaky croissant with a savory pesto and sundried tomato or a decadent chocolate tart, the bakery delivers on both taste and presentation.

People often recommend their berry Danish pastry, which is perfectly baked with mascarpone cheese, custard, raspberry jam, and pistachio nuts. The pastries are not only delicious but also beautifully crafted, showcasing a dedication to detail that is evident in every bite.

In addition to their sweet and savory pastry selection, Croi offers a range of beverages to complement the experience. Their coffee is expertly brewed, using high-quality beans; from rich espressos to salted caramel lattes, there’s something to satisfy every coffee lover’s palate.

The staff is attentive and knowledgeable, whether you’re a regular or a first-time visitor.

Overall, Croi Bakehouse is a gem for pastry enthusiasts and coffee aficionados alike. Whether you’re stopping by for a quick treat or settling in for a leisurely afternoon, it is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Goodies from the bakery are available for delivery on the Jahez app.

For updates and more details, check their Instagram @croi.bakehouse.

 


Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance

Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance
Updated 21 July 2024
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Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance

Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance
  • Local eateries are nurturing a sense of community, providing valuable job opportunities to Saudis

RIYADH: In the bustling heart of Saudi Arabia, a culinary revolution is unfolding. Restaurant entrepreneurs are launching new coffee shops and fast-food restaurants that are redefining the dining landscape by offering high-quality food and drinks at accessible prices. The cherry on top? They’re hiring local talent, bolstering both the community and the economy.

Imagine walking into a newly opened coffee shop or fast-food joint with modest expectations, only to be pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality of your order. This is the new norm sweeping across the nation. These establishments are quickly earning reputations for delivering great food and drinks without the hefty price tags.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. (Instagram/sawada.ksa)

“Honestly, I always look for a fair price when it comes to my coffee, and this place fits the bill perfectly,” frequent customer Khalil Al-Azwari told Arab News. “This coffee shop is one of my favorites, and they serve the best V60 for only SR10 ($2.67). It’s great value for money.”

A cornerstone of this transformation is the focus on employing local workers. By prioritizing job opportunities for Saudis over expats, these businesses are not only boosting the economy but also fostering a stronger sense of community.

Establishing a new business requires a deep and thorough study of market needs, sound management, and dedication to the business.

Talat Hafiz, Financial analyst

“Working here has been an amazing experience,” said Ahmed Saleh, a barista at a prominent coffee shop in Riyadh. “I get to work with top-notch ingredients and learn new skills. Plus, it’s great to see familiar faces enjoying the coffee and food we prepare.”

The allure of these new dining spots extends beyond just offering great food and drinks. By prioritizing local hires, these businesses are nurturing a sense of community and providing valuable job opportunities. This approach represents a refreshing change in a country where the service industry has traditionally been dominated by foreign workers.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. (Instagram/sawada.ksa)

Local customers are equally thrilled with the shift. “I love that these new places are hiring people from our own cities,” said Bashayer Mohammed, a regular patron. “It makes the experience feel more personal and connected to our community.”

However, not everyone is embracing this wave of new dining options. Some local business owners are feeling the heat as these large restaurant entrepreneurs gain popularity. Many local establishments, which often have higher prices, are struggling to compete.

“It’s tough,” said Saad, who used to own a coffee shop in Alkhobar. “We can’t match the prices of these big traders, and people are noticing. We’re losing customers, and it’s affecting our livelihood."

Saad opened his coffee shop in October 2021 with high hopes for success. “In the first month, the numbers were doing great,” he recalled. However, as the months went by, business began to decline steadily. Despite his efforts to adapt, the situation worsened. “It was surprising because it got way worse each month,” Saad said.

Determined to save his business, Saad tried everything. “We changed the menu, collaborated with coupon companies, and partnered with delivery apps. We even invested in advertising,” he explained. Despite trying every strategy he could think of, nothing seemed to work. “None of it made a difference,” he admitted.

On top of these challenges, Saad faced unexpected financial burdens. “The rent was much higher than I expected, and I didn’t fully account for staff salaries and insurance,” he said. These expenses quickly added up, straining his finances.

The increase in costs has led most merchants to reduce expenses, cut salaries, and lay off employees. “This is a sign of failure,” Saad added. “Successful merchants invest in the human element and intellect to create and innovate solutions for survival. The general public has a consumer mentality, not a problem-solving one.”

Desperate, Saad even tried to sell the coffee shop to investors. “It just didn’t work,” he said. Ultimately, the mounting losses forced him to close the coffee shop in 2023. “It was a huge loss for me,” Saad reflected.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. Local businesses are starting to take notice and are striving to match the quality and affordability that these new players offer, although it remains a challenging transition.

In an interview with Arab News, financial analyst Talat Hafiz emphasized the crucial role that small and medium enterprises play in the Saudi economy: “SMEs in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere around the world are the backbone of the economy and business activities.”

Recognizing this, the Saudi government has been proactive in fostering the growth of these enterprises. It has made significant efforts to facilitate the growth of SMEs and enhance their contribution to the Kingdom’s non-oil gross domestic product from 20 percent to 35 percent by 2030, Hafiz added.

The establishment of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, also known as Monshaat, in 2016 is a testament to these efforts. “Monshaat was created to regulate, support, and develop the SME sector in the Kingdom,” Hafiz said.

Additionally, the Loan Guarantee Program, established in 2006, aims to overcome financing obstacles for economically viable SMEs lacking the necessary guarantees. Despite these avenues of support, many SMEs still face significant challenges. “There are still some companies that fail to continue their businesses successfully and close their doors within the first year or by the third year of operation,” he said.

Hafiz has identified several reasons behind these failures. “Most complaints from SME owners are due to various fees imposed by the government, especially violation fees,” he said. However, he believes that the primary reasons for failure lie elsewhere.

“The main reasons behind the failure of SMEs, especially startups, include a lack of careful consideration of market needs and different consumer preferences, lack of management experience, technical and professional expertise, and the imitation of adding value to the market,” Hafiz added.  

He also highlighted the importance of management dedication and sufficient financial resources. “Establishing a new business requires a deep and thorough study of market needs, sound management, and dedication to the business. It also requires specific talents that allow the company to respond quickly and effectively to market and economic changes,” he noted.

While the Saudi government has regulated fines to be more transparent, fair, and progressive, Hafiz stresses that the focus should not be limited to government fees. “The focus on business failures should also address the main and real causes of businesses’ failure. The government fines are transparent and progressive, and it is also not permissible to impose them the first time, as there is a warning that precedes the violation.”

 


Where We Are Going Today: ‘Katsu Sando’ Japanese sandwiches in Riyadh

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Updated 21 July 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘Katsu Sando’ Japanese sandwiches in Riyadh

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  • For lunch, Katsu Sando’s bento delight is a great option. It features donburi chicken with rice, crab onigiri, a pumpkin slice, and a Coca-Cola, providing a well-rounded and delicious meal that’s sure to satisfy

Nestled in the bustling heart of Riyadh, Katsu Sando offers an authentic slice of Japan right in the Kingdom’s capital. This cozy eatery, with its minimalist yet elegant decor, beautifully marries traditional Japanese elements with modern touches, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Katsu Sando specializes in Japanese sandwiches, presenting a diverse menu perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant’s commitment to cleanliness is evident in every detail, from the meticulous packaging to the tasteful decoration, ensuring a casual yet refined dining experience.

A standout on the breakfast menu is the tuna onigiri. This delightful dish strikes the perfect balance of flavor and texture, making it an ideal light start to your day. For those with a sweet tooth, the fruit sando is a must-try; it combines fresh fruit with soft, pillowy Japanese bread, offering a refreshing and satisfying treat.

For lunch, Katsu Sando’s bento delight is a great option. It features donburi chicken with rice, crab onigiri, a pumpkin slice, and a Coca-Cola, providing a well-rounded and delicious meal that’s sure to satisfy.

The restaurant’s menu is diverse, catering to various tastes and preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for a light breakfast, a hearty lunch, or a satisfying dinner, Katsu Sando has something to offer. Their creative combinations and high-quality ingredients ensure a unique and memorable dining experience.

Katsu Sando not only offers delicious Japanese sandwiches but also promises a pleasant dining experience that will leave you wanting more.

For more updates and information, visit their Instagram @katsusando_sa.