Located on the corner of Kandahar and Baghdad Streets, Samar is an Arabic café steeped in Islamic culture. Incense fills the air, and staff periodically walk round the café waving an incense burner to replenish the fragrance. We saw a few guests who looked like regulars smoking bubbling shisa pipes, which come with flavored tobacco. Books and periodicals on Islam lined a bookcase, and are available for general perusal. Most of the dining section is indoors, with a few cosy tables and chairs on the sidewalk. The menu is extensive, with mostly Arabic dishes and a token selection of Western dishes. We liked the descriptions of the Arabic dishes that were provided, revealing the main ingredients and, in some cases, also the cultural significance. To start we ordered Syrian pizza, which is ground meat in a tomato-based sauce on thick Arabic bread (not unlike Indian naan but much thicker). The “pizza” was tasty enough, but was rather ordinary. Our other starter was eggplant stuffed with rice and gound beef, which was quite delicious. The rice had soaked up the flavor of the dish and the glutinous consistency of it blended well with the soft eggplant. For mains, we had a lamb and okra stew and lamb chops with. The stew came in a rich tomato-based sauce that was a little sweet and had large pieces of lightly cooked okra. We preferred that to the lamb chops which were plain and too fatty. To end our meal we opted to share dessert—rice and milk pudding with mixed nuts and sliced dates. The custard-like pudding was heavily spiced with cinnamon, which overpowered the dish and masked other flavors. On the whole we’d say the food is authentic but average, although there were some highlights. The strength of this restaurant is really its cultural ambiance. Samar is obviously proud of its heritage and wants to spread the word.
|Address:||Samar, 60 Kandahar St., Singapore, Singapore|
|Area:||Arab Street and Kampong Glam|
|Parking available: on Kandahar St.|
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