Thursday, July 25, 2013

Al Batra Restaurant & Coffee Shop: Authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine in Makati

Whenever most people feel stressed or burnt out, they splurge on shopping, hair treatments (I'm looking at you, Jane!), drinking, or some other form of debauchery. As for me - I go to Al Batra Restaurant & Coffee Shop.

It doesn't matter the occasion - stressed, euphoric, or just plain hungry - Al Batra is one of those places that give me the warm and fuzzies every time I eat there, service aside. Their service sucks - you have to wait for over 15 minutes for bread to be served, they remember to serve your fruit shake in the middle of the meal (no matter how many times you ask for it), and sometimes they try and serve you food you never even ordered. This is just something you have to put up with when you go there, but nevertheless, they make up for it with delicious, authentic Middle Eastern food.

For most people here, Chinese fare is the default go-to place when comfort food is concerned. In my case, it's good ol' Middle Eastern fare. There is something about a well-spiced dish and good flat bread bread that just makes eating it with your hands a primal experience that so much more enjoyable than fidgeting with chopsticks.

Located along Constellation st. in Makati, you can't miss Al Batra's bright green signage on the second floor of the A.M. Flores building right across from North Park and Tianamen Bar.

Jericho and I once again found ourselves at Al Batra after a horrific food experience at one of the nearby restaurants and wanted to relax and cleanse our palettes from the awful food we ingested a few minutes before.

I ordered a cup of Cardamom Tea (P100) for myself while we ordered all our favorites, treating ourselves to a lot of good food. The cardamom in the tea was very old and really dried out, so I didn't get the strong spice flavor I was looking forward to. The actual tea, on the other hand, was perfect. The black tea was strong and sweet - just how Arabic tea is supposed to be.

Our waiter was nice enough to bring out a small saucer of cardamom pods for me to add to my tea, but at this point all I was adding to my drink was cardamom dust.

To start off our Arabic evening, we had Zatar Pie (P40). Although this is not something most Filipinos are familiar with, this is marvelous, marvelous stuff! Simply put, Zatar is a mix dried herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and satureja, with sesame seeds, dried sumac, salt, and other spices, baked on flat bread in the form of a pie. The spices make this dish smell amazing, and every bite gives you a mouthful of what I can only describe as Middle Eastern herb flavor.

Of course, no Arabic meal in my book would ever be complete without Hummus (Small - P140, Medium - P300, Large - P600). The guys at Al Batra specially prepare their recipe using the best chickpeas served with olive oil and Al Batra bread, which is real arabic flat bread, not the pita crap franchises stuff cheap shawarma in.

The hummus is a coarse ground, so you can really taste the bits and pieces of garbanzo beans with each bite. Feel free to ask the waiter for more paprika if you want to enjoy your hummus Lebanese style - that is, with a bit more heat.

Jericho's newest favorite Middle Eastern discovery is Falafel (P110), so of course, we ordered those up, too. Made of garbanzo beans and spices and fried, these are made even more tasty when dipped into Al Batra's famous garlic dip.

Although not as good as the Israeli version over at the night market at A.Venue, the falafel was still pretty good, although I would still prefer the tahini sauce over the garlic dip.

We ordered a ton of flat bread and  had the Chicken Mixed Grill (Small - P390, Medium - P780, Large P1,560) to go with it. - a combination of chicken kebabs and shish tawook (loosely translated as a skwered brochette). The chicken was tender, and marinated in spice so that on its own already had a lot of flavor.

What I love to do is dip kebab roll into the garlic dip, and then into their spicy tomato dip, before laying it out alongside a few pieces of hand-cut fries, on a piece flat bread that's been spread with hummus, wrapping everything up into a makeshift shawarma.

When mucking around Makati, head for one of the best authentic Middle Eastern halal restaurants in the area and order up a few of your Arabic favorites. Al Batra also serves biryani, laban, somosas, and other popular Indian dishes.The crowd that hangs out at the restaurant, especially during football season, are mostly Arabs, with a sprinkling of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Langkan, and the Filipinos who just really love the food. You have been warned about the shitty service, but I promise the food will more than make up for it.

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of The Pixel Project Manila

Al Batra Restaurant & Coffee Shop
+63 2 403 5552
2nd floor, A.M Flores Building,
Makati Avenue cor. Constellation St., Makati
Open Daily: Monday - Sunday: 24/7