December 2, 2022

The different food preparations around the globe are always exciting gastronomic adventures. Prior to the pandemic, Baguio used to be a food stop for foodies en route to Ilocos destinations because of the variety of dishes within a few kilometers distance.

The Mediterranean cuisine has its own charm, and this bit should entice the taste buds to try this platter of goodies once or keep returning for its delicious exotic appeal at Chef Restaurant.

Hummus is the signature food of that part of the world and chickpeas or garbanzos with tahini and olive oil are the base. The cumin, garlic, salt, lemon juice and other spices are additions to make it flavorful. This is a dip or sauce that will go with fresh vegetables or pita bread, on ordinary days this should be good with French bread or even sour dough. There are three basic sauces that are served with the food here: the garlic yogurt white cream, the spicy cilantro sauce with a hint of mint, and the hot chili paste for those who like the heat.

Beef hummus is one variety of the dishes served with the creamy beans paste. The beef is corned, tender and flaky. Perfect with the grilled flat bread, this can be eaten as a meal for one person and is high in protein with or without the beef. The beef is the best that one has had in a long time.

The Mediterranean chicken edam is a dish with curry and cheese as the name suggests. The spicy curry base mixed with the dairy makes the sauce much creamier and different. There seems to be a sudden delight in cheese around the world that it is added to ramen and here, curry. Edam lovers like me will enjoy this dish with tender chunks of chicken breasts mixed in the sauce. Again, this is matched with the flat bread. It is also a meal.

The Pinoy in us needed rice for lunch or else this would have been just a snack, so, we ordered the royal lamb biryani. Those who have tried basmati rice must try this dish that uses the sella basmati rice from Dubai, considered as the best. Unlike others, the grains of this rice are longer and tender, not dry.

The sauteed and later stewed tender lamb meat mixed with common spices like ginger, garlic, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, tomatoes, cardamom, and cinnamon are then allowed to simmer a little more with the cooked basmati rice and added masala in the last minutes. This is a delightful feast. All the juices from all the ingredients mixed with the soft and chewy grains is their unique way of preparing rice meals. With freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little more of the chili paste, this is too much heaven. This is more than enough for a complete meal on its own.

Descriptions can also be irresistible. We had to try the charcoal broiled chicken shish taouk that was described as seductive and juicy breasts tenderly marinated overnight in spices and herbs served with pilaf rice or pita bread.The seductive part made us giggle but juicy and delicious is more like it. There is something about the spices used to marinate the chicken that puts the fast-food sort to shame.

Kebab, like hummus, must be tried as part of the cuisine. Unlike regular barbecues, the beef kebab is finely ground beef usually stuck on to skewers. Not meat chunks but patties wrapped around a stick, the version of Chef has the meat stuck on strings or thread to hold it together before it is grilled. These look like sausages without the skin when served with sliced chili peppers and onions. This time we were offered to try the poori, the deep-fried pita bread, with it. The crispy bread went well with the dry meat and the cilantro sauce. It was also good with the garlic yogurt and the chili paste. This really depends on the preference of the individual.

This meal should have been perfect with the rose lassi, a yogurt smoothie, but the supplies have been limited because of the quarantine.

Our multi-tasked chef for the day was Annabel Andrada who gave us all these dishes. At 11 a.m., we were happy to have had no competition in the small eating joint that was good for a dozen inside the restaurant in these social distancing period and another six or so on the street side.

True to their claim, “Five-star menu for the no star price”, the beef and lamb are imported and the expertise brought by the Pakistani owners: Maryam, Neshe, and Natasha Chapra. They received the 16th Q Asia’s National Product Quality Excellence Award in 2019 for the Best Authentic Mediterranean, Indian & Middle Eastern Cuisine Restaurant to make this simple place one to reckon with.

Alas, the escapade ends, and it is time for all the others to discover this marvelous food trip. Like me and my friends, a little research will direct you to this place. Have fun sampling the middle east palate.

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