Sunday, 13 March 2011

Restaurant Review - Al Marjan Bistro

The average Muscat diner didn't really 'get' Vue. Maybe the cooking was too complicated, perhaps the pricing to ambitious. We don't know, but we were sorry to see them leave.

And now there's Al Marjan Bistro. Sitting in Vue's former location bordering Al Bustan's lobby, and set in exactly the same interior, Al Marjan wants to distinguish itself by serving seasonal, classic French dishes, with a refined touch. Ok, we get that.

The menu looks promising, and the wine list has been simplified, with a better choice of value wines. We quite enjoyed our food, although there were some ups and downs. The terrine of duck foie gras was disappointing; its fat content was extremely low, causing the liver to be dry and bitter. Whether or not foie gras is ethical, is open for debate, but you have to make a choice. Either serve foie gras as it is meant to be, or give it a different name on your menu. The second starter, lobster salad with mint tabouleh, fared much better. The lovely fresh tabouleh was a very nice counterpart for the rich lobster.

Of the mains, the braised beef cheeks were most memorable. Ultra-soft, very rich and with a good red wine / cranberry sauce. A classic dish, very well prepared. The other choice, scallops served on fresh herbs, was also enjoyable, but a bit too salty. Dessert (crème brûlée) was very tasty, although –if we're being very picky– it could have been a bit less cold.

All in all, some very good food. That said, we are not convinced that Al Marjan will be a success. First of all, it is very expensive. With starters between 6.500 and 10.000 OMR, and mains ranging from 14.000 to 18.000 OMR, you can be sure that your bill will be a hefty one. We spent over 70 OMR for two, excluding wine. That's a lot. Too much, we like to think, for the type of food that is served. Our other concern is the interior design. It worked well for an upscale restaurant like Vue, but it is lacking the kind of atmosphere that you would expect in a bistro. The fact that only four tables were occupied during our visit didn't help. Just as with the foie gras, it seems like the management of Al Marjan needs to make up its mind. Only then will this restaurant have a chance to survive. Until they do, we don't really 'get' it.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Les Saveurs d'Ici et d'Ailleurs

We told you about the Saveurs du Terroir evenings in the InterContinental Hotel before. If you are a true lover of food, you will surely have visited one of these evenings.

There was a temporary hold on these evenings after the former Resident Manager, Marc Lambert, left last year. But Didier Gourmaud, his successor, made the wise decision to continue, albeit with a slight change in theme. Under the title Les Saveurs d'Ici et d'Ailleurs Gourmaud will not only serve classic French dishes, but also explore other regions and flavours.

The first evening is planned on March 15th. Contact the InterContinental Hotel for more details and to be added to the mailing list.