Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sarai, The Inn Place To Be

The origin of the word “Sarai” means Inn or simply, a place to rest. Creating a warm and serene atmosphere, this name perfectly fits Windsor’s recently opened culturally-fusion based restaurant; Sarai, located at 4072 Walker Rd, which specializes in the most delicious Greek, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern food that you can find.

Walking into Sarai, we could not help but admire the gorgeous scenic paintings along the wall and the cylinder-style lighting that really gives the atmosphere a modern-feel. The hostess was friendly and offered a choice to sit in the dining area or take a brief walk upstairs and retreat in their casual lounge area. We chose the dining section this time.

Beautiful decor and lighting
Greeted enthusiastically by our waitress, an interesting thing to note is the set-up of each table. First off, three menus were placed down (one for drinks, one for dessert and then the large main menu). There is also a tiered-platter tray, which is used for serving certain dishes. Observing, it’s a great way to serve and clear dishes in one swoop, instead of individually having to carry dishes. The one issue, it’s a bit difficult to turn when all of the slots are filled.

My boyfriend, Bill sitting at the table.
Anyhow, Sarai’s menu has a wide selection of appetizers and entrees, including vegetarian and seafood dishes. Having a difficult time deciding on an actual entree, my boyfriend and I loved the variety offered in the “Couple Platter.” It included: Hummus, Baba Ganooj, choice of Tabbouli or Fattoush, Falafel, Cheese Sambusik, Fried Kibbi, Shish Tawook, Tenderloin Kebab, Shish Kafta, and a choice of fries or Biryani rice. Along with that, we tried the spinach pie appetizer and we were offered to try their red pepper puree dip.

Hummus (far left) Baba Ganooj (underneath) Tabbouli (far right) Red Pepper Puree (next to hummus on the right) freshly baked buns (under black cloth in center)

Falafel, Cheese Sambusik, Fried Kibb

Everything was delicious and even though I was initially not sure about how I would like Fried Kibbi, it was quite tasty. Aside from that, each dish was presented beautifully, especially the meat platter. You could really tell the effort that was put into each dish to make it look appetizing.

Now I will highlight a few of the dishes that we both thought were unbelievable, including one that you will have to ask for next time you visit.

It’s all about the red pepper puree!! After chatting with owner, Maher Alhakim, it turns out this is a signature dip that only Sarai offers right now. Many may try to duplicate it, but this recipe is a proud accomplishment and one that customers and even staff really love. We’ve never had quite so much flavour out of a dip, but with the freshness and array of seasonings, everyone needs to try it.

The spinach pies were lightly baked and we could appreciate that they didn’t have a real flaky or oily crust that we have experienced before in other restaurants. The spinach had a nice gloss and wasn’t wilted and the sumac-seasoning was heavenly. This was a lovely start to the dishes that came next.

Fluffy and tasty spinach pies

Another great part of the meal was the Baba Ganooj. It was fantastic, roasted perfectly with a pleasing texture and filled with flavour and was nice to dip with the freshly baked buns.

The large platter tray as you can see was filled with several meats. Everything was cooked relatively well, very tender and juicy, although a couple pieces of my kebab were a bit tough to chew. We really liked the mix of vegetables too, which had two beautifully ripened grilled tomatoes and crisp zucchini.

Shish Tawook, Tenderloin Kebab, Shish Kafta, and Biryani rice.
The only complaint would be the blandness of the hummus dip. I think it needed a bit more tahini, but you could easily mix the other dips (have I mentioned that red pepper puree??) and it blends all the flavours together.

For dessert, we attempted to order the Molten Chocolate Cake. Unfortunately, they were all out and so we tried the Baklava. I will say that I am not a fan of Baklava because it’s usually so overly-sweetened, but these had the right amount of sweetness and made a satisfying ending to the meal.

Afterwards, the General Manager, Krista Truckenbrodt, took us upstairs where the lounge area was located. It was like you were transported into a trendy hot spot, yet it still kept with the balance of colours that mirrored downstairs, except with bursts of red. 

Lounge with view below

It had a chill-out vibe with an over-arching view that separates itself from below. In close proximity is a well-stocked bar for those thirsty patrons too.  There is also live weekly entertainment that Sarai brings in, sort of in a birds-eye view from above, which gives the restaurant a chic style.

bar area

If you’re looking for a restaurant that lets your palette travel the world in only a few bites, Sarai Restaurant and Lounge is the best place to enjoy the trip

*Update: No longer in business!! :(