Hidden Gem: All things Levantine in SimSim restaurant

Hidden GemImage Credit: Ishita B. Saha

There are many restaurants along The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, but only a few beckon diners to return. SimSim restaurant is one such place. The reason is very simple — as you enter the restaurant, you feel as if you have entered a Levantine home.

Wooden cupboards with netted panes, framed family photographs on the walls, the lived-in look with cosy sofas and soft cushions, a simple fabric lampshade in the corner, white iron staircase leading to the upper level—the decor is unobtrusive and uncluttered. The interiors showcase several meticulously handcrafted items from around the Levant, including stoneware, glass fixtures, murals, bunches of wheat raffia and ceramics, as well as preserved foods and olive trees.

SimSim is a Levantine restaurant among the many in Dubai to showcase a wide array of classic dishes and timeless traditions from across the region, with a special emphasis on Palestine.

Long wooden dining tables are surrounded by different types of asymmetric seating arrangements—sofas, chairs and a cement block with cushions plonked on top. It is a place for a leisurely lunch or a casual coffee.

A chat with Rula Hamed, the owner of SimSim, will take you to the region where her grandparents come from. The floor, she explains, has been replicated from the one in her grandparents’ house — rough, cemented and slightly uneven. Even the railing on the upper level has been brought all the way from Palestine.

“The feeling of eating at home evokes great sentiment among expats of Levantine descent when they crave the cooking and culture of their native land,” says Rula. “Simultaneously, it is our aim to act as an ambassador of the simple but sumptuous tastes of Levantine food for Dubai’s residents and visitors who are yet to have them.

“We have carefully chosen classic recipes from countries such as Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, and our interiors showcase a range of handcrafted objects that were built to order. As a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, it is the tastes and treats of my home that are most beloved to me.

“My restaurant embodies the family meals and values I grew up with, and I am sharing them at SimSim. We serve recipes borrowed from grandmothers in Gaza and Ramallah, and natural ingredients sourced from Nablus, Toulkarem and surrounding villages — it is as authentic as it gets.” SimSim is the Arabic word for sesame, which forms the backbone of Levantine cuisine, adds Rula.

Some of the popular dishes at the restaurant are Jordanian mansaf (cooked only over the weekends for lunch), shakshukat bandora, fattet batinjan bil lahmeh, musakhan dajaj, fattoush gazawi and traditional sweets, both hot and cold.

Our absolute favourite is the musakhan dajaj or the Palestinian speciality of chicken baked with onions, sumac, almonds and pine nuts and served on fresh taboon bread. It is followed by the strongly fragrant mansaf and lamb kofta in thick tomato or tahini sauce.

The desserts do justice to the mains, whether it’s tamriyeh — filo parcels enclosing layers of orange blossom-flavoured semolina and topped with confectioner’s sugar — or the kunafa nabulsi — cheese pastry soaked in orange blossom syrup, topped with pistachios. Cold desserts such as osmalieh bil ice cream, served with layers of roasted vermicelli, are an absolute delight.

Although SimSim restaurant is not very old, it has mastered traditional home cooking techniques that date back centuries. While you can end your meal here with a cappuccino or espresso — contemporary style — there’s always the option of ordering a delicious glass of chilled karkade or hibiscus tea. Let SimSim unravel the magic of the Levant for you.

Source: Ishita B. Saha, Special to Property Weekly
Author of IshitaUnblogged, a culinary travel blog.

Al Nisr Publishing accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

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