While Lebanese restaurants have been around in Bangkok for decades, the launch of Al Saray three years ago has elevated local standards considerably. Linked to Bangkok General Hospital, the restaurant relies heavily on hospital visitors who hail from India and the Gulf, along with embassy staff from these regions.
Head Chef Hassan Farran, who was born into a family of chefs in Beirut, and spent several years cooking for five-star resorts in Beirut and Dubai, works with New Delhi-born Chef Sampooran “Sam” Singh Panwar to offer a meticulously curated menu of Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
“What we serve here are authentic, traditional recipes passed down from generation to generation,” says Farran. “Even our hummus plates come from Lebanon. They’re the same style my great grandfather used when serving hummus to his family.” Pointing to a gleaming bowl of chicken biryani on the table, Chef Sam adds, “And that isa deghra, the traditional biryani plate in northern India.”
The chef suggests starting with a simple Lebanese plate of hummus, mashed chickpeas with sesame paste; mutable, grilled eggplant with sesame paste; and tabouleh, salad of bulgur wheat, fresh parsley, tomatoes, olive oil, and lemon juice. Then, he serves shanklishe (B180), an aged, spice-coated cheese made in-house. According to Farran, Al Saray is the only place in Bangkok you’ll find it.
Al Saray’s kitchen also prepares its own labneh (B160), a traditional Lebanese yoghurt cheese, and paneer, a fresh cheese used in north Indian dishes. Meanwhile the haloumi (B180), a semi-hard, un-ripened brined cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk, is imported from Cyprus.
For mains, rogan josh (B320), a chocolate-brown Kashmiri curry made with chunks of boneless Australian lamb, is served in a traditional copper-clad kadai. The sublime biryani (B220) sees the chicken marinated with yoghurt and spices for six hours before being baked with long-grained basmati rice and Kashmiri seasonings.
The Al Saray Special Mix Grill (B1000), a platter heaving with grilled lamb meatballs, lamb kebabs, marinated chicken kebabs, and Lebanese grilled chicken, comes with two impressive sauces, toum and tahine. The toum, a fluffy emulsion of olive oil, lemon, and garlic, is the most delicious version available in the city, bar none, and the tahine, as mooth sesame paste, pairs beautifully with the lamb.
At dessert, strong Lebanese coffee, served in a traditional coffeepot, is the perfect foil to mohalabieh (B100), a luscious, cooling milk pudding flavoured with rosewater and pistachio powder.
4F, Bangkok Plaza Building, Bangkok General Hospital, Soi Soonvijai 7 | 0 2319 4388 | alsarayrestaurant.com | daily 9am-10pm