Awtar opened up back in November on Staunton Street, promising cuisine from the Mediterranean. It’s a big area to cover but, judging by the menu, the Lebanese coast and North African Levant seem to be the source of most of the dishes.
Shisha are also taken pretty seriously, so much so that smoking is allowed inside, the perfumes of apple and spice wafting over from a group happily bubbling away in the corner. It’s not a big space, but the extractor means that it doesn’t bother those who have given up the weed, in one form or another.
The bar offers the usual suspects when it comes to cocktails, but an own-brand bottle of red Awtar was recommended. ‘Red’ is where the description began and ended, but in common with previous wines from Lebanon such as Chateau Musar, it was surprisingly good, if that’s not hugely patronising. At $340, it’s also pretty decent value for Hong Kong.
From the meze, the hummus was Tahini-heavy, without much noticeable garlic or sharpness. Just not especially memorable. The baba ganoush – here called ‘Bezanjan’ – was excellent, however, strong smoky notes from the aubergines, depth of flavour, crowned with a few rubies of pomegranate and a dusting of the ubiquitous but always-welcome sumac.
Cigars of deep fried feta – peynir rulo – were bought with an epic spicy and creamy dip. Fried cheese has never, ever failed to please and this was no exception.
The somewhat incongruous music – more techno than Cheb Khaled – continued as ‘Casserole D’aubergine’ arrived, a slow-cooked number that had taken on flavour aplenty while in the pan.
The adana lamb kebab wasn’t the prettiest to look at, but this quickly seemed irrelevant because it tasted bloody lovely – aromatic and straight from the grill. Adana Kebabs are traditionally made of ground lamb with a quarter of the mix consisting of tail fat from a lamb, here served with red pepper paste or Biber Salcasi, a Turkish recipe.
Incidentally, talking of Turkey, the menu also features their sensational baked potatoes with a million possible fillings, best eaten on honeymoon under the Ortakoy bridge in Istanbul.
A Baklava tiramisu rounded off dinner which runs approx $250 per person for 3 courses.