Tabbouleh, kababs and a side of sea breeze please.

blankDoes the sea breeze make food taste better? Probably not if we’re talking about gravel burgers with stale cardboard fries, but if the food is three-fourths of Good, a gentle whiff of salty air might just make it whole.

Our lunchtime view

This is the story of Al Nasmah, a sea-side Lebanese restaurant along the Sharjah corniche. The menu features exactly that genre of standard mezze and mixed grills that completely extinguishes my flames of blogging inspiration. Even if the mezze and mixed grill platter ends up blowing your brains away, what more is there left to say in this world about creamy hummous and crispy pita chips dangling out of farm-fresh fattoush that hasn’t been written to death before?

Mezze - Al Nasmah - Sharjah Corniche

So I won’t wax poetic about how we sat by the open window facing out to the fishing boats and nets, the saltiness of the coastal air only matched by the Aleppo chillies ground up into a coarse fiery paste and buttered generously between folds of toasty grilled khubz. Nor will I sing praises about the bowls of warm cloudy chicken soup, astonishingly reminiscent of the one made my hometown Indian community and if possible, doubly improved by a squeeze of lemon and a few drops of hot sauce. All I know was I landed up ‘not hungry at all, no really, I won’t eat much,’ and walked out like a plump rotisserie chicken, sweating and heaving after having consumed far more than my stomach had budgeted for the day.

I blame it on the sea breeze.

Al Nasmah - Sharjah
Soup - Al Nasmah - Sharjah Corniche
Aleppo Chilli Bread - Al Nasmah - Sharjah
Mezze, chicken soup and grilled khubz smeared with crushed Aleppo chili paste

It helped that Mustafa, the warm-hearted host at Al Nasmah, had the sort of fatherly understanding face that might overlook insolent acts of peering into the kitchen and distracting the cook at the grills. It was no different than walking into someone’s home by the beach and sinking down at the lunch table, a table laden with fresh dips that may not stare back at you with the perfectly sculpted stare of a practiced restaurant chef, but rather gaze at you lovingly like a kind aunt whose misshapen homely cookies won’t judge you for indulging. Even if you’re compelled to shove them in two at a time.

Simple things that I barely ever touch stealthily landed up on my plate and slipped their way into my tummy even though I had snobbishly refused to fill my stomach with ‘standard fare.’ I was having seconds of dishes that I wouldn’t normally have given a second glance, like the yellow Machboos rice simmered in chicken stock and a distinctly familiar but unidentifiable palette-warming spice. Or the inconsequential hockey sticks that often claim to be lamb chops, which at Al Nasmah had been flattened down with a mallet, predictably overcooked, and rendered surprisingly palatable because the battered meat had transformed into jerky, or meat chips, or something in between that I’d rather not admit I gnawed on all the way till the bone. Or those boneless mutton kababs – ‘dead meat’ buried into the depths of almost every mediocre mixed grill platter, only to be resurrected into ghastly stringy ghouls between your jaws. At Al Nasmah, they were refreshingly flavourful and hinted of charcoal smoke, just the kind you’d make at your own BBQ party at home.

Chicken Machboos - Al Nasmah - Sharjah
Chicken Machboos with a side of pulpy vegetable broth (Salona) 

For a mixed grill hater like myself, I’d venture to say that Al Nasmah put out a plate that wasn’t half as offensive as the overcooked flavourless nubs that might often be inflicted on your jaws. And even if Al Nasmah’s grills aren’t up to the mark, then do what we end up doing at so many overrated joints in Dubai: let your fingers travel back to the bread basket and take comfort in the ambiance. But save your tears because the platter is stupidly cheaper than anything we’d get on the high street.

Kabab Khash Kush - Al Nasmah - Sharjah
Kabab Khash Khush: Skewers of minced lamb served over grilled tomatoes and onions.

The next time I need to let my hair down, run away from work and pretend like I’m holidaying at a remote fisherman’s village that’s far, far away from an imploding inbox of emails, I might just break my mixed platter rule and head back with family to Al Nasmah. The food is unassumingly simple, fresh, and seasoned generously with one of the most invigorating ingredients you can sprinkle over your kababs: all-you-can-inhale sea breeze.

Tea - - Al Nasmah - Sharjah Corniche

Al Nasma - Sharjah Corniche

Al Nasmah Restaurant
Facing the Sharjah corniche, Al Fisht Sharjah
Phone: 06-5225100 / 06-5225150
Link to Google Maps:

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

3 thoughts on “Tabbouleh, kababs and a side of sea breeze please.

  1. IshitaUnblogged says:

    After a long time, a post that’s captured the sea breeze as well. It’s 2:30 am, the featured pic on FB captured my heart and here I am… tasting the salty seabreeze as I read the post. Stunning pics.

  2. saleem says:

    Would like to explore the place only when you have the time, without you the food may not taste the same. Well written article and mouth watering.


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