AYYAME, Arabic for 'My days' is one of the most delightful Middle Eastern cuisine restaurants in the country. While most restaurants of the same genre usually serve traditional fare in your average hummus and tabouleh bowls, Ayyame manages to avoid all clichés and present us with a delicious fusion of innovative Arabic and Mediterranean cuisine, served on modern tableware.
Although the food is the main star at the restaurant, one cannot help but admire the sophisticated and artistically designed space, a far cry from the kitschy looking ones we're used to.
The restaurant, which launched in 2008, has three dining areas: the main restaurant, an outdoor café overlooking the marina, and a shisha lounge. Designed by the renowned Rana Salam and architectural firm Brainstorm, the concept is very contemporary yet still imbues that colorful and warm Middle Eastern feel, whether it's the gold settees, or the flower patterns on the menus.
We were invited to a tasting of their new menu items last week. The menu, a collaboration between Ayyame's in-house team and culinary consultants, Umami, is a mélange of Middle Eastern food, served mezza style. While this may sound traditional, the taste is anything but!
We started off with the appetizers: the Bean Salad, Spinach Hummus, Halloumi Sticks, Crispy Fries and Fried Pickles.
The Bean Salad was a fresh combination of different types of beans dressed in a tangy vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of yogurt and mint leaves. Very versatile and tasty.
The Spinach Hummus, a surprising take on hummus, Ayyame's version is delicious, yet light. One would think that the spinach taste might be overpowering, but it wasn't at all.
Our favorite at the table: Halloumi Sticks (which we ordered twice!). They were absolutely divine! Skewers of halloumi cubes and sliced bell peppers were deep fried to a perfect golden crispy coating. These were served alongside a small dipping bowl filled with honey. The combination is superb!
The Crispy Fries were, like their name, crispy and had a strong potato flavor – a sign of freshness.
One of our favorite appetizers was the Fried Pickles. It might sound like a strange dish, but it was one of the best things we had! The deep fried pickles had a yummy crispy coating and were served with a delicious beetroot sauce that complemented them perfectly.
For the main dishes, we were served Smoked Tabliyah, Persian Kebab and Mourabyan. The Tabliyah, a pizza-like dough with various toppings, was spread with a spiced mayo spread and topped with different smoked meats including turkey. They were sliced into small squares making them easy to hold. A delicious meal in itself.
We moved on to the Persian Kebab. Unlike every Persian kebab we've tasted before, this one had distinct spicy flavors. It's lighter and less dense. Very different from what we're used to.
Finally, we had the Mourabyan. This traditional Kuwaiti dish of rice and sautéed shrimp wasn't as delicious as everything else we had. Homemade mourabyans are much more flavorful.
We can't say we saved the best for last, because the above mentioned dishes were so delicious. But the desserts came pretty close. Maltouta, the first desert we tried, might sound funny, but it was such a sophisticated and clever dish. Basically, it's a date mixture, rolled into balls, and coated in chopped pistachio. But best thing was the accompanying dip: A Turkish Coffee and chocolate infusion. So good!
We then had a not-your-average Chocolate Tart. A chocolate shell pastry filled with an orange flavored caramel, chocolate ganache and topped with crushed pistachio brittle. Distinct and delectable flavors.
To end on a high note, we devoured the Kuwaitimisu. A Kuwaiti version of the internationally popular tiramisu; the cream was flavored with cardamom, and the biscuits soaked in Turkish coffee. It was light and delicious.
Overall, we had a remarkable experience at Ayyame. We noticed was that the food we had was very light and didn't leave us feeling heavy and bloated at all (which is how we feel when we eat at most Middle Eastern restaurants). Everything was seasoned to perfection: nothing was too salty, and nothing was too sweet.
We definitely recommend it to friends who are looking for a cool place to dine, or a family who wants a warm and inviting atmosphere to share a meal.
– Alya N. Al-Othman