Thursday, August 27, 2009

DG’s Short List of Great Places/Services Kuwait

Nothing is “short” in my world, but…

You've read my bitching, moaning and complaining about places in Kuwait, and I know, you've probably been thinkin along the lines of Papyrus... One of my readers, Papyrus, has left very kind comments and has made me see the err of my ways in terms of keeping an equal balance of good vs evil; positive vs negative. It is at Papyrus’ suggestion that I offer the following Desert Girl opinion of outstanding places to go in Kuwait – where the standard of quality is consistent (more times than not). Thanks, Papyrus!

… Sidebar: This is rather ironic because only last night I stared to re-read a book called “Count Your Blessings” which advises to equally balance all things: good and bad. Children, that is our lesson for today.

Restaurants

Definitions: What makes a good restaurant in my opinion? 1) Food. 2) Good Service. 3) Atmosphere. By #3, I also mean – no screaming kids/a quiet place where you can hear what your companions are saying. I’m not rating loud restaurants because I never go/return to them – me no like.

I’m going to have to go back to these places and get exact names of meals so I can update this later to be more specific.

Sushi


Who doesn’t know by now how much I love sushi? Purgy… wait for it… Well, I’m in a conundrum: I have been going to Sakura for 12+ years (13 in October) and have always loved it… until lately. They seem to be slipping – not in service, which has actually improved a lot – but in the quality of fish and the variety. I’m thinking Maki and Sushi Club are starting to kick their ass on the playground battle for best sushi in Kuwait. Maki pisses me off (Yo! DG – stay focused on positive!) because they are a rip-off on price, and yet no one can beat their variety. Their fusion thing in a martini glass is awesome. I also like the way they go above-and-beyond being imaginative. I have also had sushi from Sushi Club recently and yum-mers! They rock.

Kuwaiti

Shatiya Watiya Restaurant in downtown Kuwait: I’ve never had a bad meal there. The portions are enormous. The wait staff remembers you and SMILES. It is a traditional Kuwaiti restaurant with meals that taste like home cooking – and portions to match being in your living room with the family. If you make friends with Manager, Nasser, you’ll have a friend for life. What do I like the best there? Hard to say: Tashreeba, murabian, qaboot…. There are many. They have only just increased their prices – slightly – in the past 10 years, but they are still incredibly reasonably priced.

Freej Suwaileh: Also a Kuwaiti restaurant. I like their food. Service needs improvement and the ambiance isn’t terrific, but did I mention the food? They do a little DG trick: Serve gaymat as soon as we sit down. WHO wouldn’t love THAT? It is also open all night.

Mubarakia open-air restaurants: Everybody has got to try the little cafes and restaurants at Mubarakia at least ONCE during their stay in Kuwait. Try shrimp hameesa – it is similar to shrimp fajitas (if you like that). When the weather gets a little cooler, it will be a great place to go for cheap eats. Most places serve tea after dinner. Its just a cool place to visit.

Café: The One Café. They practice continual improvement and they care. They have a comments book – if you have a comment, you can write it then and there and they will show it to other guests and take the time to explain how they made improvements. I complained about something there – once – long ago and the next time I came in, they actually remembered me and went out of their way to fix it. Great breakfasts, great coffee, great squishy chairs to get lost in. Deserts will rock your world! They change their menus all the time, but they always have something interesting and good. My definite all-time favorite on the menu (usually around Christmas) is pumpkin cheesecake. Oh. My. God.

Thai: There is only one Thai place in Kuwait that has won my heart: Oriental Cuisine across from the Dasman Model School in Sharq. It is a hole-in-the wall with only 4 tables, but outstanding Thai food; better, in my humble DG opinion, than the Blue Elephant and waaaaay less expensive. Great service (especially when the owners’ young son is helping!)

Chinese: Peking in the Radisson Hotel. Scallops – yummmm. Expensive, but worth it.

Elegant/Romantic: Probably the most romantic restaurant (so Desert Girl says) is Ricardo in the Sheraton. It’s also purty pricey. This is a “know thy fork” type of restaurant – the kind that my mother spent years teaching me about. The Italian food is great, the wait staff keeps a distance, but a watchful eye. Everything is crystal and roses. Guys, if you have phucked up bigtime with your lady and want to make amends, Ricardo is THE place to take her.

Steak: Gaucho. Argentinean steak house. Need I say more? Ask for server, Desmond. He’s from South Africa and such a great guy with an amazingly sharp sense of humor. There is also a French restaurant at the back side of Fanar Mall (again, feeble mind syndrome – can’t remember the name) that only serves steak, salad, and pomme frittes (French fries, chips, freedom fries – whatever you wanna call ‘em). I have yet to try the Brazilian steak house in the Movenpick at the Free(less) Trade Zone and I’ll let you know on that one later.

Fish/Seafood


No doubt about it – Housny in Hawalli. I have tried many many other seafood restaurants in Kuwait, but I keep going back to Housny. It doesn’t have the ambiance of other more expensive places, but definitely has the best shrimp and grilled fish in all of Kuwait. The service is remarkably good for a less-expensive place also.

Nicest Place to Eat Beside the Sea

Hands-down it is the (what the Hell is the Name) buffet restaurant at the Movenpick, Bidaa. Waaaaay pretty with tables on a terrace facing the sea. "some enchanted eeeevning..."

2nd best: Blue Elephant (Thai) at the Hilton.

Where to Go so the spouse won’t see you together

I don’t do this, but just incase you are wondering: Gulf Royal Chinese restaurants have “cabinas” (small private rooms). Sakura has private rooms (usually for parties of 4 or more). Housny also has cabinas (which might actually work out better if you are a sloppy seafood eater –especially if you like crabs).

Best Restaurant for Where to dine if you want to B.Y.O.B.

They do exist in Kuwait and some places will even bring in the appropriate glasses and de-cork/serve you. I don’t know of ANY specifics and even if I did, I would never tell. If you want to send me guesses – be my guest.

Sheesha

I don’t smoke sheesha, but I like the smell. I have friends who like it, so when I want to eat with them and they want sheesha, I want to be somewhere that is well ventilated and also serves either food or coffee that I want while they’re smoking. I like the atmosphere in Ayam Zaman in the Crowne Plaza. Bless their hearts – they really do try to give good service. The Movenpick at Bidaa is also a nice place to go for sheesha.

The “Way-Home” Breakfast

Bayan Restaurant in Salmiya very close to Noodles. You can take home chapathi and eggs, chai/7alib starting at 4:30 am….well before McDonald's...

Light food/Sandwiches

I have a few favs.

Ayami (Damn, I can’t remember the name – above Starbucks at Marina Crescent). It is a fusion restaurant – kind of a mixture of Lebanese and Moroccan. Me likes. They have a different variation on the standard Lebanese dips. Check it out sometime. The food is great, but unfortunately, the service needs improvement (I didn’t say “it sucks” – I am trying to maintain positive). The food is great. I like the pizza thingys and the spinach/hummos dip.

Awtar Libnan is Lebanese and I’ve been to their locations at Marina Mall and in Jahra. Both are great – good service, good food, very nice appropriately-spaced tables (so you aren’t sitting on top of other patrons like some restaurants). Grilled halloommmmm.

I just re-visited Grillo on Restaurants Street for the first time in several years and their shrimp fajita sandwich rocks. I remember their sandwiches being small, but this was meal-sized and quite a few shrimps. An extra added bonus is that the restaurant is situated right next to the front entrance of the male-only Platinum Gym. You can see all the talent coming and going while you are chowin down; feasting your eyes (one in every 100) while you feast on sammich.

Doo-Doo in Salmiya for falafel sandwiches. It's way better than "doo-doo" or "poo-poo"! :)

(Sheel-o-meshi used to be my favorite place for a steak sandwich, but they reduced the size and the quality and now you have to buy about 5 of them to make it the size of the one they used to serve – and on different bread.)

Take-out

I’ve tried a lot of the restaurants on http://www.6alabat.com/ (which ROCKS by the way!). Casper & Gambini is consistently good with good customer service/drivers. It gets to you quick. Also good for lunch meetings when you have guests at work. Good salads also. Indigo is Indian home-delivery only and those guys ROCK. Again, quick service, great food (try the hamoor biryani). If you can get Fresh Fish (name of the restaurant) delivered where you are – go for it. The prices are so reasonable and they deliver fresh seafood to your door. I love grilled fish and can’t get enough from this restaurant. I wish they had steamed crabs, but no one in Kuwait does.

Here is my restaurant wish-list for Kuwait:

Crab House (what I wouldn't give to bang on a crab on a brown paper covered table, sippin on a cool Barbican....)
Authentic Mexican (not the pseudo crap!)
Large-variety salad bar (salad only!) Why doesn't anyone in Kuwait serve a good salmon salad??
“Happy Hour” – I don’t know why restaurants here can’t do happy hour at 5:00 without alcohol. It would be a great marketing gimmick and they could offer finger foods and non-alcoholic drinks. Even if you started a restaurant CALLED “Happy Hour”… People already go to coffee shops to meet other people. Why not start happy hour for working professionals?

Spas

The Royal Hyatt Elements Spa. By far, my favorite so far. I don’t know if it caters to men, however. It’s gorgeous. They understand good, quality services and products. The Royal Hyatt is managed by Banyan Tree Resorts and the spa is totally Thai.

Spa Aquatonic at the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza: Wow. Again, a gorgeous atmosphere. It is huge and clean and new. I have only been there for one treatment so I can’t give anything other than an initial impression, but I loved it and will definitely go back. If you’ve been up in Iraq for a while (or driving in traffic in Kuwait – same thing), book yourself a treatment (male or female). It is guaranteed to de-stress.

Rental Car Agency

I have only one on my list: Automall (formerly Payless) in Rai. Talk about service! They will drop off/pick up to you anywhere in Kuwait and do their best to get you a car in your choice of colors. Consistent with their policies and procedures, kind and professional. Reasonable rates. Unfortunately, they only do GMC and Subaru rentals.

Doctors

GP: Dr. Eman Badawi at the International Clinic. She is a GP but also specializes in asthma.

OBGYN: Dr. Gazawi at Royal Hyatt. I love the RH. It is like a peaceful resort rather than going to see your personal doctor. They make having your vajayjye looked at seem like a tranquil experience.

Dentist: Don’t have a favorite – they all frighten me (this is not limited to Kuwait). I have heard that Gulf Clinic is good (and I want to go there for Invisilyn braces as soon as I have enough cash). Slapps goes to Dr. Sexy at the International Clinic. We just call him that to give him a hard time. His real name is Dr. Edgar.

Hotels

Ok, it really isn’t fair for me to make a pick because there are only 2 that I have actually slept in: The Kuwait Plaza (now the “Swiss Inn”) and the Holiday Inn Salmiya. I HAD to stay at the Swiss Inn and no – not going to make a recommendation on that one. I chose to stay at the HI Salmiya and it was noisy. I have heard that the 4-Points Sheraton is fantastic. I have had several friends at different times stay there on business trips to Kuwait and highly recommended it.

Now, I can tell you about the ones that I think are the prettiest without having seen a room: Marina Hotel (on the sea), Movenpick at Bidaa (on the sea), Hilton (on the sea). Hotels with the best overall restaurants: Sheraton and Crowne Plaza.


2010 Updates

Kuwaiti:
Al Setinat in Hawalli. Service is still so-so, but the food is the best and they deliver. 22665559

Steaks:
Desmond has moved! He's at The Meat Co. now in 360. The Meat Co replaces Gaucho as my favorite, but only if you can afford to pay their OMG ouch prices!

The Meat Co. also has a good salmon salad! (Someone heard my prayers.)

Anybody know where to get decent fish & chips in Kuwait? The Ritz used to own that, but not anymore.

27 comments:

Q8Sultana said...

Hi! When I read your previous post about the Hilton Kuwait's Ramadan Tent I remembered (on a completely different note) that you did some work with Shatiya Watiya Resturant and made a mental note to ask you about it in a comment. And then here's a post mentioning the restaurant... :o)
So did you manage to persuade them to include any camel dishes in their menu? :o) I'm happy to see that they listened to your advices and are now a good restaurant. Unfortunately I haven't been back there since my only visit three years ago. InshAllah one day :o)

Zaydoun said...

DG.. you went to all this trouble to write a long post and didn't bother to get the names?!

Sushi: Maki's prices have skyrocketed, and they put way too much mayonnaise in their rolls. Have you ever been to Edo in Shaab? A class act!

Kuwaiti: Shatea Alwatia has very good food, but the place is so deathly quiet it gives me the creeps. A little background music of old Kuwaiti tunes would lend some atmosphere..... And they're called lgaimat

Cafe: Been to Prime & Toast? Le Notre?

Steak: French place in Fanar is called "Le Relais de l'Entrecote"

The place above Starbucks Marina is called Ayyame

I've heard about the 2 spas you mentioned, but we men also have the Day Spa our little hideaway behind Casper & Gambini in Watea


--

Thanks for the seafood tips. Must try this Housni place

Purgatory said...

Is this the NeverEnding Post?!!

Man, lots to read, but that french place is Entrecote, the fanar one is better in service and food than the Bid3.

As for sushi, besides Edo, I enjoy Genki and even gave Sakura Shi3b a try, which was not bad either.

For steak, stay away from the Brazilian, it sucks, trusts me!!

argentrapide said...

Well the Blue Elephant will be leaving Hilton shortly...

daggero said...

D Girl :

Excellent review ,

the kuwaiti sweet dumplings is called Logaymat (just add Lo )hey maybe we can package it and sell it to the unsuspecting Americans as Low calories dumplings and take their dollars ;)

The french restaurant in Fanar is called Ralye entroqiet (check the spelling )

TexPat said...

The blogosphere needed this article for a long time! Thanks a zillion, especially for the sushi info.

Desert Girl said...

Sultana - Shatiya's service is better - probably because they all know me now! It is a biotch to get to because of the construction - probably why it is so quiet in there.

Zaydoun - dude, feeble mind, remember? I was just asked the question in the morning, so I wrote the whole thing without doing any research. Plus, I'm not going to so much trouble on reviews on the blog because I don't really have to be accurate - like I would for the magazines. You guys are SO GOOD at filling in all the blanks for me that I didn't really have to, did I? ;) Thanks for that.

I don't really like Edo. Sorry, but I just don't. I like the atmosphere, but I don't like the variety at Edo nor the size of the portions. Just not that into it.

Gaymat lgaimat lagaymat elgaymat - ok. You get the point.

I don't like Le Notre (sorry, just me) and never tried Prime & Toast. Will do now, though.

OMG Purgy - how can you say that about Brazilian steak? I buy kilos and kilos of it from Pinar in Shuwaikh. Awesome for barbecues.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! I decided to give The One's cafe another try. I really liked it, a lot better than my last visit. I just hope it'll be less packed, so I can at least enjoy reading.

Thanks DG!

papyrus said...

OMG, DG, I'm so happy and honored, This list is amazing, I've read till Light meals/sandwitches, I have two things to add:
The resturant above Starbucks Marina Crescent is called "Ayami", they also serve very very good shisha, and the sea view at the terrace is nice, only when it's nice weather of course, I haven't tried sitting inside, but it looks nice, like you said, food is good, coffee is great in fact, try capuccino, they make it like Italians, they also serve good Turkish Coffee, unfortunately they serve it in Arabic style cups, not the turkish or espresso style cups :(
Your choice of seafood surprised me, I haven't been to this place, but because of the negative comments I've heard about it, I used to prefer AlNawkhaza sea food rest. in Crown Plaza, but hey, you know what? I trust you more, I'm going there next weekend :)
I laughed my tail on the section "spouse no see places" LOLLLLLLLLLLL

Desert Girl said...

Papyrus: Good ideas deserve to be noted. :) Thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow! LOL

Nokhatha: All about tastes/perspectives. I like just a serious no-nonsense grilled piece of seafood and a green salad. Nokhatha has too many other things; too many sauces; too many distractions at a buffet price.

Thanks again for your comments! :)

Papyrus said...

I've finished reading the "short list", well, I'm gonna print it out and get started with thos places :)
I've got few add ons:
Regarding Coffee, There's a good one "Supreme Cafe'" the one opposite to Sultan Center Salmiya, great coffee, deserts are amazing, sandwiches are not bad; 8/10. Comfortable seats, prices are average, well, cheaper than starbucks
Sitting outside on the street in a nice weather day is great, The problem is sitting inside, everyone is smoking so heavily, the place is really a chimney.
Regarding the sandwitch section, there's a great palastinian place, at the end of Bahrain st. Salmiya, next to papa Jones pizza, it's called Al-Kalha, great falafel, super great in fact, and the place is very clean, open kitchen style, you can see how clean it is while you're picking your sandwitches, the places has dine in also, suitable for breakfast in a homy atomosphere.
Regarding Steak; you mentioned the best, Gaucho, alright, but there're many other places, may be less perfect, may be not fulfilling all the features, but they serve "Sub perfect" steak, like Buffalo (don't like the decoration and the dark place, but food is good, just don't take St. Luis ribs)
Applebees and Friday: steak is not bad also, Templeweed at Movenbick, it's good, and the "Pseudo Mexican" items are as close to Mexican as possible.
on the wish list, I wish to have a genuin, south african grill house, also a Turkish style Kabab place (I've tasted that only in Egypt and Turky)
DG, do you have a preference in Juices, smooties and cocktail?

Desert Girl said...

Papyrus - next time you're in Supreme Cafe, take a look around to see what the action is. It has been a gay hangout for years. Maybe the coffee is good. I don't know. :)

payrus said...

Damn!!!!!!! Haven't noticed that, seems I'm getting old to notice that, here goes a nice place:(
How about Costa Cafe in Scientefic Center? but in a weekeday, try a cold day, sit behind the glass, take cinnamon late.

As an apology of including supreme cafe, I'd like to introduce a new place quick revision:
Morrocan cuisine: WEll, there're only two major places in Kuwait, Marrakesh in Fintas and Tajeen in Palms, Salwa gulf road (that's the one I tried):
Nice place, sometimes "Oud" music, quite and magical. no prats there :) nice waiters, friendly, food is great, but it's in fact expensive, you pay average about 30KD for a couple, but the clue is: you order while you're hungary, but the food quantity is huuuuuuge, you must try the "Harra" soup, and don't order much. good luck

purple said...

Could you please tell me the exact location of Shatiya Watiya?

Jewaira said...

@DG
Write a detailed guide. You would be good (but remember names :p)

@ Purple

Shate Al-Watyah is in the old Behbehani houses near Dar AlFunoon

It is behind the Sheraton and where the Church used to be (or is it still there?)

Anonymous said...

Hey!
You should check out Sahara Golf Club, they have Syrian Takht Sharqi (band with Ood and a singer) for the next couple of days (until the day before the last 10 days of ramadan). Its not a ramadan tent per say, but close enough. The seating is both indoors and outdoors (you can still hear the band out doors). There is a small buffet with soups, salads, main dish and dessert. You could order sheeshaa outdoors also.

papyrus said...

Regarding SeaFood:
"Total Fish" at Marina Crescent:
DO NOT GO THERE
I repeat, do not EVER go there.
Despite the nice location, nice decoration that they tried to make it look like the fish resturants in Cyprus, perhaps North England as well, but the food sucks, you'd expect a resturant owened by AL Shaya'a group to keep a track of quality control, but nop, not in this one, I sort of guessed it when I was "alone" in the whole resturant at dinner time, but I wanted to give the trial a full run.
Anyone knows anything about "Fish Market" resturant on the gulf road?

Desert Girl said...

Totally Fish - I ate there just the other night. They have a Ramadan special for 7.500 and you get an enormous amount of food and choice of fish or shrimp entree, mezza and desert. I like the restaurant, actually and haven't had any problem there. It's not my favorite, however.

I wouldn't have thought about the Sahara.... hmmm....

Ravishankar said...

Other than Radisson what would be your choice of a Stand Alone Chinese Restaurant?

Desert Girl said...

Ravishankar - I don't go to a lot of Chinese restaurants here because I just haven't found them to be of the same quality as the States. But, if I had to choose, I would pick either Noodles or Gulf Royale. I've been to a lot of smaller ones, but I like those 2 the best.

Lulwa said...

What does B.Y.O.B Stands for ?

Anonymous said...

Hello DG,

I am a new kid on the block. Can u gv some directions to Housny in Hawalli? Eg: nearest Landmark?

Cheers,
Raymond L.

Desert Girl said...

Everybody Loves Raymond:

From 40 (coming from the South) – get off at exit to Hawalli for Beirut Street (1st exit past 4th Ring Road). On Beirut Street, pass Nugra shopping centers (left and right with a walkway overhead). Pass traffic circle. There will be a tall communications tower on the right and on the left, there will be a Center Point store. Housny is upstairs on the 1st floor from Center Point in a building that looks like old Islamic architecture.

From 30 – get off at exit to Cairo Street. Turn left (at exit) at the traffic light at bottom of hill. Stay in left lane. Take 1st left at light onto Beirut Street. Sultan Center will be on your left and Muhallab Mall will be ahead on right. Pass large intersection (Tunis Street). Approximately 2 blocks down, the communications tower will be on left and Center Point on the right. If you have gone to the traffic circle, you have gone too far. Housny is upstairs in the Center Point building on the 1st floor in a building that looks like old Islamic architecture.

Anonymous said...

DG,

Mucho Gracias!!

Raymond :P

Anonymous said...

Want a good salad bar in Kuwait ? Try Salad Creations. Salmon Sesame Ginger Salad is really good. You can also wrap your salads in a tortilla bread as an option. Very healthy and reaaaallllly good. I personally recommend it. Other options: Thai crunch (wrap it), The Wedge, Apple & Pecan.. I honestly believe it to be the best salad bar in Kuwait. try it out :)

Desert Girl said...

Salad Creations: I tried them a long time ago and was impressed by their packaging. I also attended an event where SC was handing out sample salads and I thought they were great. I have 2 different friends order from them online (6alabat.com) and had bad experiences; when they called, they got the manager who was rude and then the owner called and it was not properly resolved to her satisfaction. So, I'll have to give them a try again and see how it is now. Sometimes new businesses just have to work out the hiccups. Thanks for reminding me about them.

Anonymous said...

can i know what is the average prices for breakfast in lenotre?