Alaa El Din Mediterranean Lebanese & Seafood Restaurant
I noticed this place (17 Jalan Pinang Road along Victoria Street, 6295-1816) the other day at the former site of the Blue Flame, an alleged cajun/creole place in Singapore that I once noted in a comment but always seemed to be closed. And while I never got to try that place to see if it would be any good, fortunately another spot has risen in its ashes, and what do you know...it's Lebanese! Nice. We made our way down here for lunch today to check it out.
It was actually quite an amusing first experience, as the sign said that they were open, but the doors were locked, and all the tables/chairs were packed away inside. My colleague started banging on the door and windows in frustration, and to our surprise, not only did the door open, but it was some guy who clearly just woke up out of bed and wasn't even dressed for duty yet (it was 12:10 PM at the time). He assured us that his food was ready though, so we sat down at some of the couches on the side and ordered away.
We started with the classic hummous and baba ganoush, which turned out decently well and with some piping hot flat breads. Then I moved onto a basic shish kebab. I was a bit apprehensive when it was presented to me at first, as the meat hardly showed any char marks (presumably since he just microwaved it in the back or something rather than actually broiling it on a flame), was covered in a sauce, and there was some sort of salad on the plate that seemed rather useless. But it turned out much better than I would have thought, with tender meat and a sauce that was mild enough to just enhance the flavor rather than overpowering it. I particularly liked the rice, which was seasoned with some "Arabic spices" (at least, that's what the guy called it, claiming that no one else in Singapore has 'em).
While I have never been to Lebanon and thus have no real basis for comparison here, I liked this place much more than Baladi, which interestingly enough is just around the corner from this place but has become too undependable lately (we got served some really stale flatbreads from there about a month ago, and the meat still seems too dry there). BTW, the guy turned out to be the chef, and was pretty friendly in the end, despite his disheveled appearance when first opening the door. He told us that his place has only been open ten days so far. I'm still not sure if anything else here will be any good (strangely, he had fajitas on the menu), but this was a half-encouraging start so far. Stay tuned, as we'll be coming back to try out more.