Flavours of a Middle-East kitchen

Eu Hooi-Khaw

The most delicious smoked hummus, served with hot sesame-crusted bread. – The Malaysian Insight pic, January 21, 2023.

THE smoked hummus was striking with a well of deep orange paprika oil with whole chickpeas in the centre. It came with sesame encrusted bread, hot from the oven, at Leen’s Middle East Kitchen TDDI.

I enjoyed the velvety, creamy hummus paired with the subtly spicy and peppery paprika oil. It was just so lovely with the hot, fluffy bread. We wished there was more.

The smoked hummus is a stellar appetiser in this new Middle-Eastern restaurant, helmed by Syrian chef Ameer Alzalek.

Two subsequent visits to Leen’s saw me ordering it again and again to share with friends.

I was wowed by the crispy Syrian rice, too. Slices of boneless roast chicken thigh streaked with a smoky and tangy harissa sauce (made of roasted red peppers, tomato) and beetroot pickles covered the rice on one side, and thin slices of cucumber pickles sitting on a tzatziki sauce – a tart yoghurt, cucumber, garlic and vinegar sauce – on the other 

Altogether, the juicy chicken, crunchy rice crust grains, spiced rice, fragrant crushed peanuts, crispy pickles and sesame had a delicious mouthfeel.

Syrian crispy rice with roast chicken. – The Malaysian Insight pic, January 21, 2023.

The mariah pide was our other main course. It was a flatbread, like a thin-crust pizza, baked with a base of minced lamb fragrant with cumin and other spices, topped with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate, drizzled with tzatziki and reduced balsamic. The crispy sides of the bread had a generous sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds. I was delighted by the minced lamb, rich pine nuts and burst of sweet pomegranate, tart tzatziki and tangy balsamic and the bite of crusty pide. They worked wonderfully well together.

Mariah pide with minced lamb filling, pine nuts, pomegranate. – The Malaysian Insight pic, January 21, 2023.

On another visit I tried a mushroom pide topped generously with shiitake, shimeji and other mushrooms cooked with a truffle paste with a distinct aroma, and lots of fried shallots.

Charred and pureed eggplant were in the baba ganosh salad, which was blended with yoghurt and finished with fried shallots, spring onions, walnuts and pomegranate. The salad was smoky, sweet and tangy. Our only peeve with this was that it’s served cold from the fridge. We had to let it rest for a while to reach room temperature before eating it.

A colourful baba ganoush salad with charred and pureed eggplant. – The Malaysian Insight pic, January 21, 2023.

I was eyeing the kebab khashkhash (lamb kebabs) on the menu but the friend I was with didn’t eat lamb so we settled on the dry aged duck breast topped up with crispy potato, chimichurri and a touch of orange zest. The richness of the tender, flavourful duck breast was balanced with a fresh, piquant salad of thin radish slices, pegaga leaves and basil. The pink duck slices were dotted with chimichurri, made up of chopped chilli, garlic, cilantro, parsley and vinegar. Orange zest completed it. The next best thing on the dish was the crispy potatoes, probably fried in duck fat.

Dry aged duck breast topped up with crispy potato, chimichurri and orange zest. – The Malaysian Insight pic, January 21, 2023.

We shared a pitcher of karkade lemonade, a refreshing blend of roselle, lemonade and soda.

Sparkling and refreshing karkade lemonade with roselle. – The Malaysian Insight pic, January 21, 2023.

Leen’s Middle East Kitchen is at 136A, Jalan Burhanuddin Helmi, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.  It is open 6pm-noon weekdays and noon to 3pm and 6pm to 12pm weekends. Call 011-7020 7551, for enquiries. – January 21, 2023.

Syrian chef Ameer Alzalek is at the helm of Leen’s Middle East Kitchen TDDI. – The Malaysian Insight pic, January 21, 2023.

* Eu Hooi-Khaw has been writing about food for the longest time, covering all aspects, from restaurant reviews to cooking and recipes, as well as the healthy side of it. She has written for major newspapers and magazines, published the cookbook Fresh Ingredients, and also writes for her website hooikhawandsu.com.

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