Last time I was at Tabun Kitchen, it was for the relaunch of the restaurant after a redesign session. This time round, it’s for their Christmas menu launch. Upon arrival, we were led to the downstairs dining area, which is a cosy space perfect for hosting dinner parties.
There was quite a lot of people invited to this Christmas menu press event, so we ended up having to squeeze in pretty tight. In other words, it’s probably not the most comfortable seating at this particular event. We were first welcomed with drinks – plenty of alcohol for those who drink, and some pomegranate lemonade and pomegranate juice for us who don’t. The drink was nice and tangy. However, I think many can agree with me, that they shouldn’t be pouring us the pomegranate juice straight out of the juice box – wouldn’t it be much more presentable to pour it out to guests from a jug instead?
Anyway, after we all got seated, the owner of Tabun Kitchen, Hanan Kattan came to say hi and explained her inspiration of this Christmas menu. In a nutshell, Hanan’s father is from Bethlehem whereas her mother is from Jeruselem. The menu features classic dishes from both sides of her family heritage, and is a reflection of her fond childhood memories.
Bethlehem Meatball Soup
We wasn’t quite sure what to expect at first but once we had a taste of it, we were hooked. We absolutely enjoyed and loved this soup. The broth was tangy and sharp to the palate, and sends a very warming and hearty sensation down your body. With a squeeze of lemon, it sharpens the flavours even more.
There are meatballs in it, which were flavoursome and delightful. What added the heartiness to the soup is the rice. The rice has nicely absorbed the flavours and delightfully not too soggy despite being in a soup.
Taster Mini Mezze
As for this other starter option, you can a taster of a range of classic Palestinian mezze. This includes falafel, hummus, udssieh and maftool tabbouleh. And of course it’s served with some freshly baked tabun bread.
Our favourite out of the four was the udssieh. Udssieh is a basically a mix of fava beans and hummus, together with chilli and garlic lemon dressing. There’s a really good balance of the beans and hummus, creating a rich velvety texture. The spices and dressing adds a subtle but effective touch to the palate.
While the udssieh was a delight, we thought the hummus was underwhelming. It was pretty standard but nothing exceptionally impressive. As for the falafel, I thought it has decent flavours but it bugs me so much because it keeps falling apart way too easily. Last but not least, the maftool was alright. It’s something different and unique, and worth a try.
After some decent starters, we were anticipating for the main dishes. However, for some reason the service gap was ridiculously long. After 40 minutes or even more, the next course finally came in.
Roasted Sumac-Marinated Poussin with Maftool
Is this worth the long wait? Perhaps so. The chicken was very nicely marinated and juicy. The chicken meat was surprisingly moist and tender. There are generous amount of incredibly tangy caramelized onions served over the chicken. The chicken doesn’t taste heavy at all and the caramelized onions makes such a delicate compliment to elevate the flavours.
Me personally am not a fan of maftool. What I personally would’ve liked is to serve it with rice instead. Though I absolute appreciate that the maftool is hand rolled at Tabun Kitchen. Another thing that I particularly enjoyed about this dish is the crunchy fried bread. The bread has this savoury taste that really reminds me of some Cantonese fried dough. It’s just really amusing to me to see how much the Eastern cultures influences one another and can be reflected on food etc.
The Lamb Makloubeh involves slow-cooked lamb over rice, and served with aubergine and pine nuts. I’ve already tried this dish before at Tabun Kitchen from the previous press dinner. If you’ve read my review back then, my critic about this dish was the dryness of the lamb. I’m delighted to see that the meat wasn’t as dry this time, though it’s yet to be considered as succulent and moist.
What strike more so about the dish is the presentation of it. Compared to the roast chicken dish, there’s quite a contrast on its visuals. First of all, the dish was served with a significantly smaller plate, which makes it looked like a mere side dish rather than a hearty main dish. Especially in comparison to how it looked from last time, I must say I was slightly taken aback.
Thank goodness the wait for desserts wasn’t as long as that for the mains.
First came the Hariseh Cake, which is a semolina cake with coconut and orange blossom syrup. The flavours of the cake was quite light and delicate. However, the texture was rather dry, which was a shame as I thought it was quite nice otherwise.
We were quite anticipating the Knafeh as who wouldn’t love a good cheesy and sweet knafeh?! Especially when they titled it as Christmas Knafeh, I was quite keen to see what twist they’d add to this classic pastry. In spite of that, our order of knafeh didn’t arrive. Perhaps they just missed out our orders as it was served to all the other guests who ordered it. Or perhaps ours was arriving late and we didn’t wait long enough before leaving. Judging by the looks of it though, we thought it looked flat and seems a bit dry.
All in all, we’ve got certain items that we really enjoyed, and then some not as impressed. It’s a great alternative to the typical heavy Christmas dinner as it certainly takes your palate to a different direction. What we didn’t enjoy though was the ridiculously long service gaps. Despite the food being decently nice, that long wait just unfortunately ruined the experience. Hopefully it was simply because it was such a huge party to serve. Tabun Kitchen definitely still got quite some room for improvements. Regardless, food alone, it’s decent and something worth trying out for. Would you go for this Palestinian Christmas meal? Let us know!