Abu Khalil: A taste of nostalgia

Abu Khalil restaurant was the first Chinese restaurant opened in Jordan, in 1975. Royalty, ministers, and ambassadors frequently dined there. (Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)
I have been craving some Chinese food lately, and since I have been experiencing new restaurants, the plan was to do the same. Torn between the spots in Amman and different reviews of various restaurants, I came across an old nostalgic Chinese restaurant, Abu Khalil.اضافة اعلان

For those unfamiliar with Abu Khalil restaurant, it was the first Chinese restaurant opened in Jordan, in 1975. Royalty, ministers, and ambassadors frequently dined there. It is located off the 1st Circle, on Jabal Amman, near Rainbow Street, in a building that looks like one of those old houses of Amman.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

The moment I read the name, memories started flooding. As a child, I remember going to Abu Khalil frequently with the family; I have been fascinated with restaurants and food from a young age.

The restaurant’s bright red and pink colors projected through my brain as if it was just yesterday that I had lunch there. I remember the hot plates the servers used to bring to the table after we ordered the food items, and I definitely remember fighting over the last spring roll with my brother.

Even though the outdated restaurant reviews on the web were not as promising as I hoped they would be, I still wanted to give it a try and see what had happened to that nostalgic place that I loved so dearly, and if the food they served still held its value.

As I walked in, the first thing that hit me was that not much had changed, which can be a double-edged sword. The pink, reddish colors are still the first thing you see, the pictures on the wall explain the history of the restaurant, which was very interesting to me, yet the tables, the tablecloths, and the overall vibe of the place have not changed much. This made me question whether the owners were trying to keep the old ambiance going or had not invested in upgrading the restaurant, by way of decor and furniture.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

The hosts warmly greeted us and sat us at the table, and I was ready to start my journey while looking forward to ordering my spring rolls without having to fight over the last piece with my brother.

I ordered certain food items that I always had as a child: chicken and corn soup, hot and sour soup, chicken balls, vegetable noodles and, of course, my spring rolls. Then I asked our server for recommendations regarding the rest of the food items. Per his recommendation, I also ordered the dynamite shrimp, the sesame chicken and sizzling Teppanyaki beef.

The spring rolls were the first thing to reach the table. Even though some might think that they are only spring rolls, the fact that the spring rolls dough is homemade at the restaurant is unique enough for me. Nowadays, most restaurants buy ready-made and cut spring rolls dough, and I believe it is exceptional that they still do their dough in-house.

For me, the chicken and corn soup is a must at this restaurant; the soup’s flavor had not changed much from what I remembered. The soup’s creaminess, and a generous amount of shredded chicken, was all I needed in this cold weather.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

The chicken balls were crispy, served with a velvety sauce that has a little kick of spiciness toward the end. The vegetable noodles were cooked just right, and the vegetables were not too mushy or raw, which can be an issue with vegetables cooked on a wok. With a drizzle of soy sauce, these noodles were an enjoyable part of this meal.

The dynamite shrimp, a new addition to their menu, had a good sauce to shrimp ratio; the sauce was not overpowering the shrimp or dripping everywhere. The dynamite sauce is also made in-house; it has a creamy texture that is not too spicy. I believe that shrimp dynamite is an overused food item that has popped up in many restaurants in Amman, yet many offer it because it is a trendy and safe option for the younger generation.

The chicken sesame was as straightforward as the name indicates; the sauce that coated the chicken had a thick consistency and a sweet flavor; the sesame gave it a nutty after taste. Overall, the dish was enjoyable, and I kept going for another bite as often as the conversation allowed.

Honestly, it was the first time I tried this dish at this restaurant, trying so hard not to cave and order the sweet and sour chicken as I usually do as a safe chicken option.

The beef Teppanyaki consists of sliced beef with a mix of vegetables in a house sauce. The presentation, with the sizzling sound and the cloche covering the plate while the server moves it around before opening it, releasing all the aroma and steam, got me as excited as most people. The vegetables in this dish should have been cooked for a couple of minutes. Traditionally, Teppanyaki is prepared by the chef in front of guests on a hot metal surface (griddle). The word teppan is the metal plate that chefs cook on, and yaki means to grill, broil or pan fry.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

The service was as friendly as you can imagine; the server was very knowledgeable about the menu items and would continuously check up on the table. I also realized that the new family members who own this restaurant are always around, taking care of the guests and their needs, making it feel more like a home than a restaurant, and ensuring that everyone is having a great time.

I would recommend this place again, to those who have had Abu Khalil as part of their childhood and to those who want to have a new food experience hidden in the Jabal Amman neighborhood.

The outdoor seating area is completely new and modern and will be an excellent dinner or lunch location during summertime.

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