Alsinior and the magic of rebranding

(Photos: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)
My punctuality, especially in terms of work, has been on the “needs improvement” side for the past few weeks. While work-life balance remains a question I am pondering, I did eventually reach an understanding that what I was doing was not it. اضافة اعلان

However, while I was working on my punctuality and work ethic this week, I got a call from a couple of friends to meet up for a late lunch during my work hours. I went, no regrets.

We made our way to Khalda to a restaurant named Alsinior, previously known as Zodiac (a café that served mixed cuisines). Management decided it was time for a change and went for a full rebranding and concept shift. And let me tell you: it is a shining example of how rebranding can save a business.

RebrandingThe restaurant scene in Amman can be incredibly competitive. New places are popping up left and right, and it can be hard for an establishment to stand out. But, Alsinior did just that. 

Originally, I had thought Alsinior served Mexican cuisine, but I was surprised to learn that it served Arabic food with a slight twist. The restaurant still works under the old management, and the owner told us that the rebranding was working well for them. This did not come as a surprise.

A recent study showed that newer generations are less likely to be loyal to a brand. This is key to consider, especially for restaurants that feel they have lost their vision or find that competition is growing. And as more people are heading toward newer places with an attractive ambiance for a picture-op or two, there are two things restaurants usually opt to do: rebrand or shut down.

As part of their rebrand, the owner said the vision was to have a proper Lebanese cuisine restaurant with a great atmosphere and service that does not serve alcohol to appeal to those who do not drink. 

In terms of atmosphere, the restaurant can be considered casual and cozy, with a wide presence of wooden décor and a mix of couches and chair seating areas suitable for groups. 

Medley of flavorsSince it is an Arabic restaurant, sharing food is a must. So, we ordered multiple appetizers, both cold and hot, as well as one main dish — the sujuk shawarma, which was an exciting twist on the traditional shawarma.

First up, the eggplant salad. Now, I am not usually a fan of eggplants, but with a group, one has little choice. But, I must say, this salad was a definite highlight of the whole experience. It had a beautiful flavor medley, mixed vegetables, and a well-seasoned molasses dressing. 

Next up, the shanklish, which is fermented curdled yogurt and a traditional appetizer in the Arabic and Lebanese cuisines. It was served in a ball shape form with all the chopped vegetables on the side. The server helped us by mixing it all together with a little bit of olive oil. This is one of my top 10 favorite appetizers, and ordering it is a must. At Alsinior, I would highly recommend it.

One note: from an execution point of view, I would recommend using a fork and a spoon to mix it up, as it might be a little easier than using a fork and a knife.

Next came the kubbeh niyeh, which arrived on a marble plate with condiments on the side. It is interesting to note that previously some people were skeptical about ordering this dish because it contains raw ground meat. However, since beef tartar became famous, I suspect raw meat may no longer be as wide a problem anymore. 

For me, there is a certain joy in spreading the kubbeh niyeh and topping it with some onions and garlic aioli with a little bit of seasoning. Taste-wise, it was enjoyable, but something was left to be desired.

Personally, I would season the meat before serving it so that people can enjoy the toppings and the garlic aioli better, as it can be a hassle mixing in the salt and pepper.

Last but not least, batata harra (spicy potatoes). For this appetizer, the potatoes were fried instead of roasted — a little twist that I welcomed. Golden in color, crisped to perfection, and tossed with spices, need I say more?

An unmemorable twistOur main dish, the sujuk shawarma, while looking great in terms of presentation, did not offer the flavor I was expecting. 

The display of the server squeezing lemon juice all over the shawarma and the juice sliding down the chicken pieces was appetizing. The synergy in the dish was not synched, and the spices tasted raw. 

While I enjoy certain twists on traditional dishes, this one was not memorable, nor did it have an oomph to it.

What was memorable was the dessert. Consisting of ice cream on top of a rice crispy base and topped with cotton candy, it was delicious to say the least. The texture of the cotton candy melting on the tongue with the ice cream's coldness elevated this dish's sensory experience altogether. 

Overall, the experience was enjoyable. The service was exceptional and super friendly — and very suave.

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