Sufra – Jordanian cuisine at grandma’s house

The combination of flavors and the relaxed atmosphere took us all to that after meal nap that we used to love at our grandparents' house. (Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN – If you have been following the food scene lately in Amman, you would know that three restaurants won awards for being in the top 50 best restaurants in the Middle East and North Africa. Fakhreldin, 13 C Bar in the Back, and Sufra won their spots for unique twists on their creative menus that reflect the inventiveness of the chefs and the companies themselves.اضافة اعلان

Now, all eyes are on those three places. Everyone in the restaurant industry is talking about them; some are happy, and some are not.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

Before you embark on your journey to try out these restaurants, I will be trying them out for you.

This week I decided to go to Sufra, an Arabic word that translates to “dining room”. This Jordanian Arabic restaurant, part of the Romero Group, combines the elements and aromas of the Jordanian kitchen to recreate and retell the ancestors' stories through a culinary experience that celebrates flavor and tradition.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

Sufra is located on the 1st Circle, Jabal Amman, down the Rainbow street road. The restaurant is a renovated vintage house with a huge terrace covered with greenery. The ambiance and atmosphere resemble that of an old Ammani house, looks exactly like our grandparents' house back in the day. Every aspect of color, furniture, and even chandeliers takes you back to your childhood, when you counted the crystal pieces while sitting at the sufra.

The servers at Sufra are amiable, warm, and welcoming. From the moment you walk into the restaurant and sit down, you feel the tremendous effort they make to ensure that you are comfortable, all settled, and ready for the journey. Their hospitality does not stop after you order your food, it carries on until the moment you leave.

The menu contains a huge variety of food items, from cold and hot mezze (appetizers), sajieh (stew), fukhara (items cooked in clay pots), soups, and desserts.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

It was tempting to order a variety of dishes, between familiar and specific items, that I do not usually see in other places. All three of us at the table, at the server's recommendation, ended up ordering hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, shanklish, beetroot salad, rashouf soup, batata harra, and arayes for appetizers. For the main course we ordered a lamb sajieh and a chicken fukhara, with a hummus fatteh.

The appetizers are served in a modernized version of the traditional mezza chinaware. Certain food items are served in clay pots, while others in decorative plates, both matching this place's theme.

Before the food arrived, the server brought out freshly baked tannour, a crispy type of oven-baked bread. The smell and the crispiness of this bread remind us of the days when we used to sit in the back seat of the car while my parents got the freshly baked bread from the bakery, and we would try to steal one piece of the bread to eat it while it was hot; and that was a truly happy moment.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

The food arrived at the table relatively quickly, starting with the tabbouleh. And who does not like tabbouleh? The parsley in the tabbouleh was not as finely chopped as I am used to, but the dressing was just right. I love sourness in tabbouleh; it brings out the flavors of all the vegetables in it. The other salad I enjoyed was beetroot with fresh herbs and a lemon-based vinaigrette.

The shanklish, a firm, crumbly cheese made of either cow or sheep milk that is aged, is mixed with vegetables and a light vinaigrette. The cheese itself was not overpowering or intense, which also depends on the source.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

I was craving the rashouf soup the moment I saw it on the menu; it is a jameed-based soup with lentils. The presentation was simple, the consistency not very thick and it was filling. However, I expected to taste more of the jameed sourness, for that little extra kick.

The batata harra (spicy potatoes) was nicely cooked and had a good amount of spices; I recommend asking for a garlic dip sauce with this dish. The arayes, pita bread stuffed with ground beef with spices and cooked, served with a side of yogurt, had flavorful meat. I enjoyed eating it with yoghurt. However, the bread was a little soggy, and when you think of arayes you think of the crispiness in the bread.

The lamb sajieh, with onions, almonds, and fresh herbs, served in what resembles a sajieh pot on top of a small burner that kept stewing on the table, released all the aroma and smell of the dish. This stew is famous on camping trips since it is a one-pot dish and does not require serving dishes since you dig in straight from the pot.

The chicken fukhara with potatoes, served on a clay plate, had very tender chicken pieces in veloute sauce and gratinated potatoes. It was an excellent medley of flavor.

(Photo: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)

At that moment, I believe everyone at the table was full already; the combination of flavors and the relaxed atmosphere took us all to that after meal nap that we used to love at our grandparents' house. Unfortunately, napping would have been socially unacceptable at this place.

Fighting my way through my imaginary nap did not stop me from ordering dessert before the check, and I just had to have the Arabic ice cream with cotton candy and pistachios. As I always say, dessert goes straight to the heart, and this dessert proved that right. The cotton candy melted in the mouth with the spoonful of ice cream and there was a sweet balance with a nutty flavor from the pistachios.

The overall experience at Sufra was excellent, in every aspect: food, service, and ambiance. It was all in the details, and the feeling you have if you are a local who grew up in one of the old houses; if not, you sure will experience it fully at Sufra.

I recommend this place for families or friends’ gatherings, especially in summertime when the weather permits the outdoor seating on the terrace.

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