Sambusek [Beirut Market Brunch]

The understated elegance of the Rosewood Hotel, combined with the liveliness of a festive Lebanese gathering is Sambusek, the Rosewood’s well-known Lebanese restaurant (FYI: its name refers to the traditional Lebanese lamb and pinenut stuffed pastries). Discreetly incorporated into a large open space overlooking the water, its popularity is high with discerning locals seeking refuge from the common (and sometimes mundane) Lebanese offerings that are rampant in this city. And now, Sambusek is complementing its service with (what else??) an extravagant Friday Brunch! (Well really it is a Lunch in my opinion- which is even better!)

As it is still early in the year, the main attraction is the open air terrace. The sea air blows in as the shawarma sizzles on the rotisserie.  The tables are piled high with fresh colorful produce and Lebanese specialty cheeses. The smell of juicy grilled meat actually makes your mouth water. Unlike most brunches here in the city, where you might immediately snatch your plate and head directly to the buffet, at Sambusek you sit and relax as all the mezze (tapas) are brought to your table. Creamy Hummus Beiruti, lebneh with lemon zest, fattoush, tabouli, baba ghanoush, smoked salmon, hot pita, fruity olive oil and much more…what could easily be the entire meal on its own, and actually can be, if you like.

Chef Emad Zalloum is so jovial and friendly as he runs from table to table checking on his guests. I felt like I was dining at his home! In fact, one thing that I love most about the Rosewood dining scene recently, is its relaxed and modern sophistication. Even though it is a five star hotel, ti is young, fresh and vibrant, attracting couples, singles and families of all ages, without being pretentious.  

So... really trying not to hoard all of the mezze to myself (my favorite parts of a Lebanese meal), the next courses are really worth waiting for.  Chicken shawarma is served in a hot crispy pita bowl, fried butterflied shrimp are doused in a flavorful sauce of olive oil and roasted cherry tomatoes, saffron rice is piled high with juicy roasted lamb, and finally a whole display of grilled specialty meats is brought directly to your table.  All of these courses and a few other random bites, are spaced out as you prefer…have more of what you like, ask for none for what you don’t.

The decadent dessert table is purely delicate Lebanese sweets and an absolutely vast array of fruit, from peaches and apricots, to pomegranates and strawberries, and everything in between.  B smartly mentioned (I will admit) that this is oddly one of the healthiest, AND one of the best brunches in the city.  You really don’t want those chocolate fountains and extravagant cakes when you can finish the meal with a juicy plate of exotic fruit and a few pieces of sticky Lebanese baklava.

The Rosewood holds themselves to some special modesty standards, which I do appreciate, but on the other hand they never boast enough about some of the pretty special things that they do! For example, you would never know that most of their produce used across the hotel, is organic(!!), and they work with local UAE farmers as much as possible to source all of their products. That is pretty awesome to me!

There is something so relaxing about being able to sit outside with a beautiful open view, fantastic food, and friendly people...yet it is, frustratingly, SO rare here in Abu Dhabi.  If you manage to really enjoy your lunch and happen to sit at Sambusek long enough for the sun to start setting, they will light up the fire pits! After all, what is Abu Dhabi without a little heat??


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