Scrolling through Instagram last night, I saw a sad thing. Elevation Burger is closing its doors at Muscat Grand Mall, tomorrow. This is my favourite place for lunch in MGM, where I work; I love the food, and the team there. It was the first place I was ever greeted with "Welcome, FatSu!". More than that though, the opening of Elevation was an encouraging sign that big companies from Abroad were taking those of us in Muscat seriously as consumers of quality products. 

Among the Gulf states, we have a bit of a reputation for appreciating the cheap over the good. I think it's true that a higher proportion of the market in Oman are bargain-hunters than in neighbouring countries. This comes at the expense of quality for those shoppers, and for the rest of us who would actually like to pay a bit more for something that is obviously of higher value - for example, free-range, fresh-ground, organic beef burgers, versus...what is in other burgers anyway? - we suffer because companies whose concepts revolve around selling quality products are not willing to take a risk on Muscat's residents backing their brand. So it's rare that the good stuff comes here.

Every mall that opens starts off in a heady cloud of rumours - this will be the class act! Proper high-end stuff! Gucci's coming, so's LV! Jamie's opening a restaurant! Then we downgrade our expectations as it's borne in upon us that these companies don't have the slightest bit of faith that we as a market will cough up for their products - or if we do, we prefer to do it in the glamour of Dubai or Paris. Next we come to hear of Shops We Love, and can afford. Boots! Debenhams! Nope, sorry. Not them either. They know we'll flock to the stores at first, then baulk at the prices charged, wait for the (ever more frequent) sales, or stock up over summer.

I'm not saying that cheap food can't be good, nor that everyone has an infinite amount of money to spend on their lunch. But I'm sad about the closure of Elevation Burger; I've had great times there. And here and here. There are hints on their social media that they might open elsewhere in Muscat - I really hope so, and I hope it's in a place where they can guarantee a nice profitable flow of people who are prepared to pay for their product. I'll be going for my final lunch there today, and over my extra-crispy-fries with cheeseburger-no-mayo-no-ketchup-just-balsamic-dressing-and-tomatoes I'll wonder whether, by the time Elevation's replacement comes along at MGM, we'll have moved on enough to appreciate that ingredients do matter (maybe more, even, than that extra rial you pay for good ones).


To all my American friends, and those of you lucky enough to have them and to be invited to their homes this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving! I go to the USA twice a year and look forward to fantastic Korean food every time, but I never had good proper American food til today at Di and Ed's. Turkey boiled in Coca Cola! Sweet potatoes with marshmallows! Corn casserole! Seventeen types of pie, I think. All awesome and flavourful, and as a fellow guest pointed out, Thanksgiving tends to be about sharing food with friends, without the gift-giving, family-wrecking pressure of Christmas. I'm very thankful, and just plain full.




The cheese course: perfect for both prolonging an enjoyable meal, and eating more cheese. Here's my wadge of post-prandial Taleggio at the Shangri-La. Taleggio's one of my favourite cheeses and you don't often see it in Muscat. It's so distinctively nutty and I wish you could smell it, but if you want experience it with a less exciting sensory organ, you can read its page on Wikicheese, or join the good people dedicated to the preservation of traditional methods of creating this fine creamy beauty, at the official website of the Union of Taleggio


It's fig season! Or at least it is at time of writing. By the time I hit 'publish', it may have passed by again. These little beauties are so delicate and soft, but there's only ever about two days of the year when we get them, so take advantage. I like them with proscuitto and goat's cheese, or for breakfast as below, drizzled with honey and dusted with cinnamon and served with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.


I love menus, but to live in Muscat is to become over-familiar with what's on each one. Just not enough restaurants, and three meals in the day, with up to three courses in each; it's inevitable, and I'm not even going to attempt the maths. So I'm always happy when a waiter slips a special menu into my hand, whether it's a seasonal promo, a set menu based on a certain ingredient, or the work of a guest chef in situ.

The Chedi Muscat doesn't usually do this, but they should make it a regular thing; they've brought in a chef from one of their other stunning properties. If you follow the Chedi's parent company @ghmhotels on Instagram you'll be familiar with them, and may even use them as I do for vicarious pleasure. I like to look at pictures of the Swiss one in winter...it's like a zen log cabin. In the summer when the sea here is like soup and the air not much better, I picture myself in their heavenly-looking Vietnamese resort. It's the chef from this hotel that The Chedi Muscat has borrowed this week, and there's a dedicated menu featuring some amazing dishes. 

Being totally unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine I based my choices around ingredients I had never tasted - so, banana flower, dalat root vegetables, lotus seeds, rice paddy herbs and clams (I've eaten clams but not Vietnamese ones, and all the ingredients have been flown over specially). Lotus seeds could be the new edamame beans. Really soft and almost sweet, yielding and more-ish, as well as being packed with nutrients. If I had the money to spare, I'd be buying up tracts of land for their cultivation, which is the first financial FatSu tip.

The Chedi Muscat's Vietnamese menu is available now in The Restauran, up until the 8th November.

















We went to a friend's house for dinner - me and three Romans. Maurizio and Alessandra are in the kitchen preparing the meal while I lean back, Martini-and-orange in hand, and watch the experts at work. How many typically Italian products can you spot in the photo? I think it's nine.


Next PostNewer Posts Previous PostOlder Posts Home