Mandi I believe is traditionally a Yemani dish, but popular in the Arabian province. Mandi is usually made with meat or chicken and a delicate mixture of spices. The meat used is usually a young and small sized lamb for the flavor and tenderness of the meat. The main thing which differentiates Mandi from other meat dishes is that the meat is cooked in the taboon, which is a special kind of oven. A hole dug in the ground and covered inside by clay. To cook mandi, dry wood is placed in the oven and burned to generate a lot of heat. The meat is then suspended inside the without touching the charcoal. After that, the whole tandoor is closed but an airvent is given to remove excess smoke. Raisins and pine nuts are can be added to preference.
Hearing about this dish, the flavor and tenderness of the meat, we skipped breakfast in preparing ourselves for the sumptuous feast. A hungry and greedy group headed out to Mandi Riyan in Abu Haleefa. The drive was fueled with experiences from two friends who had this dish in Dubai and words that kept resonating were ‘juicy’, ‘tender’, ‘fall off the bone’, ‘melt in your mouth’…. and the like. Its was only by grace that all the carnivores in the car did not devour each other. Being a Friday morning we reached the spot pretty quick.
We stood facing a small standalone joint with zero attention on decor and ambiance. The restaurant was divided into segments and laid with carpets (no chairs). I’m fine with that cause many times it’s these small hole in the wall places that keeps the dish traditional. We quickly got our space and ordered a Lamb Mandi (kd 4 per plate). We were initially served with the Maraq (Yemeni lamb broth soup is always served at the beginning of the meal. It comes with a slice of lemon to squeeze into the soup) and Salad.
Long story short – the Mandi was extremely disappointing. The rice had no flavor and meat was anything but tender, fall off the bone etc… and all conversation we had remained a fantasy and we went straight from there to a burger joint.
Overall – The mark of a good restaurant is not necessarily its size, but the quality of its food and the generosity of its staff. Along that line, some of the finest dining experiences I’ve had have been in the small diners and dives. Visiting this place was certainly an experience to remember, but one that I never hope to repeat and would not wish upon anyone else
Ph – 23711163/64/65
Add – Restaurant Street, Abu Haleefa