Lebanon has one of my favourite cuisines – it is something I’ve eaten regularly throughout my adult life. There is something very satisfying about rolling meat, sauce and salad inside a piece of soft flat bread and consuming it bite by bite.
I worked in the financial district near Marina Bay for 12 months – one of the highlights was a huge variety of lunch options. I’ve explained before that discussing food recommendations is a great way to get to know people here. I remember, a year or so ago, talking with colleagues about how I missed really good Lebanese food. One of my colleagues and friends, Tim, is Lebanese Australian and could not recommend Urban Bites enough – he described it as the food his mother would make (high praise coming from him). We went together that lunchtime and I found it very good indeed. I’ve been going there a couple of times a month or more ever since – always with a group, as it is a cuisine made for sharing.
Dinner on Friday started, as usual there, with pickled vegetables – peppers, carrots, lupins and olives:
The mezze platter was next – wara aarish (dolmades), hommous, baba ganoush, felafels, fattoush, labneh, tabouleh and bread so fresh from the oven it was still puffy. I have to say that the oven is one of the things that keeps bringing me back to Urban Bites – a wood fired oven you can watch being used from the dining area. The dips and salads are full of fresh flavours – trying different combinations of these on bread with the odd bit of meat is a neverending delight.
Next up, the mixed grill – kebabs of chicken, lamb and beef served with rice and and onion salad. The dipping sauces on the left there include a very good tum (garlic sauce) – if you have ever enjoyed a good tum you’ll know what I am talking about. The meat is well seasoned, and just as important, not overcooked.
And then, more of that wonderful chewy soft bread, slathered with labneh and topped with choice items from the table:
The two pizzas we ordered were manoushi (pizza topped with zattir or crushed thyme) and lahem bi ajeen (pizza topped with minced lamb) – these are very good as is or slathered with labneh, hommous or (my favourite) baba ganoush:
We ended up with quite an impressive spread – the danger (and joy) of eating regularly at Urban Bites is that there are many favourites we have time after time, and ordering them all soon covers the table:
The three of us dining that night did get through this magnificent feast – by main course’s end, we stopped to survey the damage and congratulate ourselves:
Thankfully there was room for dessert – Urban Bites make their own, and all are delicious. We had two types of semolina pastries with pistachio – namoura bi ashta (sweet semolina pastry with a cream filling), and namoura (without filling).
Because of its location in the financial district, Urban Bites is full with a line for tables every weekday lunchtime, yet usually has a table free at night. If you like Middle Eastern food, I can heartily recommend it as a dinner venue – and if you are free at lunchtime through the week, you can get the good value set lunch (SGD12) to sample what they have.
I have tried many Middle Eastern eateries in Singapore, including several in the Arab Street/Kampong Glam area – for pure Lebanese cuisine goodness I have not found a better place than Urban Bites. I expect it will remain one of my regular haunts for as long as I live here in Singapore.
To get to Urban Bites: take the MRT to Raffles Place, take the Lau Par Sat exit, walk down Robinson Road until you get to Boon Tat Street, walk down Boon Tat a couple of blocks until you get to Telok Ayer Street and turn left – it is just past the peanut pancake place. If coming by taxi, ask the driver to take you to the place opposite the Chinese temple on Telok Ayer.