Hadhramout’s auspicious mandi

Stumbling on this restaurant was a welcome surprise.

  • Name + address: Hadhramout, 3-1930 Bank Street

  • Type of food: Middle Eastern

  • Prices: $1.25-$37

  • Diet: Meat, fish

  • Wheelchair accessibility: Yes, one step up

  • Licensed: No

  • Website: None

Hadhramout came as a surprise. I was intending on making a turn through a parking lot to head back to Bank Street when I found myself in front of a tiny strip mall. It’s hidden from the main road but seeing the sign for a Yemeni restaurant piqued my interest.

I was warmly greeted by a woman busily arranging takeaway orders behind the counter. Despite its location, it appeared that many knew of this restaurant as the brown bags were beginning to pile up.

I asked for a few starters but they were either permanently off the menu (bagea, Yemeni falafel)  or like the sambousa (Yemeni samosa) available only during Ramadan.

Beef wrap. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

I satisfied myself by ordering a beef wrap ($11), a lamb mandi ($19) and fatta ($8.50) for dessert.

Once home and food unpacked, I was puzzled by the weight of the beef sandwich. I got out my kitchen scale and weighed the thing: 714 grams. Incredible and incredibly delicious. 

The sandwich was moist and loaded with vegetables and cubes of tender beef running with a lip-smacking sauce. The Yemeni bread was springy and thin with sufficient integrity to hold the mass together and had I enjoyed this sandwich last year it would have ended up on the year's best list.

Lamb Mandi. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

For lovers of Middle Eastern rice dishes, the lamb mandi may remind some of Persian rice. Long grain rice that is steamed and so fluffy that each grain is easy to lift away from the others. Here it was equally masterful in execution but with a more distinctly Indian tasting seasoning. The caramelized onions on top were intoxicating and there weren’t enough of them.

The lamb shank was marinated through, packed a mild heat and ended with hints of smoke. As it turned out, the rice was big enough in profile to complement the complex seasoning on the lamb. I managed to get two meals from a single order.

I finished dinner with their Fatta Muz (bananas) and Fatta Tamr (dates). This dessert is made with diced or crushed Yemeni bread mixed with the fruit. Think of it as a form of bread pudding. Neither were very sweet with the Tamr having the coarser texture of an oatmeal crumble with a small addition of something savoury. Both are worth having.

It’s always exciting to discover new dishes and when the home cooking is this good, it’s a duty to share the news.

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