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Arabian nights, food... hookah and dance

Lebanese food with royal hookah awaits you at Maroush, Maurya Sheraton's rooftop restaurant. SUMITRA SENAPATY recounts the enjoyable experience... .



A Lebanese belly dancer performing at the Maroush restaurant in Hotel Maurya Sheraton. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt.

AHLAN WA SAHLAN! The Lebanese welcome at Maroush, Maurya Sheraton's rooftop restaurant. Here you'll find Reem, the belly dancer, Refaat and Imad on the `tabal' and `oud' -- typical Arabic musical instruments -- and some of the best and most authentic Middle-Eastern food in town. It's the total experience, not to be missed.

An Arabian nights syndrome with magic lamps and magic carpets kind of thing! At Maroush, if you pay the check before midnight, then you've done something wrong. Here you should consider not only what you are going to eat, but also how you are going to eat it. When it comes to food a la Lebanese style, the way to go is to pick at your food over several hours of talk and gossip while listening to music and watching the belly dancer. Look for the smoke on water at Maroush! Be bold enough to indulge in a Shisha, their water pipe with fruity tobacco and you'll discover just how relaxing it is. It also aids digestion The term Shisha actually refers to the water pipe used which is often referred to as a hubbly bubbly or hookah pipe, although it is correctly termed as Nargile. Shisha, the much acclaimed Arabic hubble bubble, comes in a variety of aromatic flavours such as strawberry, green apple, orange, even cappuccino, although tobacco is the core ingredient. So beware non-smokers! However, the Shisha differs from regular cigarette or cigar smoking in that it is much smoother. The water takes the edge off the smoke, creating a real cool, soothing effect. Maroush also offers typically Lebanese beverages -- chilled date and ginger drink, spiced cinnamon flavoured coconut drink, mint tea and qahwa, the Arabic coffee. Arabian coffee is a special mix of light and dark beans, roasted separately, with a dash of cardamom for aroma.

At Maroush, it's the age-old story of getting back to favourites that are so good that one finds it difficult to try something new. The cold and hot mezze - appetiser - platters are a good example. Our choice is Hummus, Tabouleh, Falafel served along with Pita bread, and this is almost a full meal by itself. Lebanese food focuses on spices, herbs and the freshness of ingredients. We were partaking what is considered to be one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. For the main course we opt for the Mashawi Mouchakel -- skewers of Australian lamb and chicken, served with the chef's garlic sauce. The sauce is something really different, as it is made from just pure raw garlic, so it is best that all at your table have a go at it! Shawarmas, Kibbeh, Shesh Tawook are some fabulous taste combinations that must be checked out at Maroush. The live Middle Eastern music does take the experience over the top, and for the adventurous, the restaurant staff will set up the Shisha water pipe stuffed with Lebanese tobacco and topped with live coal, to relax and enjoy. Keep place for desserts, as you must try the Kataif Mihshi, pancakes stuffed with mascarpone cheese and served with sweetened rose syrup. By the way, belly dancers are good for digestion. No matter what you choose to eat, you will fare better if you eat slowly, talk, drink, smoke the water pipe and watch the belly dancers. For those in favour of Middle East flavours, Maroush is the ticket.

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