Eat the Strip

Alhalabi

1638 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K1V 7Y6

March 25, 2023 2:22 PM

By: Ameya Charnalia


Sometimes, a tip pays off.

Since CBC’s Ottawa Morning had us on to talk about Eat the Strip this week, we’ve had a good number of readers reach out to us with suggestions for strip mall gems to review.

One of our readers—Ahmed—kindly reached out this week with four suggestions, including Alhalabi, a Syrian restaurant located near the Canadian Tire on Bank Street and Heron Road. Several strip malls dot this patch of Bank Street, many of them offering Middle Eastern and East African groceries and grub.

Fellow strip mall adventurer Angad Dhillon came along for the ride. We arrived at the restaurant around 4:30 p.m. on a Friday just as the servers were preparing the restaurant for iftar—the meal eaten after sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. After taking our orders, they fanned out around the restaurant to place plates of dates on tables as it is customary for Muslims to break their fast by consuming dates.

Dhillon ordered a plate of the chicken skewers served on a bed of rice, bread, hummus, garlic sauce, roasted vegetables, all served with a side of parsley-coated salad.

Service was great at Alhalabi and the portions were quite generous
Service was great at Alhalabi and the portions were quite generous

The chicken was soft, the vegetables flavourful and the dish—despite the hefty portions—was quite light.

Then we turned out attention to my dish: the lamb mandi.

Off the hop, we quipped that it looked like biryani, a dish commonly found across South Asia. Served in a clay pot, two shanks of charcoal-seared lamb sat on a bed of spiced basmati rice. The whole dish was topped with a generous sprinkling of almonds and parsley. The dish was served with a side of tangy tomato and onion chutney and a salad.

The crowning dish during of our early dinner at Alhalabi was the lamb mandi, which, while a little steep at $24.99 for a two-piece of lamb, was worth it because of the hours of labour that goes into making it
The crowning dish during of our early dinner at Alhalabi was the lamb mandi, which, while a little steep at $24.99 for a two-piece of lamb, was worth it because of the hours of labour that goes into making it

The server told us the mandi had been slow cooked for nearly five hours. No wonder the lamb was so soft, it came off the bone without any resistance. The juices of the meat had seeped into the rice while it was cooking, packing it with flavour that was only enhanced by the subtle Middle Eastern spices and chutney.

Before leaving, we ordered two more mandis to go—one with chicken and the other with lamb—to take back to our significant others. Mandi, we learned, is a joy best shared with your loved ones.