Thursday, October 17, 2013



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Tarbush Restaurant

Doused in red and gold, the dinner table was a setting fit for royalty
Utter the words Arabic or Lebanese cuisine in KL, and chances are the name Tarbush Restaurant will predominate. Synonymous with Middle Eastern fare, the Tarbush empire has grown from meager beginnings nearly two decades ago, to a network of outlets that are spread across KL, offering the finest authentic food from the Mediterranean-Arabic basin. The restaurant has since become a favourite among royalty and celebrities, attracting a clientele second to none, and it was here at Tarbush Restaurant, were the fourth MIGF publicity dinner recently took place, offering a group of 20 guests a true taste of the much loved exotic cuisine.
Located on the lower ground floor of Starhill Gallery, the restaurant lies amid a host of other eateries, but stands out like a beacon due to its bright Syrian light fixtures and colourful décor. As guests trickled in, they were greeted with a refreshing Limonana - a type of lemonade made from freshly-squeezed lemon juice and mint leaves – and an assortment of pre-dinner snacks including Fatayer Cheese, Fatayer Spinach and Zapata Olive.

Guests taking a tour of the Al Halabi Lounge
With the last of the guests present, MIGF Organising Chairman and host of the evening Dato’ Steve Day announced that dinner would not be taking place in the restaurant proper, but rather in the private dining room of the Al Halabi Lounge, located in the adjoining JW Marriot Hotel Kuala Lumpur. The Lounge’s name stems from that of the owner, Mr Mohyiddin Al Halabi, and is affectionately called, “Tarbush’s offspring”.

Pre-dinner banter at the comfy seating area of the dining room
As guests entered the Private Dining room, which sits across the entrance of the Al Halabi Lounge, they were met with a gorgeously decorated interior, drenched in opulent red and gold and accentuated by brown leather walling. Golden chandeliers cast a warm glow on the intimate room, and a long, elegantly set table beckoned guests inside. The setting could have been lifted straight from a grand Middle Eastern palace, and as each guest drank in the lavish surroundings, they took seat on the comfortable sofas in the front of the room and waited for dinner to be called.

Dato' Steve introducing Mr Mohyiddin Al Halabi and the team
Dato’ Steve then introduced Mr Mohyiddin Al Halabi, and his son Rasheed Al Halabi, the Festival Masterchef who designed the Festival Menu, together with his father. Chef Rasheed is proudly carrying on his family’s legacy, and has cooked for a raft of top VIPs since taking the helm at the Tarbush kitchen. With introductions over, a customary group shot was taken to commemorate the occasion.

Guests pose for the traditional group shot before taking their seats at the table
The group then moved to the table and took their seats. From the golden runner that flowed from end to end, to the antique oil lamp that sat at the centre, there was not a more extravagant tabletop in the city that night. With the party contentedly seated, the first course arrived - a traditional starter of Hommus and Mutabal. The two types of dip were served in hollowed out capsicum and tomato, a presentation unique to the establishement, and served with freshly baked Middle Eastern round bread, a heavenly combination.
Hommus and Mutabal  
Fetush with Arabic Cheese
This was accompanied by a salad of Fetush with Arabic Cheese, followed by a tomato-based Seafood soup with fish, prawn and mussels. The group sang songs of praise as they finished the first few courses, and eagerly awaited the next.

A magnificent whole grilled lamb served as the main course
Musakaa and FasoulyehKebab Trio
The appetiser of Musakaa and Fasoulyeh filled the room with a heady aroma, paving the way for the main course. A Kebab trio of grilled lamb, grilled fish and grilled chicken then arrived, and finally, the crowning glory, a whole lamb served on a silver platter. Chef Rasheed proudly presented the platter to the group, after carving it and selecting the best cuts.
The sweet ending came in the form of Kunafah and Baluza, a saccharine Arabic cheese pastry served together with Cream Pudding.
In between courses, Dato’ Steve made his now legendary introductions, going around the group and divulging little tidbits of information on each guest. Laughter could be heard from all around as he delivered his intros, interspersed with banter from the group as they chatted about the facts.
Her Excellency Lourdes Puma Puma, the Ambassador of the Republic of Ecuador, was taken aback by the wonderful evening, noting that “it has been one of the most memorable evenings that I’ve had in Malaysia…the food has been excellent, the ambiance cannot be flawed, and the company has been just wonderful. I really enjoyed very much the soup, this was something very unique to me. I haven’t tasted something so special in a long time,” and when asked on the Festival in general, she commented that “I think, since food is inimitably linked to Malaysian culture, the Festival is a highlight on the calendar and serves as a wonderful platform for locals to try new cuisines and visitors to see the calibre of gastronomy that is available in the country”.

Guests listen on as closing speeches are delivered
Dato’ Anna Lim, Miss Malaysia Universe 1990 and Organiser of the prestigious Miss Malaysia World 2013, was charmed by company - “fellowship and friendship, the exchange of ideas and getting to know each other. This was the best part of the whole evening for me”.

Guests sharing a humorous moment during a speech
Datuk Danny Ooi, President and Owner of D’Touch International Sdn Bdh, mentioned that it was his first time tasting authentic Middle Eastern food, “a wonderful menu that served as a fine introduction to the cuisine. The biryani with lamb was fantastic, a clean dish that went down a treat. The ambiance was romantic, even though a large group was present, it was an intimate evening”. Datuk Danny has been attending MIGF publicity dinners for years and has seen the Festival grow from strength to strength, and is delighted to once again be a part of it.

Ms Rachel Looi, Dr K Y Lau, H E Lourdes Puma Puma, Tunku Shahabuddin Tunku Besar Burhanuddin, Datin Seri Jeanette
These sentiments were echoed around the group, each one wholly satisfied after such an immaculate evening. Other guests included Chairman of Vision Four Media Group, Tunku Dato’ Seri Shahabuddin and wife Datin Seri Jeanette; Honorary Consul, Trade & Tourism Representative, Government of Tonga, Dr K Y Lau; MD of ePetrol Holding Sdn Bhd and Festival Advisory Committee member Jeffrey Perera and wife Sooria; and CEO & Founder, Alorie Hospitality, Jean Marc Lafosse.

Mr Jeffrey Perera, Mrs Sooria Perera, Ms Sara Jolene Tan Ai Kim, Datuk Danny Ooi

Abu Al Syamat, Margaret Lee, Jean Marc Lafosse, Mohyiddin Al Halabi & Mr. Dirk Lubbert
Don't miss the opportunity to taste the country's finest Arabic and Lebanese cuisine at Tarbush Restaurant during the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival from 1st to 31st October! Choose from the full Festival Menu at RM138++ or a lighter version at RM89++, both exceptional value for money. You'll be treated to a complimentary drink on arrival as well as special menu discounts during the Festival month.

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