Cheap & Good

Lamb shank biryani is the star at Al Azhar’s posh new sister outlet

The meat is tender and falls off the bone.
The meat is tender and falls off the bone. ST PHOTO: ANJALI RAGURAMAN

Located 100m down the street from the west-side late-night supper institution that is Al Azhar is its fancier cousin - a restaurant with the same name, but serving Mediterranean and Italian food.

Instead of the fluorescent lights and plastic chairs of the 24-hour joint, there are upscale touches in the restaurant, which opened two months ago. These include wallpaper, hanging light fixtures and proper furniture and cutlery. Correspondingly, the food is more upscale, as are the prices.

Those wanting Italian fare can tuck into pizzas ranging in price from $11.90 to $19.90, and pasta dishes costing $7.90 to $14.90. The most expensive item on the menu is from the Mediterranean menu - a sharing platter with five different varieties of kebab, roasted vegetables, rice and stew.

But they are all sideshows to the real star of the restaurant - the lamb shank biryani ($15.90).

A sizable lamb shank, glistening with gravy, arrives atop a fragrant plate of basmati rice studded with cashews, raisins and mixed vegetables.

The meat is so meltingly tender that it falls right off the bone with a mere prod of the fork, and the bone is completely clean of meat by the time my dining companions and I are done with the dish. Additionally, the spices mask any gamey flavour from the lamb.

  • AL AZHAR ITALIAN & MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT

    22 Cheong Chin Nam Road, tel: 6463-2981, open: 11.30am to midnight (Sundays to Thursdays), 11.30 to 1am (Fridays and Saturdays) 

    Rating: 4/5 stars

The gravy from the lamb seeps into the rice, so there is no need for extra gravy or raita on the side to moisten it.

Although the price seems high, the portion is big enough for two.

When I visited on a quiet weekday afternoon, only a few tables at the almost 60-seat restaurant were filled. But it is worth noting that on every table in the restaurant was the biryani, touted as an "Al Azhar signature dish".

There is also the option of the Mahiche (also $15.90), a Persian variation, which is the same lamb shank served with plain basmati rice and a forgettable "shirazi salad" made of peppers and cucumbers.

The flavourful biryani is a far better option.

After that, skip the overly sweet and adventurous drink options (such as the "mojo" or "mamarita", virgin versions of mojitos and margaritas) and head down to the original Al Azhar for a teh tarik or Milo Dinosaur.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Flavourful lamb shank biryani'. Print Edition | Subscribe