Ask anyone who lives or has spent some time in Jordan’s capital of Amman what their favorite restaurant is, and most likely “Fakhr El-Din” will be the first name out of their lips. I had heard plenty about this upscale Lebanese restaurant, founded in 1997 and located near Amman’s second circle in a house once owned by Jordan’s first Prime Minister, Mr. Fawzi Al-Mulki. And what grand house it is with an indoor fountain, well-appointed dining space, and a picturesque outdoor garden. Though I had passed by the place, I never found occasion to eat there.
All that changed when I decided to invite my wife’s family out for a meal. I gave them three choices: Armenian, Syrian, or Lebanese. Most everyone chose the latter–specifically Fakhr El-Din–since they were well familiar with the food and ambience. Since I had been to the Armenian place before (which was good), and the Syrian spot had recently closed, I was on board as well, having fond memories of my culinary adventures in Beirut. Since we had about 8 in our party we had to take 2 cars, and unfortunately for me, the car I was in had to make a couple stops, so we arrived late to dinner. As a result, I missed out on ordering from their extensive menu , which includes sections for both hot and cold mezze, salads, soups, chef’s specials, seafood, and main courses. Had I not, I would have tried some of their more unique dishes, including lamb brains and frog legs.
But on the positive side, we did not have to wait to eat, and upon arrival found our table laid with a nice sampling of mezze including hummus, babaganoush, tabouleh, a beet salad, raw almonds, and kibbeh nayeh, a Lebanese specialty made with raw lamb, burghul (cracked wheat), and spices. A Middle Eastern version of steak tartare, this dish is served with raw onions, garlic sauce, and fresh mint leaves, and eaten with pita bread. I’ve had it several times before, but Fakhr El-Din’s version was especially good, and we ended up ordering 2 plates of it, since it was so popular. Rounding out or feast were the most tender chunks of goat that I have ever eaten as well as chicken livers sauteed in a sweet pomegranate syrup, and, of course, lamb kebabs and chops. I have found that most lamb I have eaten in the Middle East is not at all gamey or fatty, and this lamb was no exception, cooked to perfection.
For dessert, they brought out a plate of freshly sliced watermelon and cantaloupe as well as a selection of candied apricots, and a mulberry jam. We also ordered a serving of Osmaliyeh, a rich, cheese-based pastry topped with strands of baked angel hair pasta and crushed pistachios, and drenched in a sugar syrup. It was no wonder that the Arabic coffee, served by men wearing red fezzes, did not have any added sugar.
Though you could eat this same food practically anywhere in Jordan or the Middle East for that matter, and for much cheaper, it was the high quality ingredients and excellent service that set this restaurant apart. So for a top-notch traditional meal in sumptuous surroundings, Fakhr El-Din is the place to be.