We've just come back from Holy Land. No, we haven't made a pilgrimage overseas or done anything religious. We've actually just had lunch at an Arab restaurant on K'Rd, a couple of doors down from the Lebanese Cafe and across the road from Coco's Cantina and Mister Morning.
Yam Yam Holy Land Foods doesn't look as classy or inviting as its neighbours. Had it not been recommended by a workmate, we would probably a) never have found it, and b) not have had the courage to enter. Run by two Jordanian brothers who worked as chefs in the Middle East, this eatery offers Arab food as well as Western meals such as pizza and pasta. I'm afraid we've never tried the latter, as it just doesn't feel right to walk into an establishment with Arabic script everywhere and order something like a chicken and mushroom penne. The rest of the menu was definitely exciting though.
Some dishes, like the hummus and vine leaves, are already familiar from the more numerous Turkish restaurants in Auckland. The hummus at Holy Land was thick, with a strong tahini flavour and served with a drizzle of olive oil, the way I like it. Other menu items included things I had never heard of before, such as the "foul medames" (فول مدمّس), a bean dish.
|The hummus with beans came with a pita bread (half eaten before I could take a picture, sorry).|
While we are on the subject of bread, Holy Land has a "Mini Pizza" section on their latest menu, which isn't necessarily what you might imagine at all. As the pictures show, some are bread rounds with toppings, while others are more like filling wrapped in bread. This is what the spinach and onion one looked like:
|Spinach and onion "mini pizza".|
|Lamb Kofta Kebab with tomato & bread.|
|Slow-cooked Lamb on kabsa rice.|
|Holy Land Mixed Grill.|
After stuffing ourselves with the delicious dishes and over-abundance of bread, we were ready to leave, but we couldn't help asking about the knafe on a poster on the wall, which was previously only on catering menu (like the whole or half lamb on rice). It turns out this is the same as the konafa (كنافة) on the new menu, a creamy dessert sprinkled with vermicelli-like strands and rose water syrup, and served hot. The chef insisted we try it for free, and we demolished the thing before I could get a picture. This in itself is worth coming to the restaurant for.
|More than half-eaten rose water konafa, a warm creamy dessert with syrup.|
I don't have much of a benchmark for Arab cuisine, but Holy Land serves varied food at reasonable prices. I don't know too many other places that offer pan-fried lamb liver, and I still need to find out if their "hotdog" is really something other than expected, just as what is translated as "sour cream" is actually the lower-fat strained yoghurt cheese, labneh (لبنة). In any case, we will be coming back for more.
Mezze: Hummus, with or without toppings ($5.50 - $11.00). These are only appetisers if you share them with others. The hummus fateh comes with bits of pita bread mixed in, whose soft squishiness may not appeal to everyone.
Mains: Holy Land Mixed Grill ($18.50), Slow-cooked Lamb on Kabsa rice ($15.00)
Dessert: Rose Water Konafa ($6.00)
The Shakshokah ($9.00) is nice if a little underseasoned. You can also have a range of salads and dips ($5.50 - $6.00), pizzas ($10.50 - $12), mini pizzas or pastries ($4.00 - $5.00) and desserts ($4.50 - $7.50).
|Menu - page 1 (ignore the delivery part)|
|Menu - page 2|
347 Karangahape Road, Auckland Central
(09) 379 9325
Mondays to Sundays 10am - midnight
[Added 8 August 2012: See updated hours in my more recent post]
|Holy Land is on K'Rd, close to the Lebanese Cafe, Coco's Cantina and Mister Morning.|
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