From dining on the cliff edge to tasting authentic Omani recipes – here’s our pick of the best restaurants for a taste of local flavor
As with most Gulf countries, Oman has its share of decent restaurants inside high-end hotels. But let’s begin our culinary journey by highlighting some of the best-known independent venues in Muscat itself. If your sole aim is to sample genuine Omani cuisine, seek out Kargeen Restaurant (+968 2469 9055), which is a firm favourite among locals and expats alike. Named after the Omani word for ‘little wooden cottage’, the décor is characterised by dark wood and tapestries, while outside you can enjoy a beautiful candlelit dinner on the lawn. Order the traditional shuwa dish (usually saved for special occasions) and you’ll be brought beef or lamb wrapped up tightly in banana leaves and sprinkled with a generous helping of herbs and spices. Served straight out of a smouldering underground oven, the dish was a staple for Bedouins and Omani villagers, who would cook their meat for up to 48 hours.
Turkish House Restaurant (+968 2448 8071) on Al Hadiqa Street is widely considered to serve some of the best Levantine cuisine in Muscat. Don’t be fooled by the minimalist and unassuming décor – the food here is first rate, and in particular the seafood. The grilled fish and shrimp tajin with red sauce, served with homemade bread, is a firm favourite, although many guests also choose from the sizeable selection of fresh seafood, including calamari, red snapper and Omani lobster. Wash it down with the fresh melon drink served in a whole honeydew melon.
The Indian influence is strong in Oman, and the cuisine is well represented at Kurkum (+968 2471 1143), located between the main entrance to Mutrah Souq and the impressive fort. This modern, fine dining restaurant has tables outside offering views of Port Sultan Qaboos, and a clean, crisp interior. The crab and fish dumplings, and chickpea mango with fresh coconut are just a couple of the many standout dishes.
“Omani lobster is popular, as is the frankincense ice cream for dessert”
For a cultural setting, head to Al Angham (+968 2207 7777) at Royal Opera House Muscat. Local dishes such as harees (coarsely-ground wheat mixed with meat), lamb stew and Omani lobster are popular, as is the frankincense ice cream for dessert.
Of course, there are plenty of fabulous restaurants to tempt you within the walls of the Sultanate’s luxury hotels. If the weather is forgiving enough, you can’t beat a seat outside at The Beach Restaurant (+968 2452 4343) at The Chedi Muscat. You’ll get a taste of the beach in more ways than one, with sparkling panoramas that are sure to catch your eye, and first-rate seafood (from Beluga caviar to plump oysters) to please the palate. We say go all out by sampling the degustation menu – it’ll give you a little more time to soak up the marvellous view.
If Italian tops your list, you’d do well to make a reservation at the award-winning Tuscany (+968 2464 1234). Located at Grand Hyatt Muscat, this restaurant has a terrace overlooking the pool and beach. All the pasta is made fresh and pizzas come straight out of a wood-fired oven. The tagliatelle lamb shank and lobster risotto are long-standing favourites, and the drinks list is decent.
You can taste authentic recipes from Oman, featuring ingredients harvested from the Arabian Sea and local farms, at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort’s Al Qalaa (+968 2521 8000). The Arabic restaurant is inspired by Khasab Castle in Musandam – think hanging lanterns and a sweeping mountain backdrop. Alternatively, head to all-day dining spot Al Maisan (+968 2521 8000) for regional specialities.
If Oriental cuisine is your bag, seek out modern Japanese bites at Takara at InterContinental Muscat (+968 2468 0000). The hotel’s newest restaurant, you can expect a side of drama with your meal thanks to the teppenyaki area and sushi and sashimi bar. The hotel is also home to a Trader Vic’s, a lively spot for French Polynesian inspired fusion dishes and a selection of exotic drinks served in novelty cups.
Another Asian dining experience to tick off your list is China Mood (+968 2479 9666) in the majestic Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The inspired décor blends Chinese calligraphy and birdcages, with outdoor pagoda tents – all of which enhances the ambience. And when you do get down to ordering, you’ll find both Szechwan and Cantonese styles laid out before you. Try the crispy mushrooms and shrimp dim sum for starters while, for main, the crispy duck, lobster and sautéed king prawns all come highly recommended.
Over at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Al Tanoor (+968 2477 6565) serves classic cuisines of the Arabian Gulf in a traditional Omani setting. A lavish buffet is laid out, but you can choose to dine à la carte if you prefer. You can also taste the locally caught seafood at Bait Al Bahar (+968 2477 6565), complete with uninterrupted views of the Omani Gulf.
Moving out of the capital, you’ll find even more restaurants with a view that are sure to tug at your taste buds. For an elevated dining experience, there are few better places to start than Six Senses Zighy Bay’s signature restaurant Sense on the Edge (+968 2673 5555). Take a seat on its alfresco terrace and you’ll find yourself at one with the mountainous landscape, sitting on a cliff top and admiring far-reaching views of the sparkling sea. The cuisine is just as spectacular as the vistas. Fresh fare comes plucked from the resort’s organic garden, with fish caught from the surrounding waters, and extra touches, such as local dates, ramping up the flavour.
Heading south to Salalah, and you’ll find Palm Grove (+968 2321 1234) at the Hilton Salalah Resort, which serves up a stellar setting on the beach with a menu that sees fish flipped, grilled and cooked in all manner of styles – from Asian to Arabic – promising something for everyone. Just don’t head here between June and September or you’ll leave empty-bellied, as it closes for the monsoon season.
At Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts Salalah, head to Darbat Restaurant (+968 2323 8035), which has a menu boasting bespoke recipes created by a panel of culinary ambassadors. Try the wasabi prawn with mango salsa by Chef Sam Leong, or the rice noodles with lobster by Chef Ian Kittichai.
Meanwhile, Mekong (+968 2322 8250), at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, serves up the flavourful cuisines of China, Thailand and Vietnam. Try the authentic pho beef noodle soup, an aromatic broth with rice noodles, cilantro, spring onion, bean sprouts, fresh basil, lime, chilli-garlic sauce and sliced beef. Finally, at the same hotel, the bespoke Dining by Design experience, which takes place on a serene slice of sand, offers a curated collection of menus to pick from. Or, for a true taste of culinary extravagance, you can collaborate with a personal chef to tailor a fine feast that ticks all the boxes. The sounds of the Indian Ocean and the salty air will forever leave a reminder of this beautiful country – a delicious memory of your time in Oman.
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