While Jeddah may have a plethora of seafood restaurants, to really get the Arabian seafood experience one has to head to the outskirts of the city.
This concept of an Arabian themed seafood restaurant on the peripheries of Jeddah started in the 90s. It has picked up since then and has now spread to other cities in The Kingdom as well.There are various spots outside Jeddah where one can visit to get this one of a kind experience, including Dhaban, Thuwal and South Corniche amongst others. Dhaban is the most popular of all and has copious restaurants to choose from.
Sitting at around 50 kilometers north of Jeddah, this is a haven for seafood lovers. While going to Dhaban, bear in mind, that the restaurants here are not like other regular restaurants where groups of diners sit together, instead here each group of diners will have their own cabin or tent providing ample privacy.
Some of these seafood restaurants refer to themselves as a ‘seafood park’. Since they have children’s areas that consists of motorized rides such as the Ferris wheel as well as the regular swings and slides.
Inside the private cabin or tent there is plush carpeting on the floor with floor cushions placed all around. Sitting on the floor to eat is not an option, it’s compulsory here – it adds to the traditional dining experience. Though you may find some places that have sofas and dining tables, but as they say the exception doesn’t prove the rule. If you are lucky enough, you will even have a television set and a private restroom.
You’ll face a tough time in finalizing a place as most of the restaurants are not well known brand names and offer similar seating options and food. Yes, the food almost everywhere is just yum.
On weekends, you may even have a tough time in securing a spot as patrons spend much of the night away in the restaurant smoking sheesha, drinking qahwa, eating dates and feasting on seafood. This goes on long into the night.
Once you’ve found and secured a spot for yourself, you should make your way to the main block that holds the kitchen to choose your fish; all fish are cooked to order. They will have a great selection of fish displayed behind a glass panel. While choosing, you can even check the fish’s gills to ensure that its fresh.
The display will normally have a wide variety of fresh fish to choose from in different sizes. The popular ones include the hamour, haddock, hareed and najil. Different fishes have different prices, on average you can expect to pay around SR 70 per kilo. You can even order shrimps on the side that come up to around SR 100 per kilo.
You will have the option of either having your fish fried or grilled. Then you can choose from plain white rice, bukhari rice, sayyadiyah rice or a mix of them all to accompany your fish.
Allow about half an hour to get your meal. Foil wrapped fish placed in the center of a round rice plate will be brought to you. You can ask for your meal to be served with side items such as hummus, salad, pita bread and various sauces. The tamarind sauce is a must-try. Don’t rely on forks and knives; for a true Arabian food experience use your hands to dig through the fish and rice. The rice comes in large quantities so order carefully, and when you are almost close to finishIng the rice you can order again, as rice is normally prepared beforehand and is served quickly. Arabian desserts are available as well, if you have room for more after dinner.
Overall, you’ll find the food to be good, but it’s the venue and experience that really makes the meal. So prepare yourself for a seafood extravaganza when at Dhaban. For all the seafood lovers out there; if you still haven’t visited Dhaban, then you are missing out on a lot.