Set amidst Sanlitun's embassies, Alameen's
fare arguably sets the standard in Beijing Middle Eastern dining, while its
light and spacious room – built around a tree – also makes for the most
pleasant environs. Start with a mixed dips platter (80RMB) and excellent fluffy
flatbreads (3RMB each); after, a mixed grill (110RMB), the trinity of lamb,
chicken and beef, will more than comfortably feed two, while a range of rice
dishes and personal grill sets (from 55RMB) are available. If you simply must,
it's also one of the few that serve alcohol; shisha is available at streetside
With Al Jazeera news on the TV, Arabic calligraphy on the walls and patrons puffing on hookahs, dining at Alameen is like riding a magic carpet straight to Lebanon.
Most starters are characteristic of Arabic cuisine. An order of hummus with meat (30RMB) takes the familiar chickpea dip and tops it with fatty ground lamb that just adds too much grease to the dish.
The hummus comes alone but there is a range of house-made flatbreads available to order, including the traditional Arabic bread (5RMB) and mardoof (6RMB), a Lebanese mountain bread. An order of falafel (20RMB) arrives with five perfectly fried doughnut-shaped patties of herby ground chickpeas and a dollop of garlicky-yoghurt dipping sauce.
For those who cannot decide between the wide range of grilled meats on offer, the Alameen mixed grill (80RMB) is a sampler of skewered, moist grilled chicken, minced lamb and beef kufta (or kofta), and lamb cubes, along with grilled mushrooms and disappointingly stale French fries.
The kufta with tahine sauce (50RMB) is like a Lebanese lasagne made with minced lamb and beef, layered with sliced potatoes and baked in a tahine and labne-laced sauce with pine nuts strewn on top. It’s an unusual combination, but with interesting flavours, and is devoured quickly despite being rather salty.
No alcohol is served at Alameen. The menu lists a small number of desserts, none of which are available since so few diners order them, the server confesses. This must be the Chinese equivalent of the restaurant that no one goes to because it’s too crowded. Boasting a menu that covers a wide swathe of Middle Eastern cuisine, Alameen is a welcome addition to the capital's dining scene.
By James Glucksman