Situated in the heart of Saar, in a new compound right opposite to Saar Cinema (it’s the one with the DNA-looking fence, you can’t miss it), Villa Mamas turned out to be quite a delight with a Bahraini food menu that is hard to get outside of a “real mom’s” kitchen.
I’ve been hearing about the restaurant for quite some time now and the main comments I heard were along the lines of, “The food is good but the service is not!”
Being a person who likes to see the glass as half full, I decided to hear the first part of that comment and just go there and check it out for myself.
Being a native of Riffa, driving to Saar for Bahraini food seemed like a stretch but after hearing so much buzz about the restaurant, I knew I had to sample it for myself. The surrounding area was pretty much a wasteland, with the usual graffiti slogans on most walls (is that the reason why the compound has that DNA fence?). Thankfully, once inside the compound, you will soon forget the ugly imagery from a few minutes earlier.
The inside bears a striking resemblance to the ever-reliable Coco’s in terms of interior design and setting, i.e., very Mediterranean; albeit with a more polished feel to the whole place.
A familiar face greets us at the door. I recognized the newly appointed head waitress from another famous restaurant, definitely a good sign. A family of eight was waiting to be seated. We waited for all of 5 minutes when a waitress ushered us to our table.
The waitress handed the menus to us as we were seated. She pointed out the daily Bahraini specials and the fact that not all of the items on the menu are available.
Judging by the crowd, it is definitely the “IT” place to be at the moment.
The menu contained the typical sections like salads; entrees etc. while the daily specials came in a simplistic two-sided sheet. We ordered the sweet and sour salad, which is a lighter take on the famous Coco’s salads. The specials for the day were the King Fish (Chan’ad to you and me) with a mildly tangy sauce and basmati rice; straightforward but very delicious. The second dish and the real standout of our lunch was the “Shiveet Pilav”, a dizzying dish of very tender chicken in lemon sauce served with dill rice.
You can tell that these are no ordinary dishes and that the owner has put her own personal touches on all of these amazing recipes.
The thing that most people complained about was the service. Upon seeing things for myself, I have this to say: Bad service means that you are ignored; you get the wrong dishes etc., none of which have been experienced during my visit. What I did experience was a staff that is genuinely trying (and succeeding most of the time) given the fact that it is a new restaurant and that they are trying their best. Most new restaurants go through the same process and it is a normal issue, seeing as it is difficult to anticipate the number of patrons the first few months especially for a unique restaurant such as this.
I was pleasantly surprised that the bill came to around BD20 for a salad, drinks and two main dishes.
I had a quick chat with the owner who explained to me that the restaurant has yet to have its grand opening and that is why some of the items are still not available. In addition, she has stressed the fact the she has plans to make the restaurant environmentally friendly by using bio-degradable placemats, menus and packaging materials. When it came to discussing the food, however, you could literally see her eyes light up as she passionately explained how she came up with her recipes!
Highly recommended. Top-notch local food that only a talented Bahraini can prepare. And since your mom is busy, you need to go to Villa Mamas. Skip Adliya this weekend and give it a try!