Marmaris is what I would describe as the epitome of a hidden gem. I discovered this restaurant a year ago, and it has been my go-to food spot in many instances. So, when I was given the chance to review eateries that I believe deserved recognition, this was obviously on my list. I happily made my way to the bustling streets of Little India to try their food for the nth time.
The word “hidden” is no exaggeration. Despite having visited it multiple times, I almost always walk past it. The smell of slowly grilled chicken had me trace my steps back and I finally found it. The sign stated that it offers Mediterranean, western, and fusion cuisine.
At the entrance, I was greeted with marinated meat being grilled on a skewer, dripping fat and all. This will either increase your appetite or have you concerned about your diet, and I fell under the former category. It had two floors, the ground level being quite small and sparsely decorated. I highly recommend seating yourself on the first floor as the heat from the openly grilled meat can be felt on the floor below.
The second floor had an evident middle eastern vibe to it. Moroccan lanterns graced the ceiling above the stairs and twinkling fairy lights adorned the walls. It had a pleasant, green wallpaper and catching Arabic tunes played from the wall-mounted television. It was a warm, slow afternoon and I was the only customer. I took it all in before flipping through the pages of the thick menu.
What I tried at Marmaris
There are quite a few things you can choose from, and it took a while before I landed on my choices. From the long list of Shawarma and Platters, I chose the Chicken Shawarma in Arabic Bread (S$6). From the Biryani menu, I picked the Chicken Biryani (S$9.90 per pax, S$36.80 for four pax), which is a choice that’s hard to go wrong with. Finally, to cool myself down for the day, I chose the Mint Lime Soda (S$4.50).
I attacked the Chicken Shawarma in Arabic Bread first. As I had the first bite, my eyes closed as I let myself relish what can be declared to be the best shawarma in the city (in my humble opinion).
I was given the option between spicy and non-spicy, and of course, opted for the former. I’m glad I did because I could truly taste the spice, but not in the way it made my eyes water. Rather, the spice had more to do with how intensely flavourful the marinated chicken was. It included tahini paste, garlic-mayo, and hot sauce.
All of these were generously slathered, covering every bit of the chicken and elevating the dish. I love garlic-mayo, so my highlight was the combo of creamy sauce with spicy chicken. The bread was slightly soggy at the edges but surprisingly quite stiff otherwise, given the number of sauces inside.
I then moved on to one of the most favourite dishes in Indian cuisine— Chicken Biryani. The masala was at the bottom of the bowl, so I had to mix it well to coat the rice evenly. It came with a hard-boiled egg, several chicken pieces and also a side of curry and raita (curd with cucumber, mint and onions).
Even within the Indian style of making biryani, there is so much variety in terms of how you cook it and the ingredients added. This one had a good amount of caramelised onions and raisins. I generally avoid anything sweet in a savoury dish, so I set the raisins aside. But the caramelised onions went great with the basmati rice and the masala had explosive flavour.
The chicken was succulent and soft. I couldn’t stop stuffing myself with the well-cooked rice, egg, and chicken chunks. I had ordered the amount recommended for one person and it was more than enough to fill me up on a hungry afternoon.
I eventually made it to the much-needed palette cleanser, the Mint Lime Soda. After all the rich food, I was craving it. It was refreshing, sweet, and very minty. It wasn’t cold though, which was disappointing as it would’ve complemented the mint taste perfectly. Aside from that, they’d gotten everything else right.
Their menu was extensive, but there are a few that stood out to me. Vegetarians have a wide range of options to choose from under the Falafel and Appetizers category— the Falafel Sandwich (S$5.80) and Hummus Salad Platter (S$12) being two of them. To taste some of the slow grilled meat, you can go for Al Faham (Grilled Chicken, half for S$15.50, full for S$28).
I only have praises for Marmaris’s food. While there are western food options available too, I would recommend sticking to the Mediterranean, Indian, and fusion items as that’s what it’s known for. The shawarmas are a non-debatable must-try. The Chicken Biryani was immensely satisfying too, and while their food bursts with flavour, you don’t have to worry about it being too spicy to handle. The Mint Lime Soda was the perfect end to the meal too.
However, its customer service was not ideal. Although the waiting time for the food wasn’t too long, it took them a while to take my order. Either their service buzzer doesn’t work, or they don’t pay much attention to it. When I wanted to takeaway my leftovers, I was given boxes and asked to pack it myself!
Something that ought to be highlighted is the value for the price. The S$6 Chicken Shawarma is enough to fill me up for lunch. Not only was the quantity generous, but the quality was great too, which is the biggest appeal of this humble restaurant. Ambience-wise, it’s a decent atmosphere but there’s not much else to it.
It’s one of those spots where you learn to turn a blind eye to the not-so-great factors because the good food outweighs all that. So, keeping that in mind, I still highly recommend it. Shawarma love for the win!
Expected damage: S$5.80- S$22.80 per pax
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