Since the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh opened for business early this year, news of its signature restaurant’s culinary versatility has spread across town.
Oriental chef Ahmed Galal Diab Katoot who hails from Syria has explored the many cuisines from North Africa to China to offer inspirational dishes.
The Four Seasons name is synonymous worldwide with fine cuisine and in Riyadh, chef Katoot, who was formerly executive chef at one of Damascus’s top restaurants, is fast earning accolades for his ingenuity and for introducing patrons to the Four Seasons culinary experience.
“The secret to good cuisine lies not just in choosing the freshest and finest of ingredients. It comes from many years of looking, learning and loving food,” says Katoot.
“Naturally my appreciation of Middle East cuisine and my knowledge of the various modes of preparation and cooking, plays an important role in the dishes which are available each day. But I have to admit to being an observer: I watch how other nationalities prepare and cook - and I watch the reaction of our diners too. A satisfied expression is the sign of a good meal.
“This gives inspiration to further challenge my and my team’s abilities.”
From an early age, Chef Katoot was drawn to the kitchen: “It was this fascination, watching the women in my family turn even the simplest of ingredients into a feast, that inspired me to follow a culinary career. And there is no end to the learning,” he admits.
“We have Thai, Korean, Chinese, Indian, even Sri Lankan specialities on our menu. These many cuisines are the result of bringing together in my kitchens, chefs of other nationalities, who collectively contribute to teaching and inspiring me - and to creating the diversity of dishes which I hope Riyadh’s discerning diners are now appreciating.”
And yes they are appreciating, as we discovered. Of course top favourites are Middle Eastern specialities, especially with staying guests at the hotel - but the delight of having an array of other cuisines to choose from is all part of the ‘experience’ for aficionados of Seasons.
The highly popular buffet menu for example offers a selection of Middle Eastern and Asian specialities.
His Arabic menu moves from mixed grill meats to regional desserts - in particular the ‘Queen of Puddings’ Om Ali, enhanced with almond and coconut flour ‘a la Kakoot’.
Those with a taste of the exotic can opt for Far Eastern food, with its melange of regional specialities including Thai, or take a taste trip to India with mulligatawny, curry with all the traditional accompaniments and kheer, a dessert so indulgent no Indian meal would be complete without it! The Indian dishes are particularly popular with lunchtime patrons
Katoot has also devised a family menu.
While mezze, lentil soup, tawook and kofta all have their place in Middle Eastern cuisine, we defy anyone who can beat Syria’s own speciality of lentil soup slashed with fresh lemon. “I have to admit to this being one of the earliest dishes I learnt while watching my mother in the kitchen,” Katoot confides.
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