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Halal Cuisine Spiced Up With Diverse Inspirations

News From : DagangHalal.com (14 Jul 2010)

The fare at Figs Cafe & Bakery could be described as halal comfort food.

Set in the former Manna space in Bethel Centre, Figs Cafe has neighbors serving Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Turkish foods.

All are part of the Bethel Road corridor, which is becoming a byway for ethnic cuisines.

Owned and operated by a Sierra Leone native, Figs features a small but eclectic menu with Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Indian and African influences that includes some American items.

The jerk chicken ($9) is marinated in authentic-tasting jerk seasoning, with an unusual combination of mace, nutmeg, allspice, clove and Caribbean hot peppers. The heat – manageable for most people – packs so much flavor that even the squeamish might reconsider.

The large pieces of chicken are roasted dark brown but aren’t dry or overcooked. The meat is served with a large quantity of expertly cooked couscous with minced sweet peppers.

Larger pieces of sweet peppers are among the flat-grilled zucchini, summer squash, broccoli and onions that garnish the considerable entree.

The boneless pieces of grilled lamb ($8.99), which have a bit of jerk seasoning, are cooked with onions and served, like the other entrees, over either curried or white rice.

The short-grain white rice benefits from black-pepper seasoning, while the curried rice is made with coriander, peas, corn and a bit of spicy heat.

A third rice preparation is offered: Jollof rice, a west African specialty, is mild with a paprikalike seasoning and color. It’s part of an entree ($7.99) that features crisp fried tilapia and breaded chicken. The savory dish is topped with a saute of onions and sweet peppers.

The chicken kebabs ($8.99) consist of marinated white meat grilled on wooden skewers with chunks of onion and green sweet peppers.

Figs Cafe advertises its halal-certified meats, which follow many of the rules and traditions of kosher meats. The halal meats are used in the several halal pizzas ($8 for a medium). They’re made on a thick, well-raised, house-made crust that would make anything taste good.

The topping of choice is the house-made sausage, fragrant with thyme, oregano and other spices as well as garlic. It’s scattered over the mozzarella, which is accented by a modest amount of tomato sauce.

The result: a top-notch pizza at a great price.

The side options ($1.75) include collard greens – smoky, cooked without oil and garnished with raw onions and tomato slivers. An all-American macaroni and cheese should satisfy most devotees, with its firmly cooked elbow pasta and American-cheese sauce.

All of the desserts are said to be house-made.

The cheesecake ($2) has pronounced caramel and vanilla aspects to its light texture. It’s topped with plain whipped cream.

The chocolate mocha cake ($2.29) is very light, with alternating layers of well-risen light-chocolate cake and whipped mocha-flavored frosting.

The fruit custard ($2.29) is a very light spongecake with a thin layer of custard on top. Thin slices of strawberries are set in the custard.

For more indulgence, the Black Forest cake ($2.29) has decent cocoa flavor and layers of cherry jam and light-chocolate icing.

— The Columbus Dispatch

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