Al-Houda Restaurant - Palm Bay - 5 Stars
Hidden Gem Alert
Wow, what a great find! It actually took me 24 hours to think of an opening to this review. Al-Houda is the kind of restaurant that is why I do this day in and day out, looking for that one special place, that one special morsel of food, that single flavor that makes you go....WOW!!!!! Well, it's all here at Al-Houda.
Let me further preface that my father's side of the family immigrated from Syria at the turn of the last century, so I spent many years eating a wonderful surprise of authentic Middle Eastern dishes. Most Middle Eastern restaurants have Americanized the region's food, and it's so rare to find authentic recipes that I don't even look anymore. Given this history, it was with great joy and happiness that I found Al-Houda's cuisine.
Now all is not perfect in Al-Houda land. For one, it is a very small dining area with limited seating. I also found out later this restaurant mainly caters to the Florida Tech Arab group, so their hours are cut back drastically during the summer. The lady who greets you, who I assume is an owner, has very little grasp of the English language, to put it mildly. If you are willing to try this amazing food you will need to either order what I ordered or be prepared to point. The menu has a half-hearted English explanation of each item. (See the menu photos). The server will not be able to espouse the great wonders that await you. Furthermore, they only serve bottled drinks. I chose an Aryan (pronounced R-yawn) yogurt drink which is essentially Middle Eastern buttermilk. It was quite good and addicting with a sour finish that is actually enjoyable.
For the main meal, I ordered lamb kafta with baba ghnouj. The baba was made in-house. There were tiny chunks of eggplant you don't get from the distributor. I do not believe the Kafta was chef-prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients but it was high quality, better than I have found locally otherwise. The crowning dish I consumed was Molokhia, which is a chicken stew with greens. The morsels of chicken are so tender and juicy they should put a whole chicken in it. As I repeatedly tell my readers I am not a chef, but I know enough to tell you about execution and presentation. When it comes to ingredients, if they are non-standard I can't always discern exactly what they are. In this dish, I know there are greens they call jute. Beyond that and the chicken all I can tell you is it is one of the best flavor sensations I have ever experienced - I mean ever. This dish is so flavorful and enjoyable you can't stop eating it.
The Big Boy wants you to stop and give Al-Houda a try. Whether you are a Middle Eastern cuisine veteran or virgin, I promise you won't be disappointed