Sarai Restaurant & Lounge, located at 4072 Walker Road in Windsor, serves a fresh flavourful fusion of Mediterranean and Lebanese style cuisine in their cozy open concept dining room and contemporary cocktail lounge.
Sarai translates from Arabic into “a house or inn for travelers to rest, or a place where friends can meet.” The owners chose the name Sarai because they offer customers a “home away from home experience, think of it as a traveler’s destination,” says general manager Krista Truckenbrodt.
This trendy eatery tantalizes guest’s while they dine on a variety of vegetarian, meat, and seafood menu items. All of Sarai’s meat is Halal. “The meat we use is high quality because it is Halal, our Halal chicken comes from the Windsor area, our lamb is from New Zealand, and our other meats are from Ontario,” says Truckenbrodt. Vegetarian and gluten free items are visibly marked on the menu.
Drawing on a wide variety of dishes and flavours of the Mediterranean and Middle East, Sarai’s culinary staff have created a flavourful fusion of menu items. Chef Amjed brings years of experience and creativity to the restaurant. Originally from Dubai, Chef Amjed spent years working at larger upscale hotels.
“Chef Amjed brings really unique creations to the restaurant,” says Truckenbrodt, “he brings ingredients together that you wouldn’t think would match, resulting in unique flavourful creations to dishes like Sarai’s oozie pie (slow cooked deboned New Zealand Lamb shank stuffed in pastry with vegetable vermicelli rice) and Sarai stuffed chicken (tender chicken breast stuffed with eggplant, sundried tomato and cheddar cheese, topped with Dijon-cheese sauce), they’re just different.”
Chef Amjed’s creativity shines through in the creative presentation of the food. Trukenbrodt, shared an example of Chef Amjed’s creativity, “he made a beautiful rose and frog out of a green pepper for a little girl that was dining with us.”
The entire kitchen staff works well together. “Abe, the owner’s son, is studying biology but he has taken a keen interest in food. Abe created our honey mustard salmon which is something he takes great pride in, it’s one of our top sellers. Our team brings fusion to our menu and it’s why you see so many different cultures coming to the restaurant not just Lebanese. There’s something on the menu for everyone,” explains Truckenbrodt.
The delicious food can be paired with any of the wide variety of world wines found on the restaurant’s wine list.
An all you can eat lunch buffet is served on Sundays through Thursdays between 11:30am-3pm. The lunch buffet consists of hummus, fatoush, lentil soup, veroni rice, white rice, a mixed vegetable, and a different main dish each day. Examples of main dishes are marinated grilled chicken shish tawook skewers with garlic dip, and Sarai butter chicken served in a rich creamy garam masala curry sauce. On Tuesday, one of the most popular days for the lunch buffet, chicken shawarma is usually the main dish served.
Appetizers are a fantastic deal on “Mezza Monday” featuring 50% off with the purchase of a beverage between 3-9pm. “Mezza Monday is nice because you get to come in and try several menu items,” says Truckenbrodt. The Mezza menu offers a wide selection of choices, many of which are vegetarian and gluten free, including Tiki shrimp, spinach pies, Musakhan (Jerusalem rolls), falafel, and meat or cheese sambusik.
On our visit to Sarai, Theresa (my wife and Eyes On Windsor co-owner) and I decided to try the cheese sambusik. This appetizer was a flavourful spiced mozzarella cheese blend stuffed inside a golden baked filo pastry. The four cheese sambusiks were nicely presented on a long narrow plate garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, and red beets. The dough outside was perfectly cooked and golden, and the cheese filling was soft and warm. Theresa can’t wait to go back to order this dish again. I look forward to trying the meat sambusik “stuffed with succulent ground beef.”
The cheese sambusik was recommend to us by the manager. For main dishes Krista said some of her favourites included the chicken biryani, butter chicken, and Sarai stuffed chicken. The chicken biryani (and shrimp biryani) sounded unique and delicious. The dish is served with a basmati rice mixed with mild spices and topped with slow cooked tender chicken breast, cashews, and raisins. Ultimately though, we took Krista’s suggestion to try the couple platter in order to sample a variety of foods that the restaurant serves.
The couple platter is described on the menu as hummus, choice of large tabouli or fattoush, shish tawook, tenderloin kebab, persian kebab, grilled meat pockets, choice of french fries or biryani rice. Although the menu says this platter serves two to three guests we had no room left in our belly’s for dessert and lots of delicious leftovers to bring home. This platter would have been more than enough to feed our whole family of four (2 adults and 2 school aged children). Everything on the platter was absolutely amazing and my favourites were the tenderloin kebab and persian kebab, both were perfectly grilled on the outside and the inside was full of spicy flavour.
Our salad, hummus, and freshly baked pita bread was served on a nice tiered serving tray. This was a nice touch because we had lots of room on the table instead of it being cluttered with different dishes. The in house hand made pita bread located at the top of the tray was warm, soft, and steamy.
The staff were very friendly and fast. As soon as we walked in, the hostess immediately came to the door and seated us. Anthony our server brought menus minutes after we were seated. Anthony spoke about the menu and said he loved everything on it. In fact, before working at the restaurant he was a regular because he loved the food so much. Enjoying our appetizer while waiting for the couple platter to be served, musician John Sarweh performed live on the Qanun (a string instrument commonly played in the Middle East).
The music from John’s Qanun filled the restaurant with a traditional Middle Eastern sound creating a calming vibe. “John plays the Qanun almost continuously and there are different meanings behind all of the songs, some of them sound very sad. It’s very different and something nice,” says Truckenbrodt. Sarweh says, “I have been playing the Qunun since i was 16 years old.” Truckenbrodt jokes, “so just for a couple of years.” For the last 6 months Sarweh has performed almost every Thursday night at Sarai.
Guests at Sarai will enjoy a variety of live entertainment on Thursday through Saturday evenings usually featuring the same performers each week. The entertainment is sometimes switched up and belly dancers perform on special occasions such as New Year’s day.
Wednesday night is ladies night featuring 25% off entrees and Windsor’s very own Jeff Fabischek (from the band Stiletto Fire) usually performs. Fabischek brings a great vibe to Sarai, “we often see ladies get up and dance around, its a really nice atmosphere, he has a bit of a following, and it’s a lot of fun,” says Truckenbrodt. “Jeff brings something different and has a really good vibe about him,” she continues.
On Thursdays, as previously mentioned, John Sarweh performs traditional Middle Eastern music on the Qanun.
On Saturday night the band Timeless Drive normally performs their signature timeless classics and latin style of music. This musical duo of brothers, Michael and Joe Maio, fill the restaurant with an upbeat ambiance while they sing and play the keyboard.
Sarai offers a different style of music each night of the week between Wednesday to Saturday.
Catering is available and private parties are welcome to reserve sections of the restaurant. Sarai will prepare and deliver catered orders right to your event. For in house parties, the cocktail bar and lounge upstairs seats 40-45 people and is often booked for events like birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs, and weddings. The main level dining room with black and red cylindrical lamps hanging from the ceiling, palm trees, and colorful paintings hung throughout, seats about 80 people.
The soft lighting, uniquely distinctive decor, live entertainment, and first class friendly staff make Sarai’s dining atmosphere perfect for romantic date nights, family dinners, business lunches, or a night out with friends.
For marvelous Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine and an ambiance diners are raving about Sarai Restaurant and Lounge is the perfect choice.