A Brief Report from Amman, Aqaba, and Petra
Just came back from a whirlwind trip that included a few restaurant meals worth mentioning, for better and for worse.
In western Amman, we ate at a Lebanese restaurant, Diwan Al Sultan Ibrahim. It was delicious, from mezzes to entrees. Highly recommend the lamb chops, and anything with eggplant. Had lunch at the casual Books@Cafe, on Rainbow Street. Nice hangout, but the food is a bit over-rated and very westernized/student oriented. The lentil soup was delicious, though. Sidenote: I found out after our trip that a friend had recently been in Amman, and told me that Fakhr el-Din, behind the Iraq embassy , is amazing. Also, Rheem (a shwarma joint) was just written up in the NY Times.
In Aqaba, had only one dinner - at Hayat Zaman. Again, after reading elsewhere that it was the best in town, we were disappointed. The maitre d' recommended the fish platter (shrimp, squid, fish filets), which my husband ordered. It should have been dead-simple, sauteed or grilled with lemon. It was dead-simple, and dead. The shrimp were old and tired, the squid white rubber rings, the filets greasy tasteless. Pathetic. I tried the Jordanian national dish, Mansaf. Sort of like lamb stew cooked in a watery yogurt., with plain rice on the side. The versions I've since seen (googled) look quite a bit more interesting, with herbs and/or nuts in the rice. The restaurant on the whole had a very pleasant atmosphere, seemed frequented by locals, and service was fine. I'd try it again, but with caveats - avoid the seafood.
Petra, again only one dinner, and the only real options here are at the hotels (or so I've read). We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, and had the dinner buffet. The salads were excellent, and very varied, the meats acceptable. The fish looked sad, and I couldn't bring myself to try here.
Wish I had more to report on, but between large breakfasts (generally wonderful, even at simple hotels) and on-the-go travel days, didn't experience as much local food as I'd have liked.
I live in Aqaba and of course everyone was disappointed from the above reviews. Floka is a tourist trap and we've given up on Haya Zaman. Our favorite inexpensive restaurant is Chicken Tikka Plus across from Captain's hotel (do NOT go the rival nearby) for good chicken and basic mezze. At the top end we go to the Bourj al Hamam at the Intercontinental Hotel. It's not that expensive and the mezze is the best in town. Ali Baba has some interesting mezze and fish dishes and my husband just said that he had great fish at Blue Bay, though the ambiance is rather glaring. There is also a Moroccan restaurant next to the fast food row (burger king, et al) but the service is slow. The Italian restaurant at the Movenpick in Tala Bay is great but it's a splurge. Someone else had a nice meal at the beach bar at the Kempinski, Although the setting is nice and the mint and lemon drinks are good, I see nothing else to recommend the Yacht Club, which is unfortunate.
In Amman, Fakr al Din is overrated and the food was thrown at us. I've eaten there twice. I prefer Levant, an Armenian food, for the mezze and my sister, a Chowhound guru agrees. In the rainbow Street area, Wild Jordan is the place with a great view and much better food than Books@cafe. No food in Amman is fabulous but there are some good places. The NY Times article was so way off. Reem is nothing special, rather greasy.
Petra is rather a wasteland. I think the new part of the Crowne Plaza is having a barbecue outside the Cave Bar. We ate at the Movenpick, also good salads, not much else. The fancy restaurant was mediocre and the chef was asking for suggestions. We ate in a local restaurant, which was good but it is difficult to find and has no heat! We ate in our coats in January.