Thursday, July 19: This evening I go to Ubhar, an Omani restaurant at Bareeq al Shatti, to try their famous frankincense ice cream. Ubhar is named after the famous lost city of Ubhar in Oman’s Empty Quarter. The setting in Ubhar is a fusion between contemporary and old Omani styles. The walls have small niches with clay pots and incense burners from Bahla and the glass walls have traditional Omani fittings, while the chairs are covered in vibrant pink fabric.
I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time but was waiting until I had someone who wanted to go with me. Since I never find anyone, I go by myself. I feel a little uncomfortable at first as Ubhar has a mostly Omani clientele and is quite upscale, and I usually feel awkward going to a nice restaurant like this alone. Especially at dinner time. However, as I do in my many travels alone, I force myself to do it, otherwise I would miss out on some great culinary experiences and adventures! Thus, in this case, I am stepping out of my comfort zone, meeting the No Comfort Zone challenge!
I needn’t feel uncomfortable because I am the first patron in the restaurant when the doors open at 6:30 and the waiters make me feel really welcome. They give me my choice of seats and I pick a nice spot by the window. I tell them I don’t want to eat a big meal, just a snack, and then I want to sample the frankincense ice cream. I tell them I write a blog and will want to take pictures. They are gracious and accommodating. So, after all, I don’t feel at all uncomfortable. Just the opposite. I feel right at home.
I order the Green Papaya Salad with dry shrimp and fresh coriander leaves and roasted peanuts in Thai Fish Sauce. This is because I am on a diet, which I began on June 26 and on which I have lost 5 pounds so far!
This salad is so spicy that I start choking and have to ask the water for a big bottle of water!! But it’s tasty nonetheless.
And then of course, the reason I came here in the first place: the frankincense ice cream. The waiters tell me it is simply vanilla ice cream with frankincense powder sprinkled on top. It’s strange. I’m expecting it to task perfume-like, similar to rosewater, but it doesn’t really. As a matter of fact, it tastes simply like vanilla ice cream with an insoluble sugar sprinkled on top. A little gritty.
When I went to Salalah in January with my sons, we stopped at a frankincense farm. Here’s a picture of a frankincense tree. From Oman Off-Road: Frankincense is the hardened aromatic resin of the Boswellia tree, and is burned for its medicinal, aromatic and insect-repelling qualities. The resin is produced by careful shaving of the bark of the tree. A good tree may produce 10 kg of frankincense in a season, which runs from April to the beginning of the monsoon. The trees grow wild and are located where the southern mountains of Oman meet the desert plateau.