Tastes: Fresh and healthy, lots of varieties, hot and cold with either hot and spicy, zesty or creamy (yoghurt) palates.
Best Dishes: Sharwa - delicious street meat or the Druze cousa (stuffed zucchini)Serving Suggestion: A lively night with a Syrian family at home, mezes followed by salad, meat and tooth aching baklawa desert. Enjoyed leisurely and sociably.
What Syrian food lacks in variety, it makes up for in delicious, fresh flavours and savoury spices. Damascenes are tremendously proud of their local food and are not big consumers of the food of other cultures - Chinese or Mexican, for example. There are a few ethnic restaurants in the large hotels, but most of the restaurant you'll see in Damascus serve Syrian food.
A few burger and pizza joints have popped up recently. Their interpretations of classic Western food are often amusing, but surprisingly tasty. You might find hamburgers that contain fried eggs or french fries. The Syrian interpretation of pizza, while probably not giving Chicago or Napoli a run for the money, is quite good. It's got the usual array of ingredients - sausage, cheese, tomato sauce - but the seasonings are distinctly Arabic.
Visiting a RestaurantThere are many restaurants in Damascus serving traditional Syrian fare. Most of the time, there is no menu - so no worries about reading Arabic! You simply chose the type of meat you want. Every meal you eat will likely include lots of flat bread. The bread doubles as a utensil - for picking up bits of food - or a napkin, for discreetly wiping a bit of dip off your fingers. Western style cutlery is available, but it's much more fun to eat "arab style" grabbing bites of food with small pieces of bread. It's considered haram, shameful, to throw away all but the smallest pieces of bread, but this is a cultural habit that is more likely to be followed in private homes rather than in restaurants.
Guide Written by Erika Linden Green-Rafeh http://www.pilotguides.com/