If you visit Riyadh, you’re going to eat at Najdi Village. I mean, you can just take that as a guarantee. You will go to Najdi Village and you will like it. (Okay, so I don’t exactly know if you will like it, but I know you should.)
What is Najdi Village, you ask? An excellent question! First, you should know that Saudi Arabia is divided up into regions. The central region, where Riyadh is located, is the Najd region. So if your family is from that region, you’re Najdi. (For the record, Mr. Mostafa’s family is not Najdi. Although Mr. Mostafa’s parents have lived here for the entirety of their married life and all their kids were born and raised here, they’re Hijazi–from Hijaz, the western region of Saudi Arabia.)
So, with this information, I am guessing you can conclude that at Najdi Village, you eat good ol’ fashioned Najdi food. And you eat it in the traditional Najdi way–on the floor. And it rocks.
Having spent pretty much every waking moment for the last six years in companionship with a certain Saudi male, I’ve reached the point where traditional Saudi food has become comfort food to me, alongside such American delicacies as Kraft macaroni and cheese and my mom’s Crock Pot beef tips and rice, which is the best rainy day dinner ever–oh, and my mom’s white gravy. (Seriously, my San Francisco-raised mother makes the best white gravy you will ever taste–it’s like she was born and raised in the Ozarks. She’s basically the Pioneer Woman. Slap that gravy on some mashed potatoes and man, you’ll be in heaven. Heck, I can just eat it by itself with a big ol’ spoon). And if you’re going to go out to eat for Saudi comfort food, I’ve yet to find a restaurant that will fix you right up better than Najdi Village.
In the family section, the eating areas are closed off into rooms. Some rooms have curtains that pull closed (like ours did on this particular visit), and others have big, colorful wooden doors–but they all close.
If you are one of the folks who despises closed eating areas, as are common in the family sections of restaurants throughout Riyadh, you might not like Najdi Village at first –but the cool thing about it is, the rooms are big enough that you feel at home, because they’re modeled after a traditional Saudi living room. Which means that there are cushions on the floor all around the perimeter of the room, and that’s where you sit. And your food is served on a mat on the floor. And of course, shoes come off just outside the door.
The decor can best be described as vintage Arabia.
All of the dishes are meant to be shared. I suppose you could just decide that everyone will eat only what they order, but that’s no fun…and besides, each dish has a lot of food!
We settled into our room and picked out our dishes. (Many thanks to Mr. Mostafa, who missed his calling as a hand model.)
The menu has descriptions in English, for patrons who might not be readily familiar with what each dish entails. No, the English spellings aren’t consistent, but just go with it. It doesn’t matter. Really. And I say this as a former spelling bee queen.
So, yeah. We placed our order for our chosen dishes, along with drinks, including laban.
The food was amazing, of course.
By the way, I know the bread looks huge, but it’s actually hollow in the middle; once you tear it open to eat it, it deflates. Entertaining and delicious!
Oh, and the laban comes in a bowl, which is fun.
Good stuff, Maynard!
Kinda hard to deny the family resemblance here.
Arguably, one of the best parts about Najdi Village is that after you’ve stuffed yourself silly, you can lay right down and relax on the cushions on the floor.
Mr. Mostafa obviously took advantage of this perk.
And so did Lavender. “Hey, there, Baba! I’m just going to chat with you for a bit…
“…While I steal your pen out of your pocket.”
So, yeah. Najdi Village. If you’re in Riyadh, go (it’s on Abu Bakr Road, and I know of at least one other branch that’s on its way up). And if you’ve never been to Riyadh but you plan to visit me someday, be forewarned: you’re going to go. (We took my mom there the first time she visited.) And I reiterate–you will like it. Because I said so.