‘You have to go in first, then give me five minutes and I’ll follow.’
My husband’s plan sounds complicated.
‘There’s a small takeaway, it looks ordinary but to the right is a door. Ask if you can enter. You’ll see some creaky stairs. Head for the upper storey.’
In a city of large malls and chain stores we are entering somewhere unusual. Chinese restaurants are rare in Muscat and this one, more like a living room for those in the know. I sit alone waiting for my husband. Dressed in Omani gear he is concerned they won’t let him in.
‘That’s ridiculous,’ I protest, but as I look around the underwhelming interior I notice that I am the only person who is not Chinese.
I am reminded of capital cities in the West with their exclusive nightclubs and restaurants, doormen and pass codes. Strangely, subtly this restaurant seems to be doing the same. It’s hidden behind the facade of a take away. As the woman who owns the place hands me a menu I feel a frisson of apprehension.
Muscat houses neither Dubai’s glitz nor Abu Dhabi’s up and coming status. It has beautiful scenery, easygoing people and a cautious political neutrality. Muscat’s social scene is far from exclusive.
I choose some dishes. Listen for creaks on the stair. What if my husband isn’t allowed in? The waiter brings steaming won ton soup, dim sum. I start to tuck in. Am transported to a country I have never visited by the vowels and chatter from the tables nearby.
Dishes arrive from the hands of the owner and when my husband eventually makes it up the secret staircase it seems that he and the owner already know one another. She had worked in the Chinese restaurant of a palatial hotel located in the mountains and quit when the management changed hands.
There is care in the way she describes dishes, handles her customers, the type of knowing which comes from learning the business then setting up from scratch. It’s wonderful to be part of a culinary secret but something tells me it won’t stay that way for long.
Kung Fu “Authentic Chinese Restaurant” is located next to Fun Zone in Al Qurum Street, Muscat
(Be prepared to use the secret door…)
Anyone in Muscat have unusual restaurant recommendations? Feel free to post below…