Wassim & Omar Orfali
Immediate impact: Three immigrant chef brothers from Aleppo, Syria have created a genuinely unique dining experience on the back of personal perseverance, brilliant storytelling and endless curiosity. The unlicensed restaurant’s globe-trotting culinary style saw Orfali Bros Bistro, which only opened in 2021, named the No.1 in MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants in early 2023, and now it graduates to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the first time.
The triumphant triumvirate: Big brother Mohammad is the head chef, leading voice and energetic guiding force in this family affair. A veteran TV cook and restaurant chef in the Middle East, he has taken ingredients, techniques, traditions and influences from across the world and used them to create his own take on Arabic cuisine. While he runs the main kitchen, his two younger brothers, Wassim and Omar, hover one storey above in their own pastry world. Both are classic pâtissiers in the French mould, but with contrasting approaches, leading to a stellar selection of pastries, buns, éclairs and desserts that pepper the menu.
What’s on offer? There are no restrictions to what dishes the team might create, based on anything they love to eat. ‘Rules are meant to be bent and broken, with respect to our tradition’ is one of the Orfalis’ mantras. Prepare to be hit with surprising combinations that reference art, travel, Syrian traditions and personal experiences. Examples include ‘Guess what?’, a fattoush, Greek salad and gazpacho hybrid; the Aleppo street bun (wait and see); and the shish barak à la gyoza, a Levantine take on the Asian staple.
On the dining room: This distinctive neighbourhood eatery comprises an open, unpretentious space dominated by the two-storey kitchens overlooking diners. Chef Mohammad regularly glides from the ground-floor pass to each table to explain in charismatic fashion how each dish came to be.