Foodies in Muscat have a good reason to rejoice. A 52-cover casual-dining restaurant, Sombrero Restaurant, that opened recently, serves Mexican food with a twist.
The restaurant was opened by Mohamed Issa Al Zadjali, the chairman of Muscat Press & Publishing House SAOC and editor-in-chief of the Times of Oman.
Located at the Muscat Galleria mall in Al Khuwair, Sombrero Restaurant is a casual yet classy looking eatery with an impressive menu that boasts a range of delectable food.
For young Faisal Abdullah Shamrid Al Raisi, owner of Sombrero, the opening of the restaurant meant a dream come true. "It is a fruition of couple of years' hard work," he says.
It was a trip to Barcelona in Spain that led him to think of launching a restaurant in Oman. "I have a habit of trying new cuisine, and during that trip, I tried Mexican food. I loved the ambience of the restaurant. The experience of eating there captivated me and I decided that I will recreate the same ambience back home," Faisal says.
Faisal kept going back to that restaurant throughout the trip and became friends with the owner of the place.
After many conversations, Faisal and the owner decided to become partners in this venture.
"Once I came back to Oman, I started asking around about what I needed or required to open a restaurant. The chef came from Spain to evaluate the business plan. However, I discovered that things were not going according to plan with him because of certain differences between us. This forced me to call off the deal with him but the move put me under a lot of pressure. Yet, I was determined not to give up," he explained.
Faisal's family and friends were quite a support for him throughout the journey. "The support they provided me helped me to stay focused and open the locked doors facing me so that I can make my dream come true. While some of the people came up with ideas, others helped me in finalising transactions, running errands, and tying up logistics. In the process, I met people who were more than willing to help an Omani entrepreneur succeed," Faisal smiles.
He informs that Sombrero's team comprises individuals who are passionate about running a restaurant.
"They stood by me every step of the way, helping me realise my dream. As I was not too experienced in handling business, my friend Sudarshan Sharma lent a helping hand. As a consultant, he led me from A to Z along the thorny path of Food & Beverages business. I didn't realise that there were so many nuances involved. As Sudarshan is a chef himself, and has a vast experience, he knew every little detail that I needed to concentrate on," he says.
Acknowledging the role of Anastasiya Lisitsyna, who is currently the general manager of Sombrero, Faisal says, "She is the one who created the wonderful ambience. The beautiful paintings that you see on the wall have been done by her. Being an artist helped her do up the restaurant. I was amazed at how the place changed beyond recognition until it became the perfect happy "Mexican House" (that is what we call it between us). Above all she is handling business responsibilities as well."
Faisal explains that the idea behind Sombrero's interior was to make customers feel as if they are in Mexico itself.
"We want them to travel in time and feel as if they are in a rustic house with great smelling food, Latin music and a cheerful atmosphere. I've received so many nice comments about the design. It's great to see people enjoying just being in the restaurant, viewing and examining every small detail," he says.
Talking about the most important person of the restaurant, Chef Indrajeet Shinde, he says, "We are proud to say that he had been managing a chain of thirty restaurants including the "Taj" in Mumbai, India.
"When we first met, I was really impressed because he understood my concept of Sombrero before I even explained it to him. He showed me the way to represent a unique cuisine in the market."
"He was convinced with my idea that we should go in for fusion cuisine with a Mexican touch instead of representing pure Mexican cuisine in Sombrero. I can vouch that the food taste represented in the restaurant is outstanding – spicy enough to relate to the Mexican palate. The idea of "mix & match" touched not only the designing aspect of the restaurant, but also the menu, where we managed to combine the best of the world's dishes, excellently created by our chef, who invented his own recipes of sauces, dressings and drinks, which you will not be able to try at any other place," Faisal explained.
The legal process of starting a restaurant was taken care of by Faisal.
"It was not so easy to go through, but I am steadily working towards my dream," he says.
Faisal says he faced hurdles that would have been hard to overcome if he was alone.
"My family was there on the opening day to show me that they support me 100 per cent. My friends are behind me one hundred per cent. Even though I have opened a restaurant with minimal human resources, my brothers and friends volunteered to help me during the opening phase. They are doing so with the only motive of seeing me succeed in realising a dream I have been pursuing for the past one year. Today, when I sit down and think of everything I have faced, I look back with joy about how the idea evolved slowly and adapted to the environment around me," he says.
What Faisal is most excited about is the tradition he has started at his restaurant.
"We have introduced a Greek tradition. If visitors like our service, they have to break a plate. For a first time customer, this is a unique experience. You should see the utter curiosity and childish joy when they do that. At Sombrero, we want customers to leave a big smile. That is our goal," says Faisal.