After deliberately going easy on food consumption all day and a gruelling two hours spent running around the tennis court earlier in the evening, I was most definitely famished when I sat down with my friend to eat at Tony Roma’s restaurant, one of North America’s most popular casual dining establishments.
At first we were a bit puzzled about its location; on the south side of a roundabout in Zayed Town adjacent to a petrol station and close to an ambitious flyover project nearing completion. Hardly what could be considered an alluring destination for enjoying a meal out.
We did admit, though, that it’s close enough to the residential areas of Isa Town and A’Ali, and as people don’t tend to walk outdoors in Bahrain anyway due to habit and the heat, it didn’t really matter that its location was not the most inviting. Once inside the warm and welcoming ambience, however, our initial misgivings about setting couldn’t have been more unfounded. The eatery was teeming with people who appeared to be mainly Bahraini. Clusters of female friends and groups of male buddies, as well as families, thronged throughout the two-floor restaurant.
Anticipating large American-sized portions, we opted to start slowly and share an appetiser. From the ample choices on offer we chose a half portion of the Roma sampler. This consisted of boneless buffalo bites, potato skins and quesadilla, served with salsa, sour cream, ranch dressing and a spicy barbecue dipping sauce.
Our earnest waitress advised us that part of the starter, the onion loaf to be precise, wasn’t available, and after a bit of debate with her we decided to have a double serving of the potato skins as a substitute. This was a good solution as these were probably my favourite part of the starter. In effect, the word ‘skins’ is slightly misleading as there was a substantial quantity of mashed potato within the crispy casing. The complimentary nachos went down a treat too.
Both my dining partner and I felt that the buffalo bites were a little cold. It was as if they had been sitting in the kitchen for just a little too long before being brought to our table. After finishing the half-portion plate between the two of us, we had to sit back and wonder what a mammoth task it would have been to have ordered and eaten the full portion alone!
If truth be told, we were left waiting for half an hour or so before our starter arrived. This was just a bit too long. On the other hand, Tony Roma’s had only been open for a couple of weeks, so a slight lack of fluidity in service is understandable at the beginning. Moreover, all the members of staff that served us were unquestionably making their best effort to make everything run smoothly.
Shortly after we had finished the starter, our main dishes arrived. Just a quick aside, the menu was varied, with burgers, chicken-based dishes, pasta, salads, ribs, seafood, filled sandwiches and signature steaks – plenty to tantalise our taste buds.
My friend decided on the filet mignon cooked medium rare. The dutiful waitress was keen to make sure it was prepared properly, and under her watchful eye my dining companion duly tucked in. He declared the steak a definite success; it was cooked to perfection. My friend had a slight quibble with the mashed potatoes, which were the accompanying vegetable, saying that they would have been better served hotter.
I selected the Roma burger, served with the staples of cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, onions and pickle. I confessed to having looked forward to this cheeseburger all day, and I was not let down. The grilled taste of the Angus beef was excellent. Quite soon I was replete and couldn’t manage to finish all the French fries, nor the sesame bun supplied with it.
Tempting as the dessert menu was, with sugary fare including apple crisp, chocolate sundae and a four-high- layered carrot cake, we had to renounce and finished off the last of our drinks instead; a Pepsi for my friend and a Perrier water for me.
As we were finishing up, the eagerness and professionalism of the staff shone through once more. A pleasant gentleman who we assumed to be the restaurant manager approached us and asked if we had enjoyed our meal. Undoubtedly we had; Tony Roma’s definitely met our expectations. Just one word of warning, though, dinner here is best if you arrive with a very empty stomach.
The bill (for two) 1x Diet Pepsi BD0.9 1x Perrier water BD1.2 1x Roma sampler BD4.5 1x Roma burger BD3.2 1x Filet mignon BD9.5 Total (incl charges) BD21.23
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com