Al-Suri, Crater, Aden

A legacy, in some sense, of Aden’s British-era stint as the Arabian Peninsula’s main shipping hub, al-Suri was established by an Omani who made his way from the eponymous city of Sur to the then bustling port to sell the sultanate’s famed gelatinous halwa. Aden’s monumental natural harbor may sit sadly underutilized today, but al-Suri has continued to thrive; indeed, I was a regular at their Sanaa location, located not too far from the Chinese embassy, during my time based in the Yemeni capital. Their original location—located in the midst of one of the district’s more charming historic streets—remains a Crater landmark, buzzing with Adenis young and old.

Al-Ikhwan, Khor Maksor, Aden

          In an odd, if inadvertent, mirroring of a key regional fault line, two of Khor Maksor’s most popular restaurants happen to be named “Dubai” and “al-Ikhwan.” There’s obviously no actual political relevance to either—and a number of my STC backing friends are al-Ikhwan fans—but let’s face it, the joke writes itself. I’ve patronized both and they’re both good, but I hit up al-Ikhwan, which has a more extensive menu, a bit more, hence the choice to give them a review. (Note: the owner of Mata3m Dubai is known for his ability to source excellent Doa3ni honey, so if you’re looking around, he may be your guy; further, their grilled intestine is oddly irresistible).

Seera Restaurant, Crater, Aden

Crater’s famed fish market, nestled in a cove in the shadow of a centuries old castle, has thankfully been among the landmarks in Aden that have managed to escape the war unscathed. It has long been a tourist attraction of sorts, with a simple concept often found in other cities known for their seafood: you go to the market, pick out your fish, and take it to one of the nearby restaurants for a solid lunch. The haggling process can often be a bit anxiety-inducing but it’s part of the charm, as is the beautifully chaotic cacophony of stalls selling an astounding array of locally caught seafood.

There are about half a dozen restaurants in the area surrounding the market, but the clear standout would appear to be Mata3m Seera. A decent chunk of my Aden-based social circle would appear to agree: I ended up running into someone I know the bulk of the inordinate amount of times I went to Seera for lunch during my most recent trip to Aden.

It’s not, to put it one way, fine dining: tables are relatively packed, décor is minimal and I’m sure things get rather sweaty during the summer months. The food, however, speaks for itself. While Yemen may be known for meat-focused meals like mandi, haneed and fahsa, there’s no question it also gets seafood, well, quite right. Seera does everything–even clams, oddly enough–close to perfection. Whether lightly breaded and grilled or sauced in a saloona, the shrimp are—as often the case in Yemen—a standout; the joys of digging one’s fingers into their grilled, slightly seasoned fish makhbaza are hard to put into words, as were the grilled crabs. Seera’s take on the traditional Yemeni seafood accompaniments—that is, oversized flatbread and spicy sahawaq—are appropriately on point. Of course, menu is limited, so if you’re not into seafood you’re out of luck—though if there’s a place that could convert a seafood skeptic, this would probably be it.

Seera Restaurant is located across the cove from the fish market