I came across Sanafir while searching for a nifty downtown restaurant to throw a birthday dinner at. A combination of favourable reviews and a really intriguing menu and atmosphere convinced me to try it out. The reservation process was really well-organised; the waitress immediately informed me that there was another party of 12 who booked the place for 9pm, so we managed to steer clear from a double-booking catastrophe.
First impressions: I was earlier than the rest of the group, so when I got to the outside entrance (there was a podium) the receptionist immediately offered me a seat inside to wait for my friends, since it was raining quite heavily at the time. The lower level was quite dimly-lit, which surprised me, because the pictures online showed it to be quite bright. I am going to assume that it was because they were playing a movie, projected onto the wall above the bar: 'lo and behold, it was "The Two Towers," which I thought was incredibly nifty, adding to the restaurant's exotic atmosphere (there was no audio, and the wall was partitioned, so I think the movie was more for the dynamic visual effects rather than to create a cinema-like atmosphere).
We were seated at our table (a large semicircular booth on the lower level) with no fuss, and the waitresses even offered to store our coats and bags (some of us just came from classes). Our waitress was also really accommodating to the fact that my friends have no sense of timing and were all various degrees of tardiness, so she suggested she waited until they all arrived before explaining the menu and taking food orders (we just got drinks). I was thoroughly impressed with her level of patience, and her demeanour was still professional and courteous.
We started out with appetizer platters of naan bread with garlic hummus: presentation-wise, it was already stunning, decorated with a stick of incense on a wooden plank. The naan was deliciously-seasoned, the hummus fantastic, and it even came with these amazingly tender cloves of roasted garlic.
Everyone ordered a different tapas trio (chicken, prawns, beef, vegetarian, calimari) while I got the halibut myself. The basics of how the tapas trio works: you choose one main ingredient, and then it is prepared three different ways: Asian, Mediterranean, and Middle-Eastern/Indian. The tapas style is brilliant because it allows you to try a little bit of everything and you'll never get bored with your meal (the waitress recommended sharing the platters, but I kept the halibut to myself ;) ).
From what I could gather, everyone was incredibly pleased with the flavours and presentation (we were debating over which style we liked the most), though some noted that it wasn't very filling (I disagreed, and I'm a pretty fit 20 year-old guy).
Some of us also got dessert trios, which were equally tasty and I yearned for more (kept in check by the amount of cash in my wallet)
Overall, service was efficient and quick; there were no surprises because our waitress told us about how food would be sent out as soon as it would be made by the chef. Once again, kudos to the organization and courteousness.
Just some notes: if you want to get the beds/sofas upstairs in the "lounge" area, I was told that you'd either have to order group platters/drinks. Also, debit cards are not accepted (there is a nearby ATM with a $2 service charge, and for large groups like mine they automatically add an 18% gratuity to the bill.
In closing, I would highly recommend this place for anyone looking for a trendy, eclectic night out whether it's with a small -or large- group of friends - excellent food, really unique atmosphere, and fantastic service. I intend on coming back for another experience; I'm curious to see what other movies they might play, and I will definitely check out the upstairs lounge.