Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dubai - Impressions, Shake Shack & Al Nafoorah


Friday is Dubai’s Sunday. This was a bit of a hiccup for us. All of Dubai shuts down and everybody and his brother end up at the mall. Traffic was light and while we were walking to the Metro station a taxi rolled to a stop next to us. It was very tempting, so we hopped in and were whisked to the Mall of the Emirates. Must tell you it is a good mall. Very upmarket, decent shops and not another Heera Panna if you know what I mean. The scale of the mall is stupendous. It is really large. The roads in Dubai are extremely good. The speeds that cars travel at are in excess of 100 kmph and that is the norm. I asked our taxi driver how much petrol costs in Dubai. He said it costs AED 1.5 for a litre which converts to Rs 23 per litre. I cannot imagine what our Indian economy would be if petrol cost 66% less. Not only are the roads top class but the cleanliness in next to Godliness. Dubai is really clean.  The buildings are all glass and chrome and come in all shapes and sizes. I took a few random photos of random buildings and you will realise how impressive the city is. And look how blue the sky is. We never have blue skies in India.







After a few minutes of walking through one of the interminable aisles in the mall we got fed up. No disrespect to the mall, as I wrote earlier, it was the excellent upmarket huge Mall of the Emirates, a really good mall. But, neither one of us is interested in shopping so off we went looking for a place to eat. Lo and behold in front of us was Shake Shack. Of all places, I see a Shake Shack in Dubai. A back story on Shake Shack. David Mayer the owner of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York is a very successful restaurateur. His group owns now iconic restaurants the Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard and the now shut Tabla. With deep research and excellent restaurant skills, his group has established diverse themed restaurants. Blue Smoke was a Barbeque restaurant, Tabla modern Indian, Gramercy Tavern, American and several more. Then in 2004 he started a `roadside’ burger and hotdog stand in Madison Park. It served just burgers, hotdogs and milkshakes. The restaurant became a roaring success. His first Shake Shack outside USA was in Dubai, and here we were completely unaware of its existence. That did lunch. A Burger and a Hotdog, French Fries with Cheese and a Peanut Butter & Vanilla milk shake. Unfortunately no photos. Camera missing. The food was good. The burgers and hot dog far better than anything I have eaten in a non fine dining restaurant by a mile. All the food was seasoned very aggressively, almost to excess. A very pleasant surprise and a good meal.

Dinner was to be at Al Nafoorah a Lebanese Restaurant with one location at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers yet another upscale mall with hotel and restaurants. This building is owned by the all powerful Jumeirah Group. Al Nafoorah is supposed to be a favourite of the Ruler of Dubai so it was bound to be good. Plus, my buddy from Bombay who set up and enabled this Dubai visit swore by it. In this location the Jumeirah Group have managed to open the first and only branch of Ivy – the iconic London restaurant. We made a reservation and asked to be seated open air. The weather is quite nice in the evenings. It’s somewhat cool but since it’s very dry you feel cooler. Great atmosphere in the open air section. The smell of flavoured `Shisha’ wafted thru the air lending an even more exotic and decadent feel to the place. A singer singing Arabic songs over pre-recorded music provided great ambience. Our close friend and fellow F1 fan was with us. He shall remain unnamed.

The large menu contained a huge number of cold Mezze, hot Mezze and Salads. Just too much to choose from. Finally we settled on 3 which seemed a fair selection with each one of us choosing one, in the finest democratic principles. Mr. Unnamed wanted a Lamb Makanek, This is a lamb sausage that is grilled and dressed with lemon juice. Delicious little morsels. HRH the Queen wanted to have what was described as Home Made Cheese with Salad. This was slices of cheese that had a rubbery the texture that indicates very tightly squeezed protein. The cheese squeaks under your teeth. My choice was the classic Muhammara which is a puree of Walnuts, roasted Red Bell Pepper and some hot chilli. All the starters were really nice.

Lamb Makanek

Home Made Cheese

Muhammara

Flat bread

Puffy Bread

To continue the democratic principles we each ordered our main courses. Mr. Unnamed ordered a Beef Shawarma, HRH the Queen a Grilled Hammour [a local fish] with couscous and I got myself a Kebap KheshKhash. The waiter said that we should have a salad to accompany our meal so we got the famous Fattoush.

The Beef Shawarma was requested open. It had lovely crisp charred nuggets of Beef mixed with softer Beef all smoky and delicious. All textures of meat on one plate.

Beef Shawarma


The Grilled Hammour came with a Sesame Sauce, Tahini basically. The Fish was well cooked and the Sauce complemented the Fish. Unusual to have Sesame with fish, but it was very good.  

Grilled Hammour with some Couscous


The Kebap KheshKhash is a variation, in my view, of the Kebap Yougutlu I had the previous night. A minced meat kebab with a tomato sauce. No Yogurt here. Very nice.

Kebap KheshKhash

The Salad was, well, a salad. Fresh, green, crisp lettuce, well dressed and the fried Pita adding texture.

Fattoush

It was a good evening. The food, the atmosphere and the conversation all good. There had to be a bit of a sting in the tail of course. When we asked for the bill it turned up with the portion indicating Service Charge folded up. I did not see that they had added service charge. Also we had fallen for an old trick, we were hit for a bottle of water. Lastly when I paid the bill, the change was not returned. I had to ask for it. This I thought was a bit rich! To add insult to injury, I left a tip. Anyway it was a pleasant evening. I do hope people will stop nickel and dimeing all the time. It does get a bit tiresome. Can’t let ones guard down ever I guess. 

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