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Breakfast at Carluccio’s Dubai Mall

It has been a while since I had a good breakfast and I heard that Carluccio’s launched a new breakfast menu, so it was a good time to go get me breakfast! It isn’t the first time I visit or review Carluccio’s, in fact, it was one of the first restaurants I reviewed on Ihab Dines, and it was a good experience back then, so I was curious to see what changed!

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Carluccio’s is such a nice restaurant to visit, it actually has three parts, the inner most is more of a small store, then the indoor dining area and then finally their outdoor dining area. All modern, colorful & easy on the eye.

Carluccio's Indoor Dining AreaSeating options is plentiful, from circular booths, wall side couches, to long and short tables.

I walked in and a server appeared, greeted me and asked me where i’d like to sit. I really was spoiled for choice and ended up on a nice table near the window. The place is really beautiful, clean and very open. I really wanted to sit outside, but the weather certainly wasn’t supportive of that, unless I was willing to melt.

They brought me a menu, which wasn’t the breakfast menu at first, but admittedly, I arrived around 12PM. Surely I wanted lunch, but the point was breakfast and had to tell myself “Breakfast Ihab, breakfast”!

Carluccio's Breakfast Menu - Ihab Dines
The tables were set up with salt and pepper on a colorful plate. Funnily enough, salt was loose sea salt and I had to check (sorry for sticking my fingers into something I wasn’t going to use) but then again, it made me hope they change it every time a guest leaves.

Anyways, back to the breakfast menu, there was a large selection and I was clueless! I asked the waitress what she would recommend and she suggested I try the eggs benedict or colazione magnifica, which, not surprisingly, were the two menu entries with images.

Somehow it seemed people mostly ordered what they could see, and that is something I avoid but.. magnifica sounded strong! So magnifica it was.

Carluccio's Calozione Magnifica - Ihab Dines
While ordering, the waitress, with a smile, told me that I can now order their egg dishes with free-range eggs! I don’t get to see that often around here, and I love the fact that it is an option, which I gladly took.

The magnifica dish comes with two drinks, a coffee or tea & a juice. Kind of an interesting touch, to drink something while the meal is being prepared, and another once done. I’d like to see that more often.

So how magnifica was the magnifica? quite good actually. The dish came with eggs (cooked to liking) on a toast, sauteed mushrooms and grilled turkey. When the manager brought the dish over she even asked if I wanted some fresh black pepper.

The free-range eggs were scrambled in a very nice way, cooked well, and with good flavor. The mushrooms were sauteed well too and were flavorful! The grilled turkey were nice but hardly what i’d call grilled, they had light grill lines, which kind of made me feel it was more of a “grill effect” but still, were delicious.

Overall, it was a very nice breakfast, plenty of flavor and all cooked, put together and served very nicely. It was no surprise that even after I was done, around 1 PM, some people were still asking for the breakfast menu!

The Service: It was really good. There were plenty of waiters around at all times, and the ones responsible for each section did come around often and help out always with a nice smile. The manager was really nice as well, and she made sure she did the rounds too as one of the team; serving, assisting and even waiting at times.

The Value: I believe their prices are quite decent, and as would be expected of a place like Carluccio’s in Dubai Mall. The ordinary colazione magnifica costs 49Dhs, and with free-range eggs as ordered, was 61Dhs. I had ordered an additional bottle of water which was 16Dhs (Acqua Panna).

Ratings:
The Place:    7 / 10
The Service:  8 / 10
The Food:     7 / 10

Overall: 7.3 / 10

I recommended Carluccio’s before and they have only got better! I’d recommend it without doubt. Great breakfast, must try!

I got some images of some of their other breakfasts to get you hungry!

Eggs RoyaleEggs FlorentineEggs Benedict

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Dine In

 

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Lila Café – Tecom Dubai

I do not often spend time around Tecom, and the last time I did, I was with a friend and we decided to get some lunch. He works in the same building and recommended I try Lila Cafe, so we did.

Lila Cafe - Restaurant Layout

I was actually surprised at the look of the place! Everything was in white! floors, decor, seats, walls etc. It looked gorgeous, in fact, it looked expensive.

Lila Cafe - Dining Area

The place looks really comfortable to be in, very well spaced and huge. It is essentially the building’s lobby. There are people who walk through to get to the elevators. A unique touch Lila Cafe has is, the floor has two illuminated lines from the door at the back all the way to the elevators, an illuminated walk way! A lot of fancy stuff.

We walked in, there weren’t that many people working, and the place wasn’t full. They do have a lunch buffet with a very reasonable 40 Dhs, which I started to wonder about, the place doesn’t look cheap, I was eager to see the prices in the menu.

But before that, I still have more to say about the place! They essentially have some all day dishes, breakfasts, salads, a daily buffet and a dinner menu that starts around 6 PM. The place has a huge indoor area and an outdoor terrace for Shesha too!

Lila Cafe - Table Setting

The contrasting color for all the whiteness is purple, with purple table settings, and even purple lights for the evening.

So a while after admiring the place, the waiter had arrived bringing the menus for us. There is a decent selection of foods to choose from, but the dinner menu was more appealing to me, sadly it was still around 4 PM, but it isn’t like I didn’t find anything, there was still plenty to choose from. The menu is a nice little slim and tall purple handout. Everything is just so neat and crisp here!

I wanted to try out their food even more, the place got me hungry. Looking at the menu I was surprised the prices are actually very decent, dare I say cheaper than the look of the place.

I started things off with a soup. I had asked what was their soup of the day (Which had just one entry on the menu) and was told a selection of soups available.

Lila Cafe - Mushroom Soup

I went with Mushroom soup! (It matched my main dish) and it was served with a small plate of croutons. The soup was actually quite delicious. It was thick, the mushroom flavor was really good, and I do prefer darker mushroom soups than cream of mushroom ones.

There was plenty of flavor and quite a good amount was served. Temperature was just right as well. I do wish there were some larger mushroom bits in the soup but thats just for the next level of soup pleasure. Oh, yes, and a bit more seasoning.

As for the main dish I went with their Fettucini Alfredo (with chicken) main course.

Lila Cafe - Fettucini Alfredo

The plate looked delicious! At first look, it seemed like quite a good portion serving and it certainly was!

The dish came with a side of steamed vegetables.

The pasta was cooked well, the sauce was creamy but not too thick nor overwhelming in flavor. It was just right in terms of flavor and thickness. I could have preferred a little more seasoning here too, but I sorted that out with a touch of tobasco. That, though, is a matter of taste but even without the spice treatment, it was really good. The mushrooms in the pasta were lovely; nice chunks and slides of mushrooms and there was certainly plenty in the entire dish. I really like when there’s good balance of ingredients as they are together on the dish not something put on top.

My only criticism is that the chicken was a little overcooked. It was a little hard, a tad chewy. If the chicken was a bit more succulent, it would have done the dish a lot of justice.

The steamed vegetables were just right in my opinion, I often encounter either too soft or too hard servings but it was just right at Lila. A touch of seasoning and it was perfect.

To conclude, the dishes were well executed, had good ingredients, flavor and the portion size was respectable. I could easily see this place to be a favourite in tecom being such a lovely looking place, decent prices and good food.

The Service: Nothing really special or outstanding to be mentioned for service. The servers are around and are happy to help with anything they are asked. They are friendly and do a professional job. Response was good and fairly quick. If they work on some welcoming introduction or message with a nice smile, it could have made it look just as classy as the place looks.

The Value: This is where I believe Lila Cafe has a strong advantage. The main courses are priced around 35+ which I think is very reasonable considering the place’s look, feel and service. Starters are fair too. Good value.

Ratings:
The Place:     8  / 10
The Service: 6.5 / 10
The Food:    6.5 / 10

Overall: 7 / 10

I would recommend Lila Cafe. The place is a beautiful place to be in, has good food, decent service and lovely atmosphere. I can picture spending time there with friends and even have business meetings.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Dine In

 

Soho Grill – Wafi Mall

It has been quite a while since I have had my steak fix and after getting back from travel, I have been in the mood for some steak! I have interacted with Soho Grill on twitter a couple of times, and when I was planning my lunch, I happened to see a tweet by them. Co-incidence? I think not! It was a sign from the steak gods.

So I went to give them a try and see what all the fuss has been about. They are available in more than one place but I chose the Wafi Mall branch.

Soho Grill - Seating Area

 

As it turns out, they are located in Wafi’s Cafe Court (The new side of the mall), which is supposedly some kind of classier food court. I mean, look at the picture above, they did manage to pull that part off.

But in typical food court style, ordering and paying (while ordering) has to be done at the counter and they shall serve you. I think Soho Grill deserves more of a full on restaurant experience, but hey, that’s what they got right?

Soho Grill - Front Counter

 

They claim they have a “stripped back design with industrial accents” I guess with all the boxes styled designs they use, I guess it works.

So they got their own little spot to order from. The servers were glad to help out pick stuff and answer any inquiries. I certainly did not know what to pick, so that came in handy!

Soho Grill - Menu

 

I liked their menu. It isn’t crazy lengthy nor too short. It had a good selection of starters, combos, steaks, burgers and desserts with a few sides. It did make picking stuff a bit easier, and also seemed to keep them within their field and range of cuisine, which is essentially, a Steak & Burger House.

I always appreciate a place that doesn’t over bloat themselves. There are no claims to be the best Steak in town and all that nonsense, which always boosts expectations and increases disappointment often. They are a unique and focused place and that is about it. They do claim that they have “big bold flavors” which what I was now hunting for!

So, enough blabber right? Time for some seriousness here!

Soho Grill - Soho Wings

What you see above is their Soho Wings, which is rather unique, why you ask? because:

They are Char-grilled, smoked and cooked in the oven and are served with a light blue-cheese sauce.

Grilled, smoked and finished in the oven? “Sounds like a lot of work for some wings, hope it pays off” is what I was thinking.

It did. They were delicious! There are some very delicious flavors popping out of the wings. They were cooked well with a slight crisp to the outside, which was very satisfying. If I would have a request it would be that I would have liked some more of the sauce they glazed it with, other than that, lovely wings. The sauce was light, not so strong on flavor, but was quite aright.

Another cool thing about the dish was, naturally, they are to be eaten with your hands! The way the buffalo wing lords intended which would get messy, but Soho thought of that (Thankfully) and they provide a little bowl with hot water and lemon to help clean them sauce-coated fingers just enough to get you by without getting sauce all over your phone’s screen.

As for the “piece de resistance” (I hope I am using it right, excuse my French), I went with their 8OZ Sirloin Steak (For the rest of us, that’s about 225 grams)

Soho Grill - Sirloin Steak

 

I ordered my steak with the sauteed mushrooms, French fries and mushroom sauce.

Let me begin with the Steak as that’s the vital component obviously, I ordered it medium well, and it was for temperature, but for preparation I got to give them a well done! It was delicious, the steak looked appetizing and tasted really good. The sirloin cut was just right, with nearly no fat. I really enjoyed it.

The sides were very nice too! The mushrooms had this lovely creamy sauce which had herbs and garlic in it, I really loved it. The fries had some herbs sprinkled on top which gave them flavor and were crispy. The mushroom sauce was slightly on the thick sauce to my liking and had very light flavor. I wished it had more flavor, it would have been even better!

I think the dishes overall were well thought out and executed. I really enjoyed the meal (Plate wiped clean alert)

Value: The menu above has the prices at the Wafi Mall branch where I went, the food is of a good quality and has good flavor and I think it has overall good value.

Verdict: I think by now my verdict is quite clear, I enjoyed my lunch and was satisfied with what I was served without doubt.

Rating:
The Food: 7.5 / 10

I recommend you try out Soho Grill. If you like steak house style of food, they do not disappoint.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Food Court

 

Al Mashrabia – Millennium Plaza Hotel Dubai

Al Mashrabia is one of the rare fine dining restaurants specializing in local, traditional and grilled dishes. I personally have not heard of one before. They serve Mandi and its variants, which I love so I could not resist going and giving it a try!

I reached the hotel and was welcomed to the place, I was taken upstairs (to the right of the lobby) to where the restaurant was and the place looked really elegant, so welcoming. I do not know why I had pictured something different.

Al Mashrabia - Dining Hall

They have a large dining room with a large area at the end, that is really well lit, for the buffet. I had reached late so there was no buffet, so I had to order from the Menu, which I preferred. I was meeting up with the chef (Interview after the review) as well, which gave me better insight to the inspiration that created Al Mashrabia.

Al Mashrabia - Dining Area

I was offered any table I would like, so I choose a table that was in a nice corner overlooking both dining areas, it was cosy. Since I was meeting the chef, I did not want to sit next to people and have a long conversation and bother anyone.

Al Mashrabia - Table Setting

Their table setting is lovely, everything is elegant, clean, and the colours match elegantly. The seating at Al Mashrabia is very comfortable and relaxing. Certainly is a place one would go to for a nice calm meal. I did realize that is what most people did, as most people who were dining, rarely spoke!

They had brought over the menu, which had a wide range of salads (Lebanese salads mostly), traditional dishes, grills and more! So to get a good feel of their food, I went with starters and two main dishes. This was about to get really interesting indeed.

The staff at Al Mashrabia were very polite and were professional, especially the manager who seemed to focus on every little detail for customer satisfaction. I had witnessed an issue a customer had due to some misunderstanding and they really did focus on customer’s needs. I appreciate good service when I see it.

Quickly after ordering the food, the server had brought a bottle of water, poured it and brought a bread basket.

Al Mashrabia - Bread Basket

Not the kind of bread I expected, but it was really good. It was unique, this type of bread is not the ordinary, and for an unusual type of restaurant, it is a good touch. The bread was really soft and had a lovely flavour, really wished I had ordered something that I could have the bread with.

For starters, I had inquired about their soup of the day, which actually turns out to be just one type of soup that is specialized for their Mandi dishes.

Al Mashrabia -

The soup is a light vegetable soup with light bits of meat. It tasted nice, It had small bits of vegetables in it and had decent flavour. Surely, I have had better looking and tasting soups. It was decent,

After the soup by a little while, the other starter had arrived.

Al Mashrabia - Stuffed Vine Leaves

 

I love stuffed vine leaves, and being that they do not serve Lebanese cuisine directly, I wanted to know if they had a spin-off of their own. It was as I expected, a traditionally made stuffed vine leaves serving. The flavour was plenty, not too strong and definitely not bland. It tasted nice, I liked it.

Of course, all those came and went, and I have been waiting for the main dish! I was really hungry after all.

Al Mashrabia - Muzbi

The Muzbi had arrived, technically, they specialize in Mandi (where the chicken is cooked rather than grilled) but I just love grilled meats, so Muzbi was the best choice.

The plate had half a chicken laid upon rice topped with some nuts. The rice also had some herbs, so there needed a little look out for those herbs on the plate, but to be fair, they are what give the lovely aroma and taste to the rice.

The chicken was delicious! The grilling was done really well, it was tender, well marinated and best of all, there is something about the chicken’s taste that was hard to identify. I am not sure if they bring in their chicken from any source outside the UAE because the taste is unique, and it isn’t due to the marination. I loved the chicken. As for the rice, it was cooked well, and had nice flavour. The quantity was also quite decent as can be seen in the picture. There was light garnish on the sides and on top for visuals, certainly a lovely thing to see on a plate. Nice Muzbi!

Al Mashrabia - Muzbi Tomato Sauce

Muzbi/Mandi is never just served to be eaten dry. They had served a nice tomato sauce to go with the plate. The key aspect of this sauce is maintaining the freshness of the tomatoes and having a spicy kick to it. They executed both pretty well. It was a lovely sauce that seemed to be done fresh.

I wanted to mix things a little, and see what they could do, so I ordered a plate of fried shrimp

Al Mashrabia - Fried Shrimps

For starters, let me get right into the taste, I want to discuss visuals in a minute.

The Shrimp were delicious! They were really hot, crispy on the outside, nice and perfectly cooked on the inside, and they tasted freshness all over. On the side of the shrimp were some potato wedges, which are the ordinary wedges which were also nice and crispy.

For some reason, after the Muzbi plate had arrived and we had ordered shrimp, I expected the visuals to be more appealing. Maybe I am asking too much or looking too deep into it, but bringing out a lovely presentation could have been the difference between “wow look at it, oh my that is delicious” and “looks okay, oh my that is delicious”. Certainly after the large Muzbi dish, eating all the shrimp (even between two people) was near impossible, but of course, managed as many as I could, after all, it was delicious.

The Service: As mentioned above, the service was really good. Throughout the meal, there was a constant stream of waiters passing by in case we would request anything, the manager was around also at all times overlooking current work happening and also overlooking the restaurant. Service was quick, there wasn’t any delays or any issues. Upon entering everyone was happy, welcoming and thanked us when we were on our way out. I saw nothing wrong with their service, and every need was catered for, with attention to detail and quality. When we were told of the soup of the day, we were offered only one selection. When the soup came, the manager had passed by and asked if we liked it, and said that if we didn’t he could sort something out and get us other soups. I find that to be a nice gesture.

Ratings:
The Place:   8 / 10
The Service: 8 / 10
The Food:    7 / 10

Overall: 7.7 / 10

I would recommend Al Mashrabia for a certain. They have an absolutely lovely restaurant, great service and delicious food.

Prior to the meal, I had some time with the guy who runs the show, and here is what Executive Chef Essam Nabhan and I talked about:

Me: Tell me about yourself, where did Chef Essam begin?
Chef: I am Jordanian but my career started off in Egypt. During the war in Kuwait, our family decided it was better not to go back, and my career started off when I saw an add in the news paper for Hotel Management Courses. I soon graduated in Cooking Techniques, and moved to Doha where my career took off.

Me: Tell me about the start in Doha, when was it and how did it grow from then on?
Chef: It started on the first of March 1993, I could never forget that date. I started from the basics of course, and within 7 years, left it as one of the most prestigious fine dining restaurants being nominated for an Al Shaheen Award. Towards 1999 I was blessed by an invitation at Burj Al Arab in Dubai for a new opening. I was in charge of the the Mediterranean, International cuisines and the lounge. I worked with them for around 7 more years. I got a new opportunity in a new local company that was full of challenges because we had to start everything from scratch! I worked with them for 3 and a half years, created their unique style, but sadly things had crashed with them due to the financial crisis.

Me: Is that where your career started with the Millennium Plaza?
Chef: Yes, I have been here for nearly 3 years.

Me: What is the story or inspiration behind Al Mashrabia?
Chef: It is a very unique story. The Millennium Plaza Hotel had it’s own list of challenges, first of which was the fact that the hotel is a dry hotel (They do not serve alcohol) but the main challenge was that its located in the middle of Sheikh Zayed Road, which is extremely busy and full of competitive restaurants in every corner. It started off with Mediterranean cuisine, serving French, Italian, Greek and Spanish styles of food. It was great, but there was a need for more uniqueness, and this is what happened after a while. I had come up with a new concept, which was inspired by an article I had read that wanted the UAE to have more restaurants focusing on local and traditional cuisines.

Me: and so began the Al Mashrabia we have today?
Chef: Yes, I suggested that we convert the restaurant into a local and traditional cuisine restaurant, which would be the first restaurant of its kind in a 5 star hotel. Being that we are a big hotel, we have a large mixture of international clients, this would also allow them the opportunity to get familiar with local dishes from this region.

Me: Where did you learn local cuisine?
Chef: It started off by getting experienced professionals in local cuisine, and typical as what you do, I would try the dishes, understand how it all comes together and most importantly know its origins, and then I would put my own touch into these dishes.

Me: What are your favourite type of cuisine, personally?
Chef: I love all kinds of food. I like full hearty meals, even if they are unhealthy, I love flavours also. I think if I had to choose, it would be Asian cuisines. I love the blends of spices, the aromas of all the herbs and spices coming together making the food really tasty.

Me: What is the size of your kitchen staff/brigade? 
Chef: We are a team of 5 people, they are from different nationalities ranging from Yemeni to other Arabs. I always focus on my staff feeling comfortable while cooking and feel the origins of the food. As long as everything is clean and done properly, I want them to feel like they are cooking to represent their countries and their dishes.

Me: Do you keep things changing from time to time?
Chef: Yes! I always try to expand the range of food and style of food we serve. I research various ways of cooking traditional dishes so that the customer can get the real authentic taste, aroma and quality of freshly prepared food, as they would expect and imagine it. I am currently working on a few new styles of cooking that would really improve the experience a lot.

Me: Speak to me a little about the food itself, how does it all begin before it gets on a plate.
Chef: We cook various foods, focusing on their culture. We get the best produce from very reputed sources, to be able to give our customers the best quality. The quality is what makes the food taste and look good. When we focus on the highest quality food products, we get the highest possible food quality reaching the customers plate.

Me: Where do you get your inspiration for cooking?
Chef: I love cooking, it is something that is inside me, like an art. I surely love cooking at all times because I have a passion for it. I think it is like being an artist, you get the feelings of being creative with thoughts and visions but instead of putting it on a canvas, I put it on a plate. I also get very excited when a client has a request, because this gives me the opportunity to excel even more and be able to satisfy his specific need.

Me: This may seem like an unusual question, but what is your take on the food here?
Chef: I love it. Surely everyone has their own tastes, I do not know your taste or anyone else’s taste, but I love the food here and I love eating it. I serve my taste, and it gives the clients and yourself the opportunity to try my taste in food. We use the best quality products, and I put my best into the food I serve, and I believe it is good.

Me: It was lovely talking to you and I want to thank you for your time.
Chef: It was a pleasure meeting you too, and I really hope you enjoy the food.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Dine In

 

ZPizza – Dubai Marina

Driving towards JBR from Jumeirah, ZPizza is one of the first restaurants found on the left side. ZPizza have a slogan which was really appealing to me, it said “World’s best pizza in a crust” and if you have read most of my reviews here, you would know, I like to put these claims to test!

I passed by one afternoon, it was around 2 pm or so to see what ZPizza had to offer.

There is very little parking space out front but right before ZPizza there is an indoor parking lot which can be used for ZPizza customers, I was worried that parking could discourage people but I guess that is sorted!

ZPizza - Seating Area

 

The place looks quite modern and clean. They used a lot of flat design matte greens and reds to liven the place up. There is quite a few dining areas behind various pillars and towards the end there is quite a long bench against the wall. The place isn’t big but fairly medium sized.

I walked in and the place was a bit quiet, I was welcomed and was offered any table, so I choose the bench by the window. All the glass is nicely tinted so looking out into the scorching sun was nice.

ZPizza -  Menu

They had lovely wooden tables and chairs, and the table placement was the menu itself. There is a good selection of starters, pizzas and a small selection of pastas and sandwiches. For anyone creative or daring, custom pizzas are an option which I think is interesting for people who are a bit picky.

Thankfully, the available selection had already caught my eye so I did not have find an alternative.

A nice touch though, is that there is no “small” pizza! It is regular, large and extra large. Not sure if this would convince people to go for the smaller sized pizza or not but when I inquired if it was sufficient for one person, the server had told me it was enough with a starter. After all, it did state it was 10 inches, so I took his word for it.

ZPizza - Table Setting

All the tables had a table number with salt and pepper shakers. The whole atmosphere, especially during the day is quite relaxing, especially with free Wi-Fi, the place is very welcoming.

So to start things off, I had ordered the Cheesy Garlic ZBread

ZPizza - Cheesy Garlic ZBread

 

This is the first time I see garlic bread made in a flat way. Apparently nearly everything is fire baked as well.

As far as the taste goes, it was nice, crispy but there was one criticism, it was slightly over done, so there was a smokey-ness to it. It had nice flavor, the garlic was very light so nothing obtrusive to the palette and the cheese was yummy. I had never had garlic bread like this, so I think of it as a cheese garlic bread pizza.

It was served with some tissues and a few packets of ketchup. I guess some people might ask for ketchup, but why in packets?

ZPizza - Plate and Cutlery

 

Along with the garlic bread, the plate, utensils and my drink were brought over, and I could not figure out why did they have plastic utensils for dining in. Especially with the lovely crispy pizzas this fork and knife would be useless! I tried, and they were. Fortunately, I like to eat pizzas the way god intended it, with my hands!

Soon after starting the garlic bread or Zbread as they call it, my pizza had arrived.

ZPizza - ZBQ Pizza

 

It looked amazing at first sight! So many colors going on. I ordered their ZBQ pizza which has the following ingredients:

bbq sauce, mozzarella, bbq chicken, roasted peppers, red onions, fresh rounds of tomatoes, cilantro, and sweet corn.

Did it work? Well.. it really did! the taste was really fresh, the ingredients were all nicely done and flavorful. The barbecue sauce was nice and sweet and with the chicken and vegetables it worked nicely together. I was served two bottles of tabasco (Red and Green Peppers). I had not thought of making it a bit spicy but once served the tabasco I thought i’d spice things up a little, and it became even better.

The crust was crispy but not over done like the garlic bread, it was just the right amount of crisp. Very nice pizza. I liked how the pizza (and garlic bread for that matter) are placed on non-stick kind of paper with ZPizza branding and it made cutting or lifting off slices easier.

Overall, a good pizza experience, certainly better than most fast food style pizzas found these days. There is something about the way it is prepared that makes it really delicious, I just could not figure out why they were using take away utensils and cups for dine in customers.

The Service: It was quite good. At the time I went there was only one server because, as I was told, they often get busy during the night mostly so during the day they prepare for the load. The server was welcoming, helpful and was ready to please and make small conversation. He would come back and ask if there was anything I needed and also checked up on the food. Upon leaving he was thankful for coming and wished me well.

The Value: The ZBQ pizza, in regular size, was 35 Dhs, the Cheesy Garlic Bread was 14 Dhs and a regular soft drink was 3 Dhs, totalling to around 52 Dhs which I think is decent value for good pizza that is certainly more than enough for a single person.

ZPizza also have a customer loyalty program called ZTribe, where signing up gives a small gift coupon and with time and use, one could gain more discounts and offers.

Ratings:
The Place:    6.5  / 10
The Service:   6   / 10
The Food:     6.5  / 10

Overall: 6.3 / 10

I would recommend ZPizza for a try. They have a nice warm calming dining area, good service and lovely pizzas. I will definitely be back.

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Dine In

 

Orchestra Restaurant at Dubai Mall

I have often visited Orchestra Restaurant and Cafe’s other branch in Dubai Festival City but it was the first time I get to visit the Dubai Mall branch. They are located on an upper level so thought the view should be quite lovely with the Dubai Mall fountains and all. It was.

I walked into the place, and it is quite big! I could imagine nearly 30 or 40 tables in doors. They have nice simple classic decor with a musical theme referencing back to the Orchestra name. There’s no smoking indoors so we dined out doors since the people I was with wanted to smoke.

Out doors, they have a large area with enough seating, almost as much as their indoors capacity and the tables look (at an angle at least) towards the fountains. We were welcomed at the door and was asked if we would like to sit indoors or outdoors with shesha and then she showed us the way. Once outside she asked if we wanted a table with a view or on the inside area, which was shaded from the sun a bit. Pretty straight forward decent service.

They have marble tables (or what looks to be marble) with nothing much on them really. Being outdoors, I would expect nothing on them anyways.

Orchestra Restaurant & Cafe - Menu

 

As soon as we sat, the server went and got us the menu and handed the task of serving us to the waiter. Orchestra mainly is a Lebanese Restaurant so the menu does have a lot of the levant cuisine including cold and hot starters, grills, etc but it does also have international dishes, which is what I went for.

Orchestra Restaurant & Cafe - Table Setting

 

Pretty simple work they have done, They brought on the table setting, fork and knife.

I had ordered a Mushroom Soup to start things off.

Orchestra Restaurant & Cafe - Mushroom Soup

 

The mushroom soup didn’t take too long to arrive, and it was fairly warm. I would, as typical as can be, imagine they have it ready, but I do like that slight delay in soup serving so I don’t picture a pot that’s just sitting there in the kitchen. I might be weird, but it is one of the things I think off!

The soup was a little watery, I prefer mushroom soup to have a little thickness to it. The flavors were nice and the mushrooms tasted good as well. They weren’t over done, neither were they crunchy, there was a slight chew to it. With the served lemon it was good. I always like to try mushroom soups to find places with unique or strange mushroom soups, here though, it was the typical recipe.

Along with the soup, and water (very important factor I think, serving of water I believe often should come with the table setting but it came with the first serving) they brought on a bread basket and butter.

Orchestra Restaurant & Cafe - Bread Basket

 

The nice thing is they brought on white and brown buns, which were fairly fresh. I really do not get into bread baskets much, but still, fair enough.

As for my main dish, I didn’t want to simply go for something from the Lebanese food because I have over done it with restaurants around Dubai Mall. I wanted to try something new, and so I did.

Orchestra Restaurant & Cafe - Lemon & Pepper Chicken

 

So, guessed what I ordered? No? It is chicken with lemon and pepper.

Essentially the chicken is cooked and encrusted with lemon and pepper, which was pretty crispy, I loved that little crisp.

So how was the dish? It was nice. The chicken was slightly overcooked, a little tough, but wasn’t too tough. The crispiness of the lemon and pepper was really nice. The flavors matched really well, I never really thought of the combination before but it made a lot of sense and tasted nice.

The fries were another thing which was nice, they were steak fries, which means they are my favorite type of fries, fat, chunky and supposedly crispy on the outside. At Orchestra though, they weren’t that crispy, but still warm and soft on the inside.

The saute’d vegetables were okay-ish. Bland. Seemed possibly frozen.

The Service: It was quite fair. Nothing outstanding or anything wrong either. Walking in we were greeted and welcomed, but when we were leaving there wasn’t much thanking and welcoming other than the person who was standing by the door to the outdoor terrace. There weren’t that many servers around but they did manage to handle the tables well. When we wanted a waiter, it would take a minute or two to be able to locate one. Overall, a fair service.

The Value: I wouldn’t be able to put the entire orders here, but at least for me; the mushroom soup was 35 Dhs, the chicken lemon & pepper was 58 Dhs, and 1 large water was 20 Dhs, which totaled to 113 Dhs. I would say it was an okay in terms of value. The prices are in check for Dubai Mall standard of restaurants overlooking the fountain view and perhaps the Orchestra name, but as far as the overall experience and quality of food it wasn’t the best value.

Ratings:
The Place:    5.5 / 10
The Service:   6  / 10
The Food:      6  / 10

Overall: 5.8 / 10

Orchestra wasn’t bad, and the views are spectacular from the terrace, I would recommend it for people who have tried most (or all if you are lucky to have tried them all) restaurants at Dubai Mall and want a decent change.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Dine In

 

Burger Fuel at Dubai Mall

Burgers have gotten rather complicated in the past few years. All I could really remember was good burgers or bad burgers, but now though, the burger world has changed entirely! You have fast food burgers that are either thin or thick, and fast food burgers that try gourmet style of preparation or try to use gourmet names and types of beef patty, then comes places that specialize in making fresh burgers (like Burger Fuel) and do most of the burger making in real time and in some places, in front of you as well. Finally though, there are actual gourmet burgers that are done in a gourmet style (don’t ask, even I don’t know what they often mean), priced high and often serve a small but delicious experience. To be honest, I even feel there are more types of burgers.

I have said the word “burger” a crazy number of time in the above paragraph, but the point is, Burger Fuel is a restaurant that specializes in creating delicious combinations of ingredients (often unusual to some) used with their very well made, fresh beef or chicken patties to create a memorable burger experience… that’s what they claim. I had to find out for myself.

Me and a friend walked in, stood by their big menu signboard and while pondering on what to have, the manager had come and tried to assist in ordering. I really had no clue what to have because although the selection wasn’t that huge, I wanted to try many things. In the end, he suggested I try their special “America, Sup?” burger. Yes, that is it’s actual name.

Burger Fuel - Dining Area

It was the first time I have been to Burger Fuel in Dubai mall and I had sat on a table that was right near the entrance. I haven’t thought of its location so I didn’t realize they had a section that overlooked the mall’s ice rink. Fortunately though, the manager was quite a nice guy and he said that there was a free table right by the glass, which meant a huge view!

Burger Fuel - Mall View

I really enjoyed the view looking at the entire three stories of the mall and the ice rink.

The decor is pretty straight forward, wooden tables, leather stools or metal chairs

Burger Fuel - Table Placements

The tables didn’t have much on them, just a little tissue box. The tissues are recycled paper which does give a little green initiative, I guess.

Soon the burgers had arrived!

Burger Fuel - Served Tray

They were served on a round metal tray (Kind of matches all their metal look, chairs, walls, kitchen equipment that are visible, etc) they laid out the burgers, fries and served a small cup of garlic mayonnaise. I did like how they stamped on the paper bag what kind of burger it is, instead of just writing on it or figuring out some other way to identify them.

Burger Fuel - Doofer

This is something rather unique to Burger Fuel, something they call a Doofer. This is essentially a piece of cardboard that you fold up like this:

Burger Fuel - Doofer Put Together

and essentially you place your burger in it so it can be eaten with ease or without getting messy or some idea they have had. To me personally, it wasn’t really necessary for two very specific reasons:

The first of which is, these kinds of burgers are often messy, I mean if it isn’t messy it would actually reduce the burger experience but the point is, they are often messy and being messy it means it will drip and sauce will slide and all, I rather use a tissue or my own hands to maneuver my way around a burger than use this Doofer and still have things drip through it to my hands or worse! I appreciate the idea, and certainly is creative. The second reason I felt it wasn’t necessary is…

Burger Fuel - America Sup Special

and Secondly, do I need to really explain that it wouldn’t fit the Doofer?

So what exactly did I order? I had no clue, all I really did know was it was called “America, Sup?” and that was the most unexpected, weird name I have ever heard for a burger! What was inside though was rather yum! It had a large 1/3 Pound pure New Zealand grass fed beef patty (I am sure they fed the cow not the beef itself), two pieces of hash brown, chopped up beef bacon, Cheddar cheese and American Mustard. As for the veggies, it had lettuce and tomato.

How was it? simply put, delicious. the biggest click factor I think about always is if all the ingredients will go well together, and here it really did. It was delicious. Certainly the star was the beef patty which was one of the nicest I have ever had. It was succulent, soft, and cooked very well. It was exactly what one would expect a beef patty to be like. I loved it, and this specific America, Sup? was very nice.

The bun was rather questionable at first sight, I felt it was a tad too white perhaps, but it was really good too, soft and freshly made. Overall a really good burger experience.

The Fries were chunky, crispy and soft on the inside, very nice fries, certainly one of the really nice fat fries I have ever had. The sauce was nice but the garlic taste was slightly overpowering, but not by too much.

The Service: It was good, the manager cared to help us pick burgers at the start, inquired what we liked and suggested a few burgers based on how hungry we were. Then he suggested a better seating area and was rather kind thought. When the food was served the server had a smile on. There wasn’t much interaction with the servers or manager since it was just one tray to be served but when there was, they were kind and helpful to seek our satisfaction.

The Value: A sandwich (Flame Thrower is its name apparently) was 30 Dhs, my America, Sup? was 35 Dhs, fries were 12 Dhs and a small bottle of coke was 7 Dhs bringing the total bill to 84 Dhs. I think this is pretty decent value for freshly made burgers using high quality beef and ingredients.

Ratings:
The Place:      6  / 10
The Service:  6.5 / 10
The Food:     7.5 / 10

Overall: 6.7 / 10

I would recommend Burger Fuel as it is one of the nicest burgers that are freshly made using good ingredients and in creative combinations. So it turns out they are as good as they claim!

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2013 in Dine In

 

Al Tawasol

A while back I tried Mandi (A traditional dish from Yemen, more on it here) and I really found the concept to taste really good, and then I was introduced to Muzbi, where the chicken was not cooked in the rice but grilled. This tasted even better! I had tried a few places with Muzbi and the search for the best Muzbi had begun.

I heard about a place, near Al Riqqa street on the road towards the Clock Round-about in Dubai, and even though it didn’t look like much I wanted to try it, I believe looks in food can be seriously deceiving.
I called them up and made an order for two Muzbi.

Al Tawasol - Delivery Bag

The delivery did take a while, but then again it was Ramadan and we were near Iftar time. They had an ordinary plastic back with their logo and all their dishes.

Al Tawasol - Unpackaged

Unpacking the bag revealed two aluminium plates (the two Muzbi we ordered), 6 small cups of their tomato sauce, two cups of lentil soup and two plates of salad (which is essentially just one piece of a few types of veges)

They did not bring anything other than two spoons. I have had Muzbi/Mandi places that sent tissues and even thin plastic table cover (the same plastic cover they used to put food on when eating on the floor in their sitting area in the restaurant)

On the plus side of things, Al Tawasol are quite generous in another way. We had asked for hot sauce, they brought a new small bottle and they had not added any charges, and in other scenarios, asking for additional lemons or onions, etc are actually given free with no additional cost. That is quite good.

Al Tawasol - Muzbi Plate

So the Muzbi itself, before anything it was really good. The rice is plentiful, certainly can satisfy a hungry person. It has herbs and spices inside which is important to look out for. I really never liked to chew on a whole black pepper seed or a cardamom, but there weren’t many in there though. The rice is two colors and tasted quite nice. The chicken has was quite red, and indeed, this redness was from the spices. It wasn’t really spicy or anything but certainly well spiced. The taste is quite nice actually.

The only thing I have to say about this is, I have had better grilled chicken in Muzbi dishes, but they weren’t spiced. This was spiced but wasn’t grilled as well as other places I have tried. So a bit of a give and take.

Al Tawasol - Tomato Sauce and Lentil Soup

On the side of every Muzbi/Mandi they provide a small cup of Lentil soup. It is a bit watery and certainly not the best lentil soup, but it does give a little change of taste to the palette and it isn’t bad.

The Sauce they provide is rather interesting. The tomato sauce is diced tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers and chili peppers. It doesn’t taste as good as I would have expected it to, and did have a little weird flavor to it. it works, just not perfectly.

Overall, certainly a very good dish to have considering they are generous to your needs, and the dish actually tastes good.

The Value: Here is the part where the trade off comes into play, other places that had better chicken or had more rice or so, cost more. Each Muzbi cost 24 Dhs, without any delivery cost. Keeping in mind they offer a cup of soup included in the 24 Dhs does give it more value. Additional Hot Sauce or Onions or so, are free. I think that is very good value for a large plate of rice with half a chicken.

Ratings:
The Packaging:  5   / 10
The Food:         6.5 / 10

Overall: 5.75 / 10

I’d recommend Al Tawasol for Mandi/Muzbi lovers. They are quite cheap and the food quite good. Certainly a good experience.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Delivery

 

Texas Chicken For Dinner

After a drive around several nice restaurants in the area for Iftar nothing really caught my attention. While filling petrol though at a station near festival city I saw Texas Chicken. They really expanded over the past year and they are a place trying to gain some market share of the Fried Chicken fast food business.

The branch at the petrol station was quite big, and typically of a decent modern fast food place, they had different seating arrangements and color schemes
.
Texas Chicken Restaurant Interior
I do like restaurants that are clean and have a nice decor.

Walking in, we were greeted and welcomed quite loudly. For the meal, I wasn’t sure if I wanted a sandwich or actual chicken but in the end I went with their meal of Chicken Strips.

Texas Chicken 4 Piece Chickn Strips
The meal comes with a soft drink, their own zig-zag style fries, a tray of 4 pieces of chicken strips, a bun (cut in half), a medium sized (compared to other places) cup of coleslaw and two cups of sauces; Herbed Mayonnaise, and a sauce called “Purple Sauce” which is essentially a delicious sauce that is sweet & spicy.

First of all, I love their fries. Sure, it isn’t really the best fries in the world or the most special, but it is unique to them. It this thick, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were well salted too.

The coleslaw was nice, and it had about 4-5 big spoonfuls. The branch wasn’t busy so everything was provided on the tray, I didn’t expect any spoon, straw or tissues to be missing and they weren’t.

For the chicken itself, it was quite pleasing. I ordered it spicy but it was a light mild spice. The chicken was crispy, hot and was quite nice. I liked it and again, surely there are many alternatives in the market, some being more famous but this is a nice change, especially with the fries, sauces and all.

The Service: There isn’t much to talk about in terms of service, but when I had asked for extra sauce cups which were not ready they offered to bring it, which they did with a big smile.

The Value: The good thing about Texas Chicken is that its a decent value, it is on par with other brands in the range. This meal (without upsizing it) is 22 Dhs. Extra sauce cups are at 1 Dhs each.

Ratings:
The Place:    6  / 10
The Service:  6  / 10
The Food:    6.5 / 10

Overall: 6.2 / 10

It’s another fast food restaurant, as good as the rest of the big names available here. I’d recommend it for a change.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Dine In

 

The Cheesecake Factory for Dinner at Mall of the Emirates

The Cheesecake factory has brought on a lot of hype since it’s launch at Dubai Mall. I had planned to go a few times but for some reason never got the opportunity to try it out. I have heard a lot about how the place was really huge, how the quantity is excessive and how the food was delicious.

All sounded great, and with all the hype I needed to give it a try. I still have not tried the one at Dubai Mall but when the one at Mall of the Emirates opened, for some reason I was free and had nothing to do but try it out!

So we had a trolley with some bags and walked up to the restaurant. It was in a corner beside Virgin. I like the design of the area a lot better than the open to the hotel layout of before. We were welcomed at the front desk and were told the trolley wasn’t allowed inside. They promised they will keep the trolley till we were done but it was in the middle of the mall, surely the trolley would disappear! (It did when we were done..) Either way, we asked for a table for two. There seemed to be a huge number of staff! I mean literally too many people going and coming with orders, all wearing neat clothes in white like food angels or something.

The waitress, while showing us to the table, engaged in some small talk mentioning the offers and sales happening around the mall and how it was busy these days (it was during the Dubai shopping festival) and was really polite, smiling and happy to serve.

The Cheesecake Factory Dining Area
The place was really nice! Fresh and brand new. Well, it was. There was plenty of seating, I mean this place is literally the biggest restaurant I have ever entered. Tables and booths everywhere! We were shown to a booth that had a window looking Ski Dubai. I liked that. There were tables in various sections and sizes from the beginning of the restaurant, by the bar, to all the way next to Ski Dubai where we were, really a huge place with plenty of seating options and locations. Beautiful, calm and lovely place.

The thing I didn’t really like was the fact that it was a little tight. I am not the fittest person on the planet and it was a little tight, but wasn’t uncomfortable, it was very comfortable actually just a bit tight.

Soon after sitting down we were introduced to our server (who was a trainee so we were also introduced to the actual server training him) and we were greeted, welcomed and told some specials.

The Cheesecake Factory Menu
For a brand new place, the menu was a bit worn down around the edges. Not sure if this was brought on from the other branches or if they have had that many visitors since the Mall of the Emirates branch launch. Speaking of the menu, I wasn’t happy. You see, not because there was anything wrong but because there was so many options! I mean I can blindly say this is literally the biggest menu I have ever seen, there was at least a few hundred things to order.

That threw me off. I mean I like when I have a good selection that I can’t pick between one of two or three options but there I had to pick between 20 or 30 things that I wanted to try. I believe it shouldn’t be that huge.

There was wide varieties of everything from several salads to like tens of everything, tens of seafood options, tens if not twenty pasta options, tens of steaks, it was endless. I decided to clear my head from a lot of distraction and go with the basics to try out the place for what it can really do rather than ordering something unusual and ending up with a crappy review because of my choices.

The Cheesecake Factory Bread Basket
While taking our order, the polite waitress asked if we would like some bread and butter, which we agreed to.

As soon as the bread was brought they had served the water, something I always appreciate about a restaurant not leaving the water till late.

The bread was freshly baked and were yummy! especially the brown bread for some reason.
The place was crowded but we were told the food out be out within 15-20 minutes, which seemed reasonable.

For starters I went with a Wild Mushroom soup. I just liked the way that sounded for some reason.

The Cheesecake Factory Wild Mushroom Soup
The surprise to me was that I was between ordering a bowl or cup. I didn’t want to get too full before the main meal especially after what I was told about the place (more on that later..) I decided to go with a cup. If this was a cup what on earth is a bowl! It was huge! I mean, this is what other places consider a bowl if not more. It was a lot.

As far as the soup’s taste was concerned, it was lovely. There was a certain specialty to the way it tasted, unlike any other Wild Mushroom soup I have ever had. It was a bit peppery and the mushrooms were just delicious. The soup was just the right side of thick and seasoned perfectly. I didn’t need to add anything. It was just creamy and delicious, I didn’t want to fill up but I finished it… by the end of which, I was actually full!

For the table, we had ordered a Greek Salad. Here’s the thing about the Cheesecake factory which can go both ways, good or bad. The salad wasn’t on the menu but when it was asked, they had it. Also during the specials we were told of fish dishes that weren’t on the menu, which means they have selections above the selections from the menu! How much food do these people make!
The Cheesecake Factory Greek Salad
I would be lying if I say I had anything more than two bites of the salad. After the soup, we couldn’t risk eating the salad and literally not be able to eat the main course! The salad was clean, fresh, crunchy and well seasoned with herbs. The cheese was really nice and went together lovely. This is of course after having eaten it later at home. Would have been even better at the restaurant.

Time for the main course, which after the bread, soup and salad was literally unnecessary! I ordered Fettucini Alfredo with Chicken
The Cheesecake Factory Fettucini Alfredo with Chicken

Before I get into the dish, while ordering we were asked if we want full portion or half. When I asked what was the difference we were told that the portions were really generous and half portion would be more than sufficient for one person. Now I have heard that they serve really large portions so I was really tempted to order a full portion just to see how big it can be but then… chickened out. I was already full, sue me!

So, the half portion is technically the size of other place’s full portion and a bit more. There was, to me, a full plate! Now, the dish.

The pasta was really nice, soft and cooked really well. The chicken was sufficient and really nice too, soft, juicy and tender. There was a little more sauce than I would personally prefer but then again there was a lot of pasta.
The sauce was rich and creamy, slightly salty as it should be and just delicious. I really liked it. Might not be the best Fettucini Alfredo I have ever had but certainly one of the best with ease.

Right after the dish had arrived, the waitress had come with Parmesan cheese and asked if we wanted some on top of the pasta, which when we agreed she started rubbing against the grater she had. yumm!

Now obviously, Neither of us could finish the plate and we had to take the salad and the remaining of the pasta as a take away. Here is the funny factor, almost everyone walking out of The Cheesecake Factory had bags in their hands. I can imagine no one got to finish their plates. Speaking of the take away bag, unfortunately I have no pictures but they placed the food in their own plastic containers with their branding which can be microwaved, so just perfect in terms of continuing your meal.

I have to throw out a bit of an opinion here, the restaurant is beautiful, the service is lovely and the food is really good, but I was honestly expecting a little bit more from all the hype I had been hearing.. A simpler menu, more spacious seating, more flare out of the food presentation… or maybe I just have good food too often.

The Service. It was brilliant. From start to finish, there was something special about the service. When we arrived everyone at the entrance had welcomed us, so hearing about 5 welcomes does make you feel special, while showing us to the table engaging in light small talk about shopping and the sales happening in the mall, while enjoying our meal there was plenty of servers around to ask for any query or question, while the food was served being asked by the manager how our meal was and finally while leaving being greeted and thanked by everyone on the way out really does show how much they cared about customer satisfaction. The service was really good, the staff were really polite, sweet and attentive to what is happening.
At the time there was a lot of servers who were still training so I observed a little confusion with some people who are still new, but after things roll I am sure it would be absolutely smooth.

The Value. 1 large bottle of still water, 2 Wild Mushroom soups, 1 Greek salad and 2 Fettucini Alfredo with Chicken dishes came to a total of 235 Dhs. I think this is good value considering the fact that there is a really high quality and quantity of food. Just do note that the menu entries and prices are of the half portion not the full portion.

Ratings:
The Place:   7 / 10
The Service: 8 / 10
The Food:    7 / 10

Overall: 7.3 / 10

I’d really recommend The Cheesecake Factory, it certainly is one of those special restaurants that everything is smooth sailing, whether the quality of the place, the service, or the quality of the food (and quantity of food now that I mention it).

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Dine In

 
 
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