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Nando’s – King of Peri-Peri Chicken

It has been quite a while since I’ve been to or ordered from Nando’s, and visiting one of their unique branches was worth writing about. This branch is actually in a hotel, Novotel Suites – Al Barsha, which means they also serve alcohol with their delicious Peri-Peri chicken.

Nando’s always has lovely, warm and simple decor and this branch is no different. They have a range of booths and tables with lovely artwork and Nando’s scripts on the walls.

Nandos - Wall Art

The menu at Nando’s is pretty standard and hasn’t changed in quite a long time. It ranges from a few sandwiches, Peri-Peri chicken, and a few specialty dishes.

Walking in, we were greeted by the staff who were quite helpful and assisted us to a table. We later decided to go for a booth that had just opened and they were quick to respond, clean and show us to the booth. Clearly, they maintain a consistent level of service as commonly known of Nando’s.

Nandos - Sauces Table Setting and Water

Right after ordering, they quickly brought us our water, napkins, utensils and a few sauces (Mild and Hot Peri-Peri and Ketchup).

Nandos - Open Kitchen

One of the nice things about this branch is how the kitchen is actually open, right beside the bar. Definitely a delight being able to see all the properly marinated chicken smoke while being placed on the flame grill and if that doesn’t get you salivating, I do not know what will!

Nando’s is known for having delicious chicken, so I wanted to go for one of their specialties this time.

Nandos - Espetada

This vertical skewer of deliciousness is the Nando’s Espetada. It comes with two small sides and I went for Peri-Peri fries and spicy rice.

You can choose your chicken in a variety of spice levels; lemon and herb, mild, hot and extra hot. In my opinion, nothing beats the hot spice because it has tons of flavor, can still burn your mouth but you’re still enjoying the food. Extra-hot more or less just burns your taste-buds off.

The chicken with hot Peri-Peri sauce, dare I say it, was nearly perfect. It was moist, grilled all the way through to perfection and oozing with flavor. The fries were regular fries with Peri-Peri powder on top, which gave it nice flavor while the spicy rice was a tad bland but spicy – nothing a little hot Peri-Peri sauce couldn’t fix.

Overall, there was little to complain about Nando’s. I do wish there were more updates to the menu with a broader variety of chicken dishes, especially for regulars who probably have tried it all. Also, some menu items made no sense in terms of value, for instance, 3 pieces of chicken wings costs 23 Dhs while 1/4th a chicken costs 21 Dhs.

The Service: It was good. The staff were friendly, quite speedy and were glad to help. They were around and easy to call, especially since this branch wasn’t really big. I did feel they could have presented themselves a bit more friendlier, with more smiles and cater for people’s comfort a bit more as with repeated requests (genuine requests, not being a prick), they stopped smiling.

The Value: Nando’s is known for their pricing vs quantity, where some dishes make more sense in terms of value than others. Their pricing isn’t too far off from this range of restaurants and I think 64 Dhs for an Espetada is quite alright, especially when keeping taste, ambiance, service and quality in mind.

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

Overall: 6.7 / 10

If you have not tried Nando’s, you’re missing out on one of the nicest places to have a casual Peri-Peri chicken lunch or dinner. Definitely Recommended.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Dine In

 

Mooyah – Is it the best burger in the UAE?

Lets start by what got me to this place.. The sign, that says “Congratulations Mooyah for winning the Kris Fade Show’s Best Burger in the UAE” which is quite a big claim!

Mooyah - Award

The place is quite funky but in the end, it is a fast food place – full tables and booths. There was an ordering station with an open kitchen behind it to see where all the juicy burgers were being made! Yum!

Walking in, they were very welcoming and happy to assist us in making our order, making sure we knew the variety of buns and patties they offered.

Mooyah - Menu

They have an interesting menu with 8 signature burgers which can be prepared with:
– A single or double patty
– Beef (Certified Angus Beef), chicken or veggie patties
– Three types of bun; white, wheat or iceberg lettuce

They also have 3 signature hot-dogs, kids meals, fries and extras, salads, and milkshakes. Don’t fancy any of the signature burgers? You can build your own burger too!

I love a little smokiness in my burgers so I decided to go for the Texas Burger meal.

Mooyah - Texas Meal

A thing to highlight is their fries, they are trans-fat free. I didn’t mind them and certainly didn’t fall in love with them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty nice, but definitely not the best. Ever tried fries that seemed a bit empty from the inside? These are similar.
The quantity was quite decent to satisfy a hungry person and came quite hot, ready to be consumed! Loved their little metal trays too, very.. rugged.

Mooyah - Texas Burger

So how was the burger itself? After all, this won the Kris Fade Show’s award.. Verdict? It was quite nice! I ordered the double beef patty texas burger with white bread. It had cheddar cheese, fried onion strings, grilled onions, BBQ sauce and pickles. All in all, it had very nice flavor, a bit of crisp and the beef patty itself was really good. It was a tad greasy, but what fresh burger isn’t, right? The bun was super soft too!

I certainly enjoyed my meal, loved the burger, and the overall place was very comforting. But the question remains, is it the best burger i’ve ever had?

Mooyah - Funny Cow Board

I’d probably say no. It was very good, but to claim it was the best burger i’ve ever had, would be an overstatement. I would definitely visit again, and recommend Mooyah without a doubt. They had a giant blackboard, which I thought would be super cool for the kids!

Overall, if you have not tried Mooyah, you should. It definitely has something to offer every burger lover, great flavors, freshly prepared and the brand itself is just cool!

The Service: The staff were very kind and assisted us with a smile at all times. When I asked for additional sauces and wet-wipes, they immediately served us with a smile. Great staff.

The Value: I believe there are a variety of “burger place types” which are fast food, better than fast food, freshly prepared burgers, and gourmet. Mooyah seem to fit in the “freshly prepared burgers” (among others in the segment like shake shack, burger fuel, etc) and it seems to be around the same price range as well. I would say the meal is a tad pricer than I would like to pay for a burger, fries and drink of this type – then again, price is always relative and I had a great meal.

Ratings:
The Place: 6 / 10
The Service: 7 / 10
The Food: 7 / 10

Overall: 6.7 / 10

I recommend trying Mooyah if you’re near any of their branches in Jumeirah Al Wasl Square or Ibn Battuta – a great addition to the list of awesome burger places in Dubai.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Dine In

 

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Day at Tche Tche Downtown

A franchise that’s always busy, but is it any good?

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I have often come to Tche Tche but this is the first time to put it under the ihabdines microscope!

Tche Tche has a very nice atmosphere and a lot of people come here and spend the evening between chilling with friends and smoking shesha. On that front alone, the place is great. They have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating with dedicated areas for non smokers. The staff are average, greeting customers is optional to them and friendliness depends on how busy the restaurant is.

In this review I went on a lovely Saturday afternoon to chill have a light bite and enjoy time with friends. Their menu has a wide selection of starters, salads, sandwiches, and various main courses. Surely, the choices are plenty. Keeping it light, I started off with their Crunchy Panko Shrimp and Chicken Caesar Salad (no clue what Panko means..)

Let’s get started with the Shrimp shall we?

IMG_0032

Let’s just put it this way, it’s very average frozen shrimp. What gets to me is the fact that these are shrimps right? I don’t want to see straight shrimp! Bland.

Let’s move on to the Caesar Salad, looked better at least.

IMG_0033

Now I am already quite on edge with the experience here. The Ceasar Salad was quite alright. The lettuce was crunchy, the chicken was grilled quite nicely and was juicy but the salad was over seasoned. Also, I would have loved to see more green on the plate.

For the rest of the evening the seating was just great, the atmosphere was fabulous and the views are amazing as always.

Before leaving, I thought I’d try a sandwich for dinner..

IMG_0035

That is what they call a Chicken Zinger Sandwich.. Supposedly a delicious sandwich with turkey, cheese, pickles and spicy chicken tenders. The truth is, I could barely tell the difference between the chicken and the bread! Bland, dry, tasteless, not spicy enough, cold and a complete disappointment. The whole dish was cold enough that parts of cheese hadn’t melted – this also showed they just used regular cheese slices..

Overall, to keep this simple, Tche Tche is a hang out spot, and a good one too – the location is great, the seating is comfortable, the overall atmosphere is lovely and the staff, if in the right mood, are good too, just don’t expect a lot from the menu.

Keep in mind that there are some menu items that either offer more value (priced low for a large dish) and other items that generally taste better. No excuse for not having decent other dishes, though.

The service: ordinary sums it up pretty well. They are alright, some are helpful, some aren’t. When they get busy they do not put in effort for customer service, and if you joke around you may get treated better – which isn’t necessarily a good thing on their behalf

The value: keeping in mind this is Downtown – Emaar Boulevard, the price is quite alright. All three dishes, 2 small bottles of water (they do not serve large ones), one American coffee totaled to around 140 Dhs.

Ratings:
The place – 7/10
The service – 5/10
The food – 3/10

Overall – 5/10

Want a place to hang out with friends in Downtown? Tche Tche is a nice cafe, not a restaurant.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Dine In

 

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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

 
 
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