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Galito’s – Quality Peri-Peri Chicken

We all have tried at least one brand of Peri-Peri Chicken in the UAE and it is becoming more of a trend with competitors appearing regularly. Galito’s opened its doors in 1996 in South Africa and along the years opened in various South African cities and now the UAE as well. I was fortunate enough to give it a try at Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi one lovely afternoon.. Curious to know how it was? Lets go!

Galitos - Peri-Peri Sauces

Before we get into the lovely dishes, there is one thing that I learnt from my visit and chat with the general manager; the owners have not disconnected from the brand. I personally believe this is a factor that many international brands suffer from, where they franchise the name and it often goes to hell. We were told that the owners and various managers actually do visit all Galito’s branches world wide, check on produce, cooking, quality, ingredients and ensure that their true standards are maintained. This… is how restaurants should be managed!

The Galito’s promise: “We have recreated the excellence of home cooked nutrition so that you can enjoy ‘just like mom makes it’ chicken without the hassle. Our traditional marinade is made from all natural ingredients infused with selected herbs and spices. We take care to marinate each chicken for at least 24 hours until moist and tender and then they are ready for the Grill.Galito’s…Tastes like home!”

Galitos - View at Yas Mall

To kick things off, Galito’s is now open in 5 locations in Abu Dhabi, and I had the pleasure to enjoy the beautiful views at Yas Mall. Galito’s has nice indoor and outdoor seating, but as the weather was still acceptable at the time, we sat outdoors. I wouldn’t necessarily compliment their outdoor furniture as they were mostly plastic seats and ordinary shared tables.

Are you ready for the food now?

Galitos - Garlic Break and Chick-E-Naise

For the first starter, we had the Garlic Bread with Chick-E-Naise, which is essentially garlic bread with a chicken mayonnaise sauce. This is a new spin-off the traditional garlic bread, I liked it, but had a tad too much Chick-E-Naise. I’d recommend this to be ordered to share with 4 people rather than have more than one per person. Good flavors though.

Galitos - Perimmus and Pita

Alongside the garlic bread, we were presented with the Galito’s Perimmus and Pita bread. This was a very creamy and delicious hummus that was flavored with Peri-Peri. It had just the right amount of spice, thickness and texture. Absolutely loved it. If you like hummus, this will bring a new twist to your favorite starter.

Galitos - Melon Teaser, Laranji and Kiwi MojitoGalitos - African Blues

Galito’s also has an interesting list of mocktails and they certainly were not holding back on us! They brought on 4 out of the 5 mocktails from their menu.
Coco Melancia – Probably my least favorite of the mocktails. It had a nice, subtle blend of watermelon and coconut but did not entirely work for me and felt a bit bland.
Laranji – A very zesty blend of citrus flavors and strawberries. Certainly very refreshing and flavorful
Kiwi Mojito – My favorite, with the right blend of flavors and without a doubt, the yummiest mocktail they had!
Finally, they brought on the African Blues – a mix of peach and lychee. Not the flavors i had in mind and a tad too sweet for my liking, but was quite nice.

To keep it simple, the Kiwi Mojito was the only mocktail that we finished. Their mocktails were nice, but you need to find the one that works for you!

Galitos - Chicken Salad

Their Chicken Salad was as typical as can be. There were some nicely grilled chicken on top of very fresh and crunchy lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum and cucumbers with dressing on top. Nothing much to say here, other than this is definitely a nice, light and fresh salad, especially for the people looking for a healthier alternative.

Are you ready for the stars of the show?

Galitos - Prawn Espetada with O Porto Rice and Fries

 

If you’ve been to other Peri-Peri restaurants, chicken remains the highlight, and although it is at Galito’s they do give you options like the absolutely delicious Prawn Espetada that we tried! It comes with 2 sides of choice and we went with Sweet Potato Fries and O Porto Rice.

The Prawns were fantastic. A tad small, but had an incredible amount of flavor, and spice (especially since I asked for Hot spice). A certain favorite and I would recommend this if you love prawns.
The O Porto Rice was not as good as I had from competitors, a tad sticky and not as flavorful as I would expect.
The Sweet Potato Fries were standard, thick sweet potato cuts seasoned well.

Galitos - Mild Half Chicken with Salad

The moment of truth was here, the Peri-Peri Chicken. Before I jump into the chicken itself, the manager gave us a bit of information worth sharing with you. All Galito’s poultry is brought in daily from local farms, cleaned, prepared and marinated for 24 hours on a daily basis to ensure the highest quality of chicken at no compromise. They had introduced chicken livers as a dish on the menu and pulled it when the suppliers could not supply them to the Galito’s requirements… No compromise. Very nice chicken, fresh, delicious and healthy.

The chicken was definitely grilled very well, but perhaps a tad dry for my personal liking. The flavors were quite nice as we ordered mild spice and it gave me an opportunity to try their bottled sauces as well. The bottles are available for sale at Galito’s and my favorite would be the Hot spice, the rest were lacking in flavor to me.

Galitos - Burger Pizza with Fries

Visiting with children? They, too, can have some fun! There is a small kids section in the menu with interesting creations such as the Chicken Burger Pizza with Fries, which was as straight forward as can be in terms of taste with nothing special but a lot of fun for the kids.

Overall, Galito’s is a very good restaurant. They focus a lot on the brand values of taste, quality and fresh ingredients while being closely monitored by the people who initiated the brand. The staff are really helpful, nice and enthusiastic and were always there for any request. While all this is quite good, the question that is to be asked is, would you rather Galito’s or Nando’s?

I will leave that answer to you. Galito’s has its unique flavors, menu items and standards of freshness, quality and processes that are almost unprecedented.

The Service: It was very good. Plenty of happy staff serving both indoors, outdoors and always happy to serve. The manager and head chef were both around at all times to assist with any inquiries we had. They greeted us when we arrived and were happy to wish us well when we left.

The Value: One of the key factors of Galito’s message, or at least their message in South Africa, is to be offer great, fresh and delicious food at an affordable price. This is not exactly the case here in the UAE as Galito’s seem to follow the standard pricing for this kind of restaurant. The Prawn Espetada was AED109, Half a Chicken with One Side was AED45, Chicken Salad was AED26, etc.

Ratings:
The Place:    5.5 / 10
The Service: 6.5 / 10
The Food:      6  / 10

Overall: 6 / 10

If you happen to be at Al Wahda, Al Naeem, Dalma, Yas or Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, I’d recommend you try Galito’s at least once. I would love to know your feedback too!

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2015 in Dine In

 

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Peppermill – Eastern Mangrove, Abu Dhabi

One of the best things about the UAE is the number of cuisines available, and Indian cuisine is almost everyone’s favorite. That is why I have been anticipating this review ever since I received the lunch invite!

They have several branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to the Eastern Mangrove one, with a gorgeous view!

Peppermill - Eastern Mangrove

Peppermill has a large indoor dining area and even outdoor seating for when the weather is just right with an exceptional view of the marina.

Peppermill - Eastern Mangrove Interior

For this review, I was seated indoors (as the weather wasn’t pleasant) and was welcomed by the restaurant manager. Can’t guarantee that my experience at the Eastern Mangrove would be the same in other branches but the manager was exceptionally knowledgeable about the food, their origins and how some dishes evolved into modern Indian menus. It was an absolute pleasure getting to discuss his favored dishes and hearing all about them. If you ever plan on visiting Peppermill at the Eastern mangrove, I recommend a quick chat with the manager!

Peppermill - Table Starters

All tables are served with the starters above, to get your palettes tickled with exceptional flavors of sweet, mint and spice.

Peppermill - Mulligatawny Soup

For my starter, I began with the Mulligatawny Soup, which is a unique Lentil Soup with a hint of basmati rice and chicken. The soup, surprisingly, resembled the light Arabic version of Lentil soup found in Levant cuisine. It was really flavorful, light, fresh and just the right start to a meal. The manager kindly walked me through the origins of lentil soup, and how the “poor man’s dish” became one of the most popular soups in indian cuisine. Definitely a great starter.

Peppermill - Karare Palak Chaat

This was an all-new for me, Karare Palak Chaat which is basically batter-fried spinach topped with mint, tamarind chutney and yoghurt sprinkled with spices and coriander. This is the first time I tasted spinach in this form, and I got to admit it was delicious. The starter did lose its form as it got soggy after some time, but while still crispy, it was delicious and popping with flavor.

Peppermill - Strawberry Colada

While waiting for the main dishes to be prepared, and boy were there many dishes waiting for me, I was presented with their Strawberry Colada, a refreshing drink if you’re into strawberries.

I often would want to try something new, but I was badly wanting to try the Butter Chicken!

Peppermill - Butter Chicken

Unfortunately for me, I was expecting wonders as I was impressed by Peppermill and the dish did not live up to the hyped expectations. Do not get me wrong, the Butter Chicken was very creamy, rich and nice, but it did not blow me away in terms of flavor. There was plenty in a serving for two people, and the chicken was tender, juicy and the cubes were just the right size. I liked it a lot, but was begging for a little more flavor. Maybe I am asking too much!

Peppermill - Garlic Cheese Naan and Pudina Paratha

The manager recommended two types of bread, the Garlic Cheese Naan and the Pudina Paratha. To be honest, they were delicious but admittedly, the Garlic Cheese Naan might not have been the best flavor to go with the Butter Chicken. The bread alone though, was amazing. The Pudina Paratha is essentially a whole wheat flat bread flavored with mint and this was just right, not too minty, and worked really well with the curry. The menu is huge and has over 10 types of bread!

Peppermill - Kadai Prawns

It wouldn’t be complete without a unique specialty dish by the chef, and I was lucky enough to get one! The dish is traditionally called the Kadai Paneer, which is Diced Indian Cottage Cheese cooked with onions and pepper, topped with fresh coriander seeds and red chilies, and the specialty dish was called Kadai Prawns, which was Black tiger prawns in a onion tomato mix & kadai spices. This was definitely the dish of the visit. The prawns were quite large, tasted extremely fresh, cooked to perfection and the spices just made it perfect! I loved every bit of it. As you can tell by now, I was served a lot of food and this was the only dish I actually finished.

If that wasn’t enough, they brought me a platter of Peppermill’s popular grills to try!

Peppermill - Mixed Kebab Platter

This platter was the only dish that wasn’t served in full size.. well.. there was no way I could eat all this food! Here are the three grills:

Seekh Kebab – Minced lamb with spices, hand rolled over in iron skewers, slow cooked in a clay oven. I really liked this and found it quite spicy. Certainly enough flavors to last you a while!
Tandoori Chicken – Chicken delicately spiced in rare spices and yoghurt baked in tandoor for enhanced flavors. This was also a very nice grill, I would have opted for more spice but certainly delicious.
Tandoori Malai Prawn – One of the nicest grilled prawns I had tasted in a while, very nice flavors, and lightly spiced.

It does seem like they are very good with prawns at Peppermill as both prawn dishes were exceptional.

Peppermill - Chicken Biryani

And just as I was about to explode, I was introduced to their Chicken Biryani

Lovely display and serving but the flavors lacked for me. The rice was cooked well, and the chicken was very tender but there was a lack in flavor. I had a quick chat with the manager as everything had a lot of flavor but the biryani didnt. He explained that there are various levels of spice that can be ordered and every level is one round of chili water applied to the biryani. I tried to have it spiced a bit and although it became a bit more flavorful, it wasn’t where I needed it to be.

I loved the rice, chicken and presentation for sure, but the overall biryani wasn’t up to expectation.

I was about to leave but then…

Peppermill - Shahi Tukda

The manager brought on the Shahi Tukda – Toasted brioche caramelized and served with pistachio ice cream drizzled with saffron sauce and topped with a pistachio biscotti (all made in house!). I cannot begin to express how incredible this dessert was. The little sponge-cake-like brioche in the bottom was super soft, the ice cream was to-die-for and together was just heavenly. I could not breathe but it would have been an absolute waste to not finish this, and so I did! Incredible dessert and not too sweet either with a lovely amount of pistachio to go around. Absolutely loved it.

Overall, this was an exceptional experience of Indian cuisine. Peppermill would be considered a high end Indian restaurant but it actually is quite decent. It was a great lunch with delicious, unique and fresh food, cooked by people who definitely knew what they were doing and served by people who knew the food just as much as the people who made it. The menu is huge, and has about a hundred or more dishes to choose from.

The Service: It was very good! I was there just when the lunch peak had begun and the amount of staff going around indoors and outdoors serving people was sufficient. Response times were decent and the staff were always incredibly happy to serve. I may keep repeating this, but the manager was truly the highlight of the staff at Peppermill. He had incredible knowledge of the dishes, their origins and ingredients.

The Value: A digital copy of the menu can be found here: http://www.peppermill.me/pdf/pappermill-menu-online.pdf and it is priced quite well for high end Indian cuisine.

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

Overall: 7.7 / 10

If you are hungry for Indian Cuisine, Peppermill is a definitely recommendation. Great place, fresh ingredients, friendly staff and a must-have experience.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Dine In

 

Bloomsbury – Satisfy your sweet tooth

We all love desserts, but with so many choices around, it is hard to decide on where to go! A week ago though, I gave Bloomsbury a try, and boy what an experience that was!

Bloomsbury - Cupcake Collection

To start things off, there are plenty of dessert options in Dubai Mall and for Bloomsbury to stand out, they definitely needed to to be unique in every aspect from store ambiance, comfort, location, staff and of course, the product itself. It was early afternoon and I was feeling a little tired, so I decided to get some coffee before trying any cupcakes.

Bloomsbury - Black Coffee - Americano

Not that I am actually reviewing their coffee or anything, but it was nice. Bloomsbury is a nice little shop with decent seating of around 6 – 8 tables in a very cozy setting. The staff are polite, welcoming and happy to assist with any request.

They wanted me to try out a whole selection of cupcakes, not like I am going to ever complain about that!

Bloomsbury - Double Chocolate Heaven Cupcake

I started it off with their Double Chocolate Heaven Cupcake – Chocolate sponge topped with chocolate fudge icing and sprinkled with edible gold dust.

At first, I thought this was going to be an incredibly heavy chocolate cupcake, but it wasn’t heavy at all. It was a tad on the thick side but had a very nice chocolate flavor and the icing was just the right amount of sweetness. The gold dust made the top shine, but does not add anything in terms of flavor. No chocolate or sugar overload this was just right – thank god!

Bloomsbury - Diabetic Dream Cupcake

This is a special one, the Diabetic Dream Cupcake – Carrot sponge with labneh icing topped with toasted walnuts. What makes it a Diabetic’s dream? They only use a natural sweetener called Agave syrup for the icing.

It had a nice and familiar carrot cake base but the sponge was a tad on the thick side. Overall, if I could not have sugar, this would be incredible to have because it was sweet. I also thought Bloomsbury did a good job offering such options to its customers.

Bloomsbury - Bakewell Tart

It may look all innocent on the outside but this Bakewell Tart has a tangy heart – A sweet pastry tart with berry coulis and frangipane.

Not a taste that I could fall in love with, but surely interesting. The outer layer was like soft biscuit and crumbled when cut into, while the inside was soft but thick jam and ground almonds (frangipane), it has a unique tangy taste that needs to be tried and definitely a different taste to the region, which is understandable being of English origins.

Bloomsbury - Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing

But, without a doubt, the star of the Bloomsbury show is their Red Velvet cupcake – A chocolate vanilla sponge with cream cheese icing.

I have only tried cream cheese icing a couple of times but the combination of that with a Red Velvet cupcake was amazing. This could be one of the best tasting cupcakes I’ve ever eaten. The cream cheese had amazing flavor while not being too sweet and the sponge itself was soft and not too sweet either – loved it. A must try, even when just passing by.

The thing that makes most of their cupcakes standout is the sugar they use. They import it specifically because it does not leave a grainy feel to their icing, which is an issue most cupcakes have. All their icing is smooth, soft and creamy.

Bloomsbury - Cheesecake

I also tried their Cheese Cake – Baked cream cheese cake on a base of crushed cookies.

Certainly one of the nicer cheese cakes I’ve tried in Dubai. It was soft, smooth and tasted very nice with good flavor. I believe the base could have been more crunchier as it had softened but overall a nice slice of cheese cake and not too sweet either.

Bloomsbury - Fool's Gold

In the end, they would not allow me to go before I tried something called the Fool’s Gold.

In essence, these are golden chocolate rocks with popping candy covered in gold dust and taste absolutely funny! The chocolate has nice flavor but it looks weird (they come in no specific shape) and once the popping candy start to go, it leaves a really hilarious party in your mouth!

Overall, I’d have to say the dessert experience at Bloomsbury is lovely. From the time you walk in, are greeted by the staff and welcomed by the display of cupcakes, till you sit down and let your taste buds go wild, Bloomsbury cover all the bases properly.

Some pictures from the display at Bloomsbury Dubai Mall:

Bloomsbury - Dubai Mall Display - Tarts Bloomsbury - Dubai Mall Display - Packages to go Bloomsbury - Dubai Mall Display - Double Chocolate Heaven Bloomsbury - Dubai Mall Display - Cupcakes and TartsBloomsbury - Dubai Mall Display - Cupcakes and Cakes

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Dine In

 

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?

IMG_0034

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

 
 
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