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Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Cheesecake Factory for Dinner at Mall of the Emirates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall: 7.3 / 10

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

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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Dine In

 

Zahr El Laymoun at Dubai Mall

Alright, it isn’t exactly in Dubai Mall. It is at Souq Al Bahar, but I mean it is considered Dubai Mall in a way, just right across.
I haven’t eaten there before and thought i’d give it a try and the weather is just beautiful for outdoor meals. Unfortunately at the time of this review a lot of restaurants in Dubai Mall have shisha restrictions, and Zahr El Laymoun was recommended. Recommend me a restaurant? sure about that? alrighty…

The place is very warm, it is actually to the left of the crossing bridge. So to most of the restaurant, the fountains aren’t seen but there are lovely tables by the water overlooking the mall and The Address.

They have two levels of outdoor seating, and indoor tables as well. We sat on an upper level with the view seen above. Absolutely stunning. When we walked in a server came to us asking if we wanted a table and had told us the tables on the bottom level were all full and there were a few lovely tables on the top. When we arrived there another server welcomed us and showed us the empty tables. Simple straight forward service.

The restaurant has unique tables and chairs, attempting to get a comfortable look and feel to the place.
Zahr El Laymoun Tables & Chairs

Their menus were interesting as well, it wasn’t a normal menu but a large board!
Zahr El Laymoun Menu

I guess the appeal is to have everything right there, but still was rather larSoon after ordering the food they started to arrange things and set the table up.

Zahr El Laymoun Table Setting
For the table, they had brought a little metal tray with tissues, spice, zaatar, salt and oil.

Zahr El Laymoun Place Setting
For us, they had placed the table setting with the plate, fork and knife. The thing is, I like to keep a keen eye and I could see little chips on plates and glasses which I think shouldn’t be served. I mean I understand this kind of thing happens and maybe it isn’t cost effective to throw away a plate when it gets chipped but still, we are sitting in Souq Al Bahar, and it is supposed to be a higher quality experience.

For starters we went with Vine Leaves, Tabbouleh and Hommos Beiruty.
Zahr El Laymoun Vine Leaves, Tabbouleh and Hommos
While serving the starters the server brought a little rectangle plate which had some spices, sesame seeds and added the table’s oil on top of it. An observation I had was the quantity was a little smaller than I expected to be honest.
The vine leaves for instance came in a little bowl with 3 pieces laid on top of potato. The vine leaves wasn’t bad, vinegary and fresh, the stuffing was nice as well, rice wasn’t overcooked or chewy.
The Tabbouleh was fresh and the greens seemed all cut freshly and was still very crisp. The lemon made it very zesty and nice on the taste buds.
It was the first time I order hommos done in the Beiruty style. Essentially was ordinary hommos with pine nuts, cuts of greens and other random stuff.. It isn’t bad but I guess I just prefer the plan hommos.

The starters came with a bread basket too
Zahr El Laymoun Bread Basket

It has a few pieces of circular bread that was a little hard, but warm, nice and thick. It didn’t have a real flavor or anything but wasn’t bad. On the bottom there was a packet of ordinary Lebanese bread.

As far as the main meal goes, we ordered a Mixed Combo Platter
Zahr El Laymoun Mixed Combo Platter
Continuing with the “lesser quantity than similar restaurants” theme, the mixed combo platter came with 2 skewers of Shesh Tawooq (Marinated chicken cubes), Meat Kebab (Marinated meat cubes), Kofta (Minced meat on a skewer) and on the side garlic paste, light yogurt and two pieces of bread with a spicy sauce and onions. The platter’s garnish was essentially a grilled onion (a tiny one) and a grilled tomato (which wasn’t really grilled)
The Shesh Tawooq was really good, marinated well, grilled really well and still juicy. The Meat Kebabs were alright, marinated but a bit chewy. The loveliest was certainly the Kofta, it was very juicy, fresh tasting and delicious with the taste of the greens added to the minced meat.
The light yogurt was a new addition to mixed grill platters but it was really nice and creamy. The garlic paste was light and not too strong either. The spiced up bread was tasty as it was toasted and a spicy on the inside. Essentially just bread with a little spicy paste and onions on the inside.

The Service: I haven’t spoken much about the service because there wasn’t much to talk about but this was not a bad thing. There wasn’t much going on really, servers were around going and coming, listened to calls and provided what was asked. It was very plain and simple. Nothing extra ordinary, but no real downfall to service either. It was quite alright.

The Value: 1 large bottle of water, 1 mixed combo platter, and the 3 starters came to about 240 Dhs (excluding any extras like shisha). I think it is a bit overpriced because although the quality of food was good, the quantity is lesser than other restaurants with similar pricing. Surely I am comparing it with restaurants in the same level and type of food. For example, where they served 3 vine leave pieces, a comparable place would serve 6 and where they served 2 skewers of each type, a comparable place would serve 3 skewers of each type, etc.

Ratings:
The Place:    6 / 10
The Service:  5 / 10
The Food:     6 / 10

Overall: 5.7 / 10

I would recommend Zahr El Laymoun only for a change from the usual and for its nice ambiance, but what I would really recommend is to look around, as there are many other nice restaurants within 5-10 minute walking radius with nicer food (of similar cuisine), better value and nicer views even!

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Dine In

 

Mezza House at Down Town Burj Khalifa

Mezza House is a really popular place around Down Town Burj Khalifa for many things actually; lovely Lebanese food, outdoor seating by the street overlooking Burj Khalifa, shisha and even a singer at night. Sounds good right? Well I had to find out myself. Admittedly I have been there before, but never with the intent or observation to review it. This time… that changed.

Walked in (in? it was outdoors… walked out? but we weren’t in… anyways…) and stood there for a few seconds waiting for anyone to take us to a table but the waiters were all too busy. Sat down at a free table with no sign of being reserved and we had to call a waiter to get us the menus. Service wasn’t up to a great start clearly. The place was almost full with about 2 or 3 empty tables outdoors, still I can forgive a little busyness but not being ignored of course.
Mezza House has a theme in presentation, especially with food. They use copper or copper coated/colored platters, bowls and utensils.
Mezza House Copper Placements
The theme begins from the placements on the table. One baring the table number and the second is the tissue holder.

Mezza House Menu
Soon enough the menu had arrived and they have a wide variety of Lebanese foods to satisfy everyone’s taste. The word “Mezza” is an Arabic word for a type of starters, and they come as hot mezzas, cold mezzas and raw mezzas. The menu has big sections filled with all these starters alongside a lot of main courses and grills. They are famous for a very unique mezza experience, so I had to give some a try.

After ordering the food, they brought the table placements.
Mezza House Place Setting

To start things off, we ordered some soup, and I went with their Mushroom Soup.
Mezza House Mushroom Soup
This was actually very interesting. I got this copper pot with a little holder and a little place under the pot for a little candle. There was no candle but I can imagine it would be a really nice way to keep the soup warm. Lifting the slightly hot lid revealed the soup, along with the spoon. As far as appearance goes, it was unique, I like that.
As far as the taste goes, it was really good. The soup was creamy, not too thick, not too watery, it was just right. The soup had a unique taste to it, unlike most Mushroom Soup I have had in the past, but in a nice way and that really was a good experience. The mushrooms were lovely too, slightly spongy (crunchy? I dont know had a little bite to it you could say) and tasted lovely.

While digging into the soup, the cold mezzas arrived. I ordered Vine Leaves and Tabbouleh.
Mezza House Vine Leaves and Tabbouleh
These came in metal bowls coated with copper, keeping with their theme.

On the left we have the Vine Leaves. These were slightly vinegary, had cream and pomegranate sauce on top. It does give a little sweet / vinegar taste to it which is really delicious and unique. The only downside with the stuff vine leaves was that the stuffing’s rice was a little too over done and was too sticky on the inside. Which lead to it being a bit chewy and sticky in my mouth. The taste was there, but it needed to be a little less chewy. This is how they do it though, I have had the same experience before as well.

As far as the Tabbouleh, it was really nice. Fresh ingredients and a good amount of lemon which was very refreshing. If you are not aware what Tabbouleh is, you can read more on the Levant starter here.

For the main dish, we wanted some mixed grills so we went with the Combo Grilled Platter (which is a better value than two ordinary mixed grill plates).

Mezza House Combo Grilled Platter
This was a big one!

The platter is actually a wooden plank and the food is laid on a rectangle piece of bread (It was also covered with it, but took it off for the photo) the platter had:
Sheesh Tawooq (Chicken Cubes on the left). The platter had 3 skewers of the chicken cubes. They were really soft, tender and delicious! It was marinated and juicy. With the chicken skewers, they had some mushrooms which were also marinated.
Meat Kebab (Meat Cubes in the middle). The platter had 3 skewers of the meat cubes. They were a little hard. The marination was a little light and wasn’t full of flavor as the sheesh tawooq. Slightly stringy and chewy. Not bad, but not amazing either.
Meat Kofta (Minced Meat stuck to a skewer and grilled). The platter had 3 skewer lengths of the minced meat. These were lovely as well, they were marinated well, really soft and just melts in the mouth. Very nice.

The platter came with a half cut green pepper filled with garlic paste, grilled tomato and onion. Aside from the platter, came a serving of french fries.
Mezza House French Fries with Combo Grilled Platter
These came in a little copper container as well. The french fries were ordinary tasting but were sprinkled with some spices, which did help make the fries rather unique. It was nice, although I would have preferred some more spices!

The Service: This is certainly the biggest (do I dare say “only” ?) issue I have had at Mezza House. The service was bad. We had to literally call down passing waiters, some would respond and some would just not hear the call. The shisha was brought quite quickly, but coal was changed only after hunting down the person in charge. After a little while, half way through the meal, all tables were full, and service levels just dropped. After eating, there was a lot left over and I had to tell two waiters to take the food away and wrap them up for take away. Some servers were quick to react and answer what was needed and others would just pile things up and things got delayed. Upon leaving, we just got up and left and no one was around to thank us or so, but then again it was outdoors so I am not complaining, it certainly didn’t matter but is an overall “experience” thing to expect.
Weirdly enough, there are a lot of staff walking around and even a supervisor or manager. I would expect service levels would be better than what it was.

The Value: 1 large bottle of water, 2 soups, 1 Combo Grilled Platter, 1 Tabbouleh and 1 Vine Leaves serving came up to a total of 242 Dhs. The price is a bit pricey, especially since the service wasn’t up to par, but the food is certainly delicious, unique and of a good quality.

Ratings:
The Place:    7  / 10
The Service:  4  / 10
The Food:    7.5 / 10

Overall: 6.2 / 10

I’d recommend Mezza House because the food is delicious, but be aware that the service might disappoint.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in Dine In

 
 
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