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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.