All posts by Dev J Haldar aka @TheCalmDev

Mediaman | Employee to my son | Food Writer | Photographer | Batman Believer

Top 5 Culinary Trends in 2016

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016 twiter-07
Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016

Industry perspective into culinary habits that will be big this year.

The UAE’s culinary business is experiencing a growth spurt. It is almost as if the industry has somewhat entered its teens when we expected it take some more time. If reports are to be believed, about 20,000 F&B outlets are expected to ‘shroom up by 2020. Such reports are not surprising. Think of UAE as your home kitchen. When more guests turn up, you just make some more food and serve your guests. The numbers of tourists flocking to the UAE sees a healthy year-on-year growth. Hotels are expanding their chains and restaurants. Eatery chains are opening newer outlets in newer malls that grow faster than the palm trees. Stand-alone eateries and food entrepreneurs see this as a growth opportunity to increase their capacity. And so, the country’s kitchen, as it were, is expanding.

UAE is a hotspot of culinary conquests. It is the star attraction. Residents and tourists alike, love eating out and why not! When you can get food from the world in a span of 50 kilometres or thereabouts, food becomes the main attraction. Accessibility to the global palate is easier than getting a visa to go for a holiday. Think Argentinian to Japanese – and all that is available, in full authenticity.

All this has led to a large influx of global culinary masters. Whether starred or yearning to have the Bibendum’s mark of excellence, they all make sure that they have a UAE presence. It could be argued, over some single-origin coffee and focaccia, that the usual map pegs are giving way to opening up in the glittering UAE. Georgio Locatelli, Gary Rhodes, Nobu, Gordon Ramsey, Atul Kochchar, Heinz Beck, Vikas Khanna, Yannick Alleno, Vineet Bhatia and Jamie Oliver are some names that reinforce the belief as high as the Burj that Dubai is quickly becoming a culinary epicentre.

In this Middle East Milan, the melange of such culinary brands helps hotels lure more and newer guests. Global chains are swimming the seas to set shop here like Joe’s Crab Shack did when they opened their 131st store and the 1st overseas restaurant in the Dubai Mall a few months back. I see that the burgeoning food industry has also given rise to the new breed of food journalists or bloggers who are becoming a force to reckon with, Darth Vader notwithstanding. Adding in more gourmet force, digital platforms allow restaurants of all hues and pockets to list and get reviewed – all of this feeding into the big churning bowl of the culinary kingdom in the UAE.

With the last few years being spectacular in this respect, 2016 begins on a happy and hopeful note of newer food experiences and newer entrants into the market. This is an attempt to tap into the top 5 trends of this year.

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016#1. RISE OF THE CASUAL SMART DINING
Fine dine does not find favours with many, mainly because it is a starched and stiff affair. These days, people want to go to a restaurant, however posh, to have some good nosh, enjoy the ambience without having to worry about which service fork to use or if their cufflinks are secretly kissing the meat gravy.
Casual Smart Dining restaurants are a sub-niche between the fine dining restaurants and casual dining eateries. The cutlery remains classy while the ambience is slightly more relaxed. Many restaurants are working that extra mile to give value for the dirham spent in eating.

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016
Chef Leonardo Maltese

Head chef at the multi-award winning Italian seafood restaurant Bice Mare at Souk Al Bahar, Leonardo Maltese feels “You expect guests in formals to turn up for a fine dine restaurant. But again, you cannot be rude to a patron who may turn up in a hoodie. At Bice Mare, every guest who walks is given the same attention and care so that the experience is memorable and the taste will transport them to the south seas of Italy.”
Can’t argue with that.

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016#2. STREET FOOD GOES CHIC Street food has a huge following. After all, it is food that is made for the working class. Look up the cultural history of food and you will see how a certain breed of eateries opened up across the globe that catered to middle class people. It is what is known as the Quick Service Restaurants. Easy to make food that could be consumed on the go became a rage. Restaurant grew in operations due to popularity and less wastage of resources. What is cooked is served and finished. But the hidden hurdle was that of unhealthy food. Deep fried, slathered with fat and preservative laden condiments didn’t help the gastro gizzards of the consumers; not to mention processed meats.
But now, street food has been adopted by the high street. High end restaurants realise the popularity and taste profile of such dishes and have gladly given them a healthy make-over for the discerning diner to savour the taste and yet not compromise on health. Little wonder that Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna’s one year old restaurant Junoon at the Shangri-La, Dubai serves up a street food brunch that showcases the length and breadth of Indian street food without the need to have antacids. The eggplant chat is a favourite of mine.
The very vibrant restaurant Nine7One at Oberoi Dubai has dished out the very popular Street Art Brunch that houses global favourites. You could be choosing your tacos one moment, and munching on fish and chips on the next. You could be negotiating your chopsticks over your favourite sushi or dipping into a bowl of Thai noodle soup with ‘everything in it’.
If you prefer some theatrics with your food, then Tresind at Nassima Towers, Dubai is your destination where the shy executive chef Himanshu Saini serves Indian street food in a boisterous manner, replete with liquid nitrogen and chutney gels to suit your dormant artist.
If you are not the sorts to saunter into 5 star properties, then bespoke cafes like The Sum Of Us, snuck into Trade Centre or Tom and Serg, tucked away in Al Quoz could be your preferred haunt to have healthy options of simple and humble street foods. The way I see it, there is going to be more street food that will be elevated to high-wire status by many restaurants in the months to come.

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016#3. FOOD ON WHEELS
Calling on the local Favreau. Just last year, local boy Jassim Najjar returned from the US. He was besotted with food trucks, “I’d just graduated and come back with this idea to have my own food truck. I fell in love with them while I was there – obsessed, actually.” Jassim helped his overweight chef brother lose weight and they decided to put it out on the menu of their food truck called f!T!
Food trucks are no longer just a fancy idea and are a trend that is catching on in the region. Most food trucks started out serving just sandwiches and burgers for consumers on the move. Today, more complex dishes are being added. Gourmet food trucks are starting to appear as part of the evolution of the new culinary trend.
Meet the owners of GObai, the brainchild of Cara Davies, woman entrepreneur, and her business partner Kevin Vaz, who decided to transport some Goan street food flavours to the emirate. “Dubai is such a melting pot of flavours, so we couldn’t help but give the food a Dubai twist, but it’s essentially traditional Goan food,” says Cara.
Dubai residents would have seen fancy and funked up food trucks in Emaar Boulevard, JLT Park, Kite Beach or Zabeel Park. Food trucks reach out to food lovers, with diners enjoying their favourite food sitting not in a brick and mortar restaurant but in the setting they choose to.
Cara says, “It is an initial step in opening up the Middle East market to this global phenomenon of food trucks. It will take some time to have this developed to scale the markets in the US or UK, but currently it is a great way to cater to the Dubai foodies.”
With the interest in food trucks, riding the high wave, companies are branching out into 360 degree B2B models where food entrepreneurs can get a truck from under a single roof – designed, fitted out, with licences procured as well.
Food trucks are now beginning to be seen in various events, be it the Art Fair at Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi or the brand new food truck brunch at the Emirates Golf Course, Dubai.
Moral of the story, this mobile model of food is going to catch on like wild-fire with food enthusiasts choosing to put in money in food trucks while restaurant chains see this as a popular model to reach out to patrons and potential customers.
Honk if you want to join in the convoy!

 

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016#4. SUPER FOODS LEAGUE
Here is a word that has garbed up as a super-hero in the dietary domain. Nutrient rich food items that are healthy (naturally) and sometimes help medical conditions are called Super Foods. Keeping in mind the first part, can also make a potato a member of this league. To demystify super foods, it is something that helps lose or control weight with some additional features like improving bodily functions. While I do feel that ‘super foods’ is as much a marketing gimmick as Valentine’s Day, I do appreciate the goods that have come on to the table. I bet my last dirham coin that you would have heard of quinoa, blueberries, kale, goji berry, wheatgrass, chia seed and many more.
I see the rise of carefully put together ingredients that are carefully grown, keeping in mind the generally unhealthy standard of living that most of us have. So be it fresh salmon or eggs that give Omega 3, or exotic acai berries or seaweed for that matter, more and more restaurants are dishing out to the latest living demands.
I do not mind it at all, after all cocoa powder is also considered to be a super food!

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016#5. MOLECULAR DE-MYSTIFICATION
Herve This may not be too happy knowing that molecular gastronomy is slowly making an exit. Known as the father of molecular gastronomy, Herve had visions of ending world hunger with chemical compounds becoming the ingredients of the future. While most of us may not understand the ‘why’ or ‘what’ behind molecular gastronomy, it is basically changing the physicality (and chemical composition) of food to manipulate taste and texture.
Here is the UAE, we have felt like being on the sets of the Terminator when liquid nitrogen was used to play around with hydration of ingredients. Undoubtedly there is more MG than gimmicky food presentations – it is the careful studying of food texture and presenting it in a form un-thought of. Mint chutney became globules, sorbets became spheres, savoury became mousse, condiments became edible dust and so on. Avant-garde restaurants experiment with the texture of food, replicating it to look like stones etc. It made the chef and artist and scientist.

Top 5 Culinary Trends of 2016
TheCalmDev with Vikas Khanna

Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna, who runs a successful modern Indian restaurant called Junoon in New York and in Dubai has dabbled with this arm of cooking. However, he sees a change in trends. He states, “It was done over a decade ago. It was very exciting to experiment with food. However, kitchen craft is bending towards cuisine that is simple and organic, in its natural true form. I feel people will ultimately gravitate away from it.”
My recent meeting with one of the most critically acclaimed chefs in Britain, Michelin star chef, who is successfully running Benaras in London and Rang Mahal in Dubai, Atul Kochhar echoes similar sentiments. “I am not sure consumers feel very excited having chemicals put in their food to replicate the taste. As it is the world is fighting a war against additives and harmful chemicals. Not sure, if they are keen to have a chemical powder that tastes like a curry or chocolate on their plate,” feels Kochhar.

Have a delicious 2016!

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Mozzo Centrale – for homey food

Mozzo Centrale
Mozzo Centrale

I have been frequenting this quaint neighbourhood on Umm Al Sheif that lies spot in the middle of Jumeirah. This stretch has about 5 restaurants shoulder-to-shoulder and is my favourite place to sit down with a book and not get distracted by the hustle-bustle around.

OMG! Loaded Stuffy French Toast
Mozzo Centrale

Of all Mozzo Centrale is my favourite. A cozy, laid-back Italian ristorante, Mozzo Centrale has introduced extended breakfast timings until 6PM on weekends. And the menu sure is appetizing. The Salmon Benny (eggs benedict over salmon), Chilli Al (eggs and bacon in brioche bun) and the Lobster Benny are some favourites to pick from. The fully loaded French Toast is not be missed at Mozzo Centrale.

Mushroom Bruschetta
Mozzo Centrale

However, my eating partner-in-crime and I decided to go by the menu. I ordered a big bowl of pumpkin soup that was the kinds that blankets you on a chilly night. We followed that with the away-from-the-traditional mushroom bruschetta. I am partial to mushrooms and when they have parmesan on them, I don’t judge them, I eat them!

Tagliatelle Alfredo
Mozzo Centrale

For the mains, we ordered for Gnocchi Al Forno and Tagliatelle Alfredo. When warm morsels of flavourful Italian food goes down your gullet, you know life is good. The portions were excellent and more than fills you. Ask for extra parmesan if you like to load up your plate with cheesy goodness.

We had to skip dessert. These are times I wished I had a portable stomach or an extendable one!

Angel Berry Triffle
Mozzo Centrale – on my next-to-eat list!

Nonetheless, Mozzo Centrale is doing things right, in a silent way. I guess saying “the test of the pudding is in its taste” sure goes a long way.

 

 

#BurpAndBelch meter: 3.5 burps

#5WordFoodReview: Have To Try Full Menu

Mozzo Centrale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

5 Things To Do With Nutella on World Nutella Day

Nutella5 Feb is World Nutella Day. American blogger Sara Rosso liked Nutella so much that she ideated on dedicating a day to unite all Nutella fans together. I am a Nutella fan and know of crazier fans. So this post is dedicated to all who are nuts for Nutella.

Shaken And Stirred
Amp up the ordinary shake at home with a generous helping of Nutella. Goes best with banana shake with crushed walnuts thrown on top.

French Toast
I find French toasts rather versatile. A lot of variations are also served in restaurants across the world. Honey and syrups have been partners of choice for long. If in the mood for cheating, then dollop up a thick Nutella creme, with some dusted sugar on top. If you think it is not sinful enough, add more decadence with whipped cream and choco chips.

Mousse Trap
Don your pastry chef hat. Get some creme fraiche from the supermarket. Incorporate grated chocolate (better if bitter). Add some thick Nutella. Try and not salivate. Add a dash of crushed sea salt. And a thin slice of orange. Freeze. Eat. Repeat.
Bachelor’s Breakfast
Bachelor's Breakfast
Bachelor’s Breakfast

Don’t blame yourself for being lazy. It is a state of mind. This is why there is Nutella to bail out poor souls that feel hungry. Take a slice of bread. Slather up some salted butter. No need to go easy with this. For the other slice of bread, spread Nutella nice and slow. Make sure you cover every corner of the slice – it will add to the taste (!!). Slap them together and eat.

Spooning
Spooning and Swooning
Spooning and Swooning

Still remains the best way to have Nutella. Get a spoon. Open a bottle of Nutella. Spoon in a mouthful. Close your eyes. There, you are now in Nutella heaven.

 Have a wonderful #NutellaDay!

Calling All Denny-zens to Denny’s

The all American diner experience at Denny's
The all American diner experience at Denny’s

The most important meal of the day is breakfast. You hear parents, teachers, spouses and dolled-up nutritionists on TV say it all the time. Well, I say, if breakfast is such an important meal, then I want to have it all day. Looks like Denny’s heard me.

The second Dubai outlet opened recently on Al Manara, Shaikh Zayed Road, opposite Times Square Mall on SZR. When I walked in during lunch time, one sunny afternoon, I had breakfast on my mind. One look at the menu and I had my heart set on a hearty breakfast of steak, eggs, hash and toast. Yes, at Denny’s breakfast is all-day (as is everything else on the menu).

While breakfast was getting ready, my companion and I ordered some crisp mozzarella sticks. Biting into those crispy sticks filled with gooey, oozy mozzarella gives a feeling of happiness.

Oh this dark beauty!
Oh this dark beauty!

And then my eyes fell on this tall, slim, heavy-on-top, dark-complexioned, beauty. Totally seduced, I shamelessly asked for a big tall glass of thick, chocolate shake. You know it is good when you feel it resist the straw being dipped in. One good draw at it, and I was filled with cold, chocolatey joi de vivre! Unbeatable! One of nicest shakes I have had. This, at Denny’s, is a must-have!

Ah, yes! My breakfast arrived. Sour-dough toasted bread, with melted butter seeped in, 2 sunny-side-up eggs, warm hash on the side and a thick slab of steak – if this is not good, then what is! The rest of the time was spent trying out various combinations, like:

  • Steak and hash
  • Steak, runny eggs and hash
  • Toast, syrupy eggs and hash
  • Eggs
  • Steak
  • …it goes on.

Say hello to the friendly manager, if you meet him.

And remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Ask Denny’s – they are open 24×7!

#BurpAndBelch meter : 3.5

#5WordFoodReview: Always Go Hungry To Denny’s

Denny's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

GoGyroz: Easy Way To Go Greek

TheCalmDev goes Greek #GoGyroz
TheCalmDev goes Greek #GoGyroz
Pheidippides running on the wrapping tissue with a gyro in hand. Is this what led him to the Marathon?

Is this what Leonidas and his horde ate to get those hard 6-packs? If so, I am willing to go on a GoGyroz diet. 

For the uninitiated, it will not take long to understand the food in question. It is the Greek equivalent of the shawarma. Vertical skewer meat stuffed on to a folded pita bread, with a choice of what you want it go with it – veggies and sauce. And then, sink your teeth into it, Greco style.

I was tabled on this very sparse (Spartan idea, maybe), Greek-blue-and-green themed small outlet by the very warm and cheery team, an array of gyros. Now the menu is as Spartan as it gets. Read, minimalist. 4 different gyros. Make your own gyro empire. And that is it. This where you take a breath. Less is more. Unwrap your warm gyro, close your eyes as you open your mouth wide as a dinosaur and chomp.

Spartan Bite
Spartan Bite
The Spartan (Greek) is a juicy sandwich filled with red onions, arugula leaves, chicken, tzatziki sauce along with a special GoGyroz seasoning. This one, I really liked.

Babylonian Byte @GoGyroz
Babylonian Byte @GoGyroz
The next one is the Babylonian Bite (Persian) that had a hint of sesame tahini, shredded chicken, tomato, parsley, pickles. After all, you need to survey who the Greeks are up against.

 

 

Ottoman Odessey @GoGyroz
Ottoman Odessey @GoGyroz
The third one was the Ottoman Odyssey. What? I didn’t have to run a marathon like Pheidippides. I had a car. So this one was the Arabian doner with a roast eggplant sauce. I like that.

The fourth, and I did not try this due to unavailability of space in my stomach is the Mayan Myth, which is the Mexican. Tortilla bread with chipotle and guacamole. Maybe next time.

I definitely recommend the Spartan and Babylonian. And while you are chomping it, imagine the hoplites fighting the Persians on the plains of Marathon.

#BurpAndBelch meter : 3 burps

#5WordFoodReview : There Go My Dream Abs!

Go Gyroz Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Omnia Baharat – for the love of burger

Omnia Baharat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

There are three things that can work for a restaurant.
Location. Known chef. Food.
In case of Omnia Baharat, all three work cohesively, like the food that is served there.

Omni Baharat Front Facade
Omni Baharat Front Facade

Plonked in the prime of Mall of Emirates on Level 2, Omnia Baharat may wear a comparatively deserted look because of the overflowing restaurant branch whose parent outlet has a fabled Michelin star, but this gem sure has a good menu and a mean burger to offer!

Omnia Baharat's carefully constructed menu
Omnia Baharat’s carefully constructed menu

This restaurant is co-owned by celebrity chef Silvena Rowe, usually remembered for culinary agony aunt columns in a local daily. Eat here and you shall know of her culinary craft. Little wonder that she has cooked and fed royalty to rockstar. The restaurant claims “we serve real food” seemed a little clamorous since the menu seriously does the talking. But let me dismiss that as a whim of an agency-bred glutton.

My colleague ordered the house burger featuring Aberdeen Angus and I settled for the Omnia Wagyu. Also asked for a side order of hand-cut fries on the side (the cultural hangover of eating at burger chains in food courts).

Omnia Wagyu (Grade 8+) - Eat this!
Omnia Wagyu (Grade 8+) – Eat this!

The burger was presented on the table, looking shiny as a penny, with an artistic swipe of sauce. I was particularly looking forward to the sumac flavoured caramelised onions that sat on top pf the Wagyu patty, done medium well. It might look deceptively ‘mouthable’ but that glossy artisan bun, toasted on the inside, can throw a real challenge to the best big mouths in town. The flavouring of the burger was mild yet tasty. Certainly, one of the best burgers I have had here in the UAE.

Omnia Wagyu - one of the best burgers in town
Omnia Wagyu – one of the best burgers in town

In fact, it brought back memories of a pub burger I had in London, in July this year. I am beginning to favour the British over the Americans at constructing a better burger.

The thinly cut fries were crispy albeit a tad oily. But one tends to overlook that when the burger you are chowing down is so tasty.

Recommend it.

#BurpAndBelch meter : 4.5 burps

#5WordFoodReview: I Wagyu. I Really Do!