Tag Archives: Dubai

The Jon Snow of Shawarmas

For 7 seasons, the bastard son of Ned Stark went about his business with everybody telling him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow”. Imagine not knowing any better.

Masquerading Shawarma at Al Bake, New Friends Colony, New Delhi

My food-loving pals across the globe will not know of this, but many moons back, when I started my radio career, we came across this joint in New Friends Colony market called Al Bake in New Delhi that used to make shawarmas. The term was as new as the recipe. It was a simple roll of flatbread with a spiced chicken filling; served with a dollop of sweet mayonnaise. My hungry pals and me took it as it was dished. Shawarma, they called it.
But, we knew nothing, Jon Snow.

And then a 10-year stint in Dubai, Middle East, taught me better; from the unassuming shawarma served in Malabari cafeteria to posh pan Arab restaurants.
Jon Snow finally knew it.

And so after 15 years, I decided to assault my taste buds on the pretext of nostalgia. The shawarmas arrived, looking exactly like they used to 15 years back. It was almost like they were on some anti-ageing formula. Not one to hesitate when there is food on the table, I bit generously into one. I must give it to the cook for consistency of taste; for it tasted exactly like what it used to way back then. Either they had perfected the ‘secret recipe’ for this Indian shawarma or my taste buds were on holiday. And so, they still didn’t taste like the shawarma they were supposed to be.
Dracarys!

5 Word Food Review: You know nothing, Jon Snow!

Advertisements

Man vs Lobster @ Zheng He

TheCalmDev @ Zheng He - Man vs Lobster
TheCalmDev @ Zheng He – Man vs Lobster

Unfair fight. Lobster alive or on the plate, notwithstanding.

Little did I know that I was going in for combat when I walked in with my dearest friend at Zheng He by the waterfront at Mina’a Salaam. Priority seating, with uninterrupted views of the Burj Al Arab changing gels in the evening, was quite the highlight. And then the food started rolling out.

The Dragon Boat Festival @ Zheng He
The Dragon Boat Festival @ Zheng He

To celebrate the dragon boat festival, there was a special dimsum menu. Truth is, whatever the festival, I am always up for dimsums. Chicken, prawn and mushrooms, tempered, and stuffed inside delicate translucent steamed bags is something I can do on repeat mode every evening.  The only thing that beat it was a crispy golden king prawn in Chinese mustard and spicy mango. Our kind hostess from the Orient, oriented us and patiently answered our questions. Spicy mango, not spiced mango, said she. This appetizer is highly recommended. In fact, I do not mind having it as a main course.

And then on followed a kingly sight of soups, duck, shrimps, octopus and scallops. My co-eater asked for the whole Canadian lobster in black pepper sauce. It didn’t alarm me, as I thought it would be an equal share of the crustacean. When it arrived, I was left to wrestle it all by myself. Understand this, I had half the Tasmanian Sea inside my stomach and then I had to eat the entire lobster! (Ideally this line would have sounded better with an expletive.)

The lobster on the far right. What I ate was bigger!
The lobster on the far right. What I ate was bigger!

And so, I set out for the impossible. The head and the tail shells on the plate taunted me as I slowly reached out my chopsticks for the chunks of juicy lobster meat flavoured with the essence of the Sichuan area. The taste was incredible, as was the texture. My hands picked up momentum, picking and delivering piece after piece until my mouth was unable to keep up. Chewing and swallowing on an almost-full stomach is not an easy task. I was thinking of greater glories like my name on Zheng He’s aesthetic walls discussing my superhuman feat; or comforting things like eating in my loosest pyjama in front of TV. I wasn’t prepared to give up easily on this deliciousness on my plate. I was about 7 pieces more to go before fame and glory would throw their garlands around my neck. I wasn’t looking at the Burj, or at the table next to me with 5 gorgeous girls daintily eating their Chinese food. And then there were 3, left. Lobster pieces. I felt like Achilles in the siege of Troy. To destroy a 1.5 kilo lobster all by myself is no less satisfying. With my plate polished off clean, I stood up akimbo, much to the surprise of my bemused friend, the 5 beautiful co-diners and our Chinese stewardess. I told her stoically that I was adjusting the lobster inside my stomach and she did have a strange look on her face. Hah! You should have seen mine – it was like Po with his mouth filled with buns.

Ni hao! And how!

#BurpAndBelch Meter: 5 buuuuuurps (sorry, was I too loud?)

#5WordFoodReview: Eat Pray Eat! Then Repeat!

Zheng He's - Mina A' Salam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

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!

Maharaja Bhog: eat like a king!

Indian hospitality is fabled. So much so that restaurants, the world over, offer the royal Indian hospitality. If you are looking to spoil yourself or indulge your family and friends in some ‘food royalty’, then take them to Maharaja Bhog, nestled in Ansar Mall, Karama, Dubai.

Wife and I sat by the spice walls in the restaurant, waiting to be fed till we’d give up. Hospitality is tradition here. Maharaja Bhog started its culinary journey in 2011 and has outlets in Mumbai, Bangalore, Houston (US) and Dubai. Buttermilk arrived at the table. And we started off with that.

The delicious royal thali at Maharaja Bhog
The delicious royal thali at Maharaja Bhog

In olden days, a meal in a royal household was a grand affair. Varied metal tableware spoke of opulence. The main plate is a big plate, with a rather huge diameter and in it fits in various bowls in a stellar line up. Each bowl has a different dish that is ladled into it. Each dish is made with ingredients that are chosen for royal consumption with a sign of nuts, saffron or clarified butter. The rest of the space on the plate is for rice and different breads. Aristocratic families in various parts of India, still like to eat in this traditional manner. Certainly not meant for the middle class, lunch-on-the-go, sorts. Dining, royalty style, is certainly meant for the Indian “la dolce vita”. Meanwhile, an array of snacks arrived on the plate. Those appetizers are served with different chutneys that heighten taste buds and whet up your appetite.

I didn't know beetroots could do that!
I didn’t know beetroots could do that!

Maharaja Bhog makes me feel, just that. The name of the restaurant means exactly what I explained laboriously – feast for a king. The beauty of dining at MB is that mathematically speaking, you will never be eating the same food twice. Unless you work there and eat there. 30 days 30 menus is what they go by. Each dish is beautifully made, keeping in mind the 4 pillars of taste. All dishes are vegetarian and come from the 2 western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. I was so surprised to see red coloured ‘puri’s. I learnt that those were made from beetroot. I was so happy with the lovely experimentation that I didn’t refuse any servings of those deep red shallow fried bread.

Remember to say hello to the mild-mannered restaurant manager Susheel-ji. Watch carefully as the army of servers do not talk to each other or scream across the floor. Instead, they have a sign language by which they communicate what is required on each table. It is a strange pantomime act and it gets food on your plate each time. Next time, I will learn it, for sure. I wasn’t very sure when I got bitter gourd served. I remember my mother molly-coddling me to eat some. I tried a little of it and immediately attacked it for more. The bitterness of the gourd was carefully neutralised by the sweetness from the onions. I think mom would have been happy to see me eat this.

This was my 3rd visit to the outlet and it has never let me down. Consistency of taste is what it takes for anybody to make a name in the F&B industry. Maharaja Bhog’s corporate chef Gulabji is the reason for this. He is responsible for training and operation in all branches. With a robust mechanism like this, little surprise that Maharaja Bhog is also gearing up to have more restaurants. Many more cities across the globe will be welcome to Indian hospitality and taste.

Table reservations recommended. There gets a long waiting-line on weekends.

#BurpAndBelch meter : 4.5 burps

#5WordFoodReview : Recommend Skip Breakfast For Lunch

 

<a href=”https://www.zomato.com/dubai/maharaja-bhog-al-karama&#8221; title=”View Menu, Reviews, Photos & Information about Maharaja Bhog, Al Karama and other Restaurants in Dubai” target=”_blank” ><img alt=”Maharaja Bhog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info – Zomato” src=”https://www.zomato.com/logo/206488/biglink&#8221; style=”border:none;width:200px;height:146px;padding:0;” /></a>

What A Load Of CRAB!

Joe's Crab Shack
Joe’s Crab Shack

Home to the best variety of crustaceans, Joe’s Crab Shack has done very well for themselves in the US. 130 across the entire continent is not a feeble feat. And then, for the 131st, they decided to come to the other side of Atlantic and weigh anchor in Dubai. And, are we not happy!

JCS opens in the Dubai Mall, Level 2, right next to the Dubai Aquarium under the aegis of F&B stalwart Sahej Bin Lahej. It is a happy place with a warm and friendly staff, who know their crabs and sharks.

The Shark Bite - innovative drink at JCS
The Shark Bite – innovative drink at JCS

Ask staff for recommendations. And you will end up with something that you will really like. For example, this NatGeo-meets-nightclub drink called Shark Bite. Comes with an angry shark on the side that spills ‘blood’ on the blue waters of your drink. Creative. There is no sarcasm in this; it is creative. And you get to take the shark home.

Monogamous ones can try the Pina Colada and then wait to be surprised with the presentation. No spoilers here. Go there and see it for yourself.

The JCS Menu - this will take time
The JCS Menu – this will take time

The starters can get you soaked in a ‘mer’-ry mood. Try the Great Balls of Fire if you fancy hot and spicy or ask for the Good Old Crab Dip – toasty tacos served with a creamy baked crab dip with pieces of celery to add freshness. This is one starter that could feature in the mains, and I wouldn’t complain. Order 2 if you are a table for 4. Do it.

Grilled Red Snapper in Lobster Sauce
Grilled Red Snapper in Lobster Sauce

For the mains, I went straight for the grilled red snapper in a creamy spinach and lobster sauce! How fancy does that sound! it came with  some crab-infused rice. Pretty much fisherman’s food, minus the cream. The red snapper was fresh. Thank heavens, there is no over-harvesting of hammours here.

King Crab and Lobster - get cracking
King Crab and Lobster – get cracking

If you are in the messy mood, go straight for your bucket of crabs or lobsters. These king crabs or stone crabs are shipped straight from the US; reason being that they are not native to the Arabian Sea ecosystem. In fact, all the sea food is shipped regularly from America and made pan-fresh and served. While your bucket reaches you, you will be readied for battle. An apron will be draped, gloves donned and cracker and zipper handed over as weapons of choice. If you are a new soldier, ask the staff for a happy demonstration. And then you are ready to attack the orange-coloured crustacean army!

Shark eating Campfire S'mores
Shark eating Campfire S’mores

If you are brave enough for desert, try this camp-fire compilation of a chocolate cake slice over digestive biscuits, layered with a bar of Hershey’s chocolate, with marshmallows on top and then torched lightly for colour and effect.

Just one thing, Joe’s Crab Shack changed my childhood memories of loving Sebastian the crab, forever. Now I like crabs more!

#BurpAndBelch meter : 4.5 burps

#5WordfoodReview : What A Load Of Crab