Tag Archives: foodie

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


Food Woes At Joe’s

Dear Joe

How you doin’ buddy? Funny, I don’t know who you are or where you have come from but I understand that you run this restaurant, at multiple places in Dubai. Listen up pal, you have got to do something about your food. I mean, seriously. You have a British and Italian menu that looks to like Jeremy Clarkson got stood up by some Italian car dealer.

Photo wall at Joe's
Photo wall at Joe’s

So, if you have a plush looking place, your food needs to match up. And taste good, more importantly. I mean your food doesn’t match the pictures on the wall. Those are fabulous shots. Can’t say the same for your grub.

First, the “good”s: the sea food soup was tasty and refreshing. The free-range omelettes aux choix was cooked well.

And now, the “not-so-good”s: I clearly asked for lots of mushrooms in my omelette but there hardly were any. Either your garcon has retention problems or you have problems retaining your chef.
The french fries were the cold storage variety. Just like any other fast food chain. And they were stashed on so high, clearly looked like you tried hiding your 4 slices of club sandwich around them. Plating issues, eh?
The salad leaves had some insipid dressing. I mean, don’t dress them if they make no difference with a dressing on.
The pasta with crispy prawns turned out to be fried prawn balls. Okay, I’d still take that but had it not for the tasteless insides of it. There was no seasoning or spices that could have elevated the simple pasta dish.

Now, considering the above, your menu is priced steep. I mean, make me feel good for buying a 20 buck tee-shirt priced at 120 bucks from a high fashion store. Ease my pain, will ya?

Clearly your menu is trying to pay for the  rent at #TheBeachDubai.

You take care, bruh. Call me if you need any help.



#BurpAndBelch meter: 2.5 burps

#5WordFoodReview: I Wont Pay Your Rent

Joe’s Cafe at The Beach Dubai,
Jumeirah Beach Residences 

Weekdays  06:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Weekends  06:00 AM – 01:00 AM

The Man Behind The Fame – Vikas Khanna

Imagine wearing wooden shoes that weigh 8 kilos to straighten misaligned feet. It is perhaps hard to imagine that this boy, bullied at school because of his inability to run, or for that matter, walk properly would go on to become the pied piper of culinary arts and Michelin-starred chef called Vikas Khanna.

Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna
Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna

Behind the success and public adulation of being the public figure called Vikas Khanna, lies a resilient, hard-working, disciplined man with a fire in his belly to pursue what his heart desires. Little surprise that his most successful restaurant is called Junoon – translated from Urdu it means obsession or a burning desire.   I sat him down in a book store after hosting his book launch to talk more about him. That was after he had signed my copy of World Flavours – My Favourite Kitchen. During the book launch, I grilled him in front of his fans and he took it all on his chin with his trademark ‘Punjabi’ humour. He is a man of his word. He loved the radio interview that my colleague and I conducted a couple of months back when he ‘booked’ us to host his book launch. When his team got in touch with us did we realise that Vikas means what he says. Looking OnThe story he tells everyone is about him starting his own catering business for small local parties. “Imagine opening up in an alley behind the house! Who would have come?” asks an excited Vikas. He was 17 then. Usually, boys that age are riding motorbikes to impress a local Rapunzel on the balcony or buying pimple cream hiding under a baseball cap. From there to the pristine training kitchens in Paris to owning his own in New York, Vikas is testimony to the adage ‘a burning desire’. He lives in New York, runs restaurants, takes time out for philanthropy, researches on food, writes books, is known in the White House, has fed numerous Hollywood stars and cooked for various charities – Vikas is indeed living the American dream. But more importantly, he stands for the courage to dream. Dream – what you want to do – then set out to get that dream to reality.

Eating out of his hand - Vikas Khanna at launch of World Feast
Eating out of his hand – Vikas Khanna at launch of World Feast

For a celebrity like him has perhaps given more interviews than Gordon Ramsey has used expletives. He is always prepared with an answer. He is a chef extraordinaire – he can have the toughest of audiences eat out of his hand! With his wit, his humour that still stains Punjabi like turmeric on finger nails, his faulty English which he mercilessly hacks at, Vikas can regale you for hours on end with his stories. In this interview, I wanted to talk to the man behind all this; to get a glimpse of that Vikas, who Khanna protects fiercely. After 25 years of being in the kitchen, Vikas is still as nervous as his first time, when he enters the kitchen. “The anxiety of a dish to taste the same each time gnaws at my heart. There is something spiritual about being in a kitchen and preparing food,” he states. Deep inside, Vikas is loyal to taste and food and it is this very quality of his that makes him a star chef!

You can tell my happiness!
You can tell my happiness!

Through all that Vikas Khanna says and does, one thing that shines through is his love for family. Any display of familial love can get this “hottest man alive” all misty-eyed. While recuperating from a back problem in NYC, his team asked him if he wanted anything comforting and he asked for his mum’s ‘methi-aloo’ or potatoes made with fenugreek. “I could kill for that dish any day”, coos the chef. Vikas believed that that dish would heal him up completely. That dish means the life to him! If Vikas Khanna could go back in time and meet Vikas Khanna, age 17, what would be the one thing that he would tell him? Vikas’s eyes wrinkled up in a smile and said, “You were the foundation.” As a teenager, he was not worldly-wise. He didn’t calculate risks! He just did what he wanted. Had he sat down to calculate risks, Vikas wouldn’t have been what he is now and he is thankful to that lanky ‘duffer’ teenager. The glossy chef overtakes once in a while but Khanna was very comfortable talking about various things of his life. He mentioned that he picked up culinary terminology like “a zucchini should be tender but firm” and breaks into a syrupy smile. When asked on the kind of task-master he is in the kitchen – tender and firm or hard and cold – Vikas says, “Oh, you will not believe it but I am very tender with my team.” He has a multi-cultural team in his kitchen who he treats with love and respect. “But I cut-in different ways.” He adds naughtily. When it comes to deadlines, this smiling chef can sure add in some heat!

World Feast by Vikas Khanna
World Feast by Vikas Khanna

A cook book is a cook book is a cook book. In Chef Vikas Khanna’s case, every cook book is a new story that he is waiting to tell all his fans and followers and anybody who cares to listen. Be it the food that grows and is consumed in the Himalayas by mendicants and mountain-dwellers to pan-India recipes that is made during festivities – Vikas picks out a story to tell. No wonder that this kind soul has dedicated the first chapter of his next project called UTSAV, with an invitation price of INR 8,00,000 ie $12,000/-, to transgenders in India. “Nobody cares about that section of society yet no celebration is complete without a song-dance and blessing from them,” narrates Vikas. Food is a ceremony, food is culture and that story must be retold. Imagine the frustration of a child unable to run! Nobody cared about misaligned feet. Like many other problems, this too added to the list of taboo and was kept in within the family. It was not possible to talk about it openly in society. He was called ‘skeleton’ by all his school mates. He only had his parents as his comfort blanket. Vikas braved a very tough and unimaginable childhood. He told himself that he was meant to be something else that the others will never be. Junoon (or burning persevering idea) at that age? Perhaps. When he saw artful gourmet food for the first time, the teen-aged Vikas was moved to tears, “Main inna sona khana aaj tak ni vekhya” (I haven’t ever seen such beautiful food). It is that same man, who now is whipping out works of art that people consume daily. How does he feel? Vikas swallows, puts back his smile and wishes he could see that same 17 year old walk in to his restaurant to see what he is doing now. He’d be proud. Funny that this successful master-chef was once called a jinx – anything that he touched, closed down. End 2006, Khanna was packing up to go back. Restaurants like Purnima, Tandoor Palace, Spice Route of India had all closed down and he didn’t know what to do. Khanna decided to go to Tibet and live there for some time. He is totally taken by the simplicity and spirituality of His Holiness The Dalai Lama so much so that he is writing a book on him! Khanna understood that to be a good chef, he must connect with the root. Otherwise, one is as good as a burger in a fast-food joint. Nobody remembers the taste after one has gobbled it down. Vikas Khanna speaks about food like a maestro speaks about music and you can clearly see the common grounds. The only book that Vikas has read from cover to cover is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. His brother found the novel in garbage. Vikas read the book and imbibed learnings about life and passion and flight. Training hard makes all the difference. His life is no different than that seagull that was bored of squabbling for daily food and wanted to do something entirely different. While most chefs dream of cooking for royalty and Hollywood stars, Vikas opened his doors for charity through food – Cooking For Life is an initiative that aids various foundations by raising money through food. He gets the food and the chefs and money is raised from various fundraisers right from Amar Jyoti to UNICEF.

Dev with autographed copy of Vikas Khanna's new book
Dev with autographed copy of Vikas Khanna’s new book

“Write me an award like this!” Vikas says, with his eyes flared up with passion. He is a Michelin-starred chef who has picked up numerous awards and will continue doing so. But what he finds most rewarding are the people stories that indicate to him that he is doing the right thing. Like a 90-year old Canadian-Indian who came to Junoon NYC to eat. Vikas was asked to attend to the table as the nonagenarian was all emotional after eating ‘aloo vadey’ or potato croquets. She called for the chef saying that it reminded her of her grand-mother’s cooking! Can there be anything more gratifying than this, asks Vikas. With the interview over, he gets up, gives me a warm hug and walks over to the crowd that welcomes him flash lights and endless selfie requests. Chef Vikas Khanna will never let his audience down. ……………………………………………………………………… Dev J Haldar is the program director of South Asian radio station Suno1024, an academic and a food critic. 

Chāt It Up!

Chat. Or Chāt. This simple, 4 letter word, finds a huge resonance in the lives of most South Asians. The first usage would be in English and the second would be in Hindi (or Urdu). Truth is, no Indian or Pakistani, can ever survive without either.

The CHAAT of good times
The CHAAT of good times

This is no occasion to discuss the English meaning, so we steer over to the vernacular connotations of ‘chāt’. Chāt is a culture. It is about the times when people are out, no matter what the barometer reads, to stuff their faces with their favourite chāt. A good chāt goes a long way in cementing relationships, finding new love, downing after-office hunger pangs and getting over boredom. A chāt centre is also a study of brand building – be it in the way the cart owner greets new customers or by giving a little something extra to repeat customers. Remember, your local chāt-waley bhaiyya? You might not remember his name, but you still remember him as chāt-waley bhaiyya! That is branding and recall!

A good chāt can define a person, shop, locality, and city even. If you don’t believe me, as any Indori about their chāt locality called ‘Chhappan’ and brace up to not talk for the next 20 minutes because you are salivating like Garfield in front of canned tuna.

The humble chāt is a tasty mix of flavours and spices, hot and cold textures, sweet and savoury and has many, shall we say, variations to it. A chāt menu can be very exhaustive and more challenging than an agency copy test. For those that know, salivate thinking of aloo tikka chat, papdi chaat, dahi bhalla, gol gappey, sev puri, bhel puri, jhaal moori! It’s just scratching the top, really. In fact nobody has considered it seriously but there is a chāt critic in all South Asians. We are the same commentators who feel that Sachin Tendulkar should have hit the ball a little to the off-side; and the tamarind chutney in the chāt is not tangy enough.

The experience of eating chāt starts long before a loaded plate is handed over. It begins with the customer peering over to see all the ingredients laid out, in invitation. Sorry Subway, move over; we’ve been at it since Adam’s. Then it is the magic of the person who loads up goodies on the plate and sprinkles different masalas with more aplomb than Emiril. Bam! Swirl on some spicy, tangy chutney, throw on some ginger juliennes and there you have it – the perfect plate of chāt.

That modest chāt assumes different hues of taste and flavour as one travels across the length and breadth of India. Newer items get added to the family of chat. Sometimes, popular chāt items get known in 3 or 4 different names. Of course there are epicurean critics who can theorise the difference in anatomy of a Bengali ‘phuchka’ to that of a Punjabi ‘gol-gappe’ over its Western poor cousin ‘pani puri’. So you see, getting together a plate of chāt right, is perhaps, tougher than pleasing Gordon Ramsey. Should you find anybody who can make the perfect chāt, marry the person!

One of the first things I was looking for when I landed in Dubai was a good chāt. My search took long with many trials, re-trials and tribulations. I am listing down the top 5 places where you can get a good chāt.

My recommendations are:

  1. Elco Chat Center in Karama for Pani Puri. Bengali’s might want to drive till the border of Sharjah for some ‘Phuchka’ at Calcutta Fast Food.
  2. Chatori Galli for some North Indian style treats like Papdi Chaat, Raj Kachodi and Jalebi Chaat.
  3. Urban Tadka (Karama / Discovery Gardens) for Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Ragda Pattice and Pani Puri with Ragda.
  4. Puranmal for Vada Pao, Aloo Bonda.
  5. Bombay Chowpatty for Samosa Chaat, Dahi Bade, Papdi Chaat.

Now, if the desi in you is doing a jig because you are yearning that sunshine back home with street feasts and unending hours of fun while hot cups of ‘chai’ keep arriving along with piping hot samosas and vada paos, then, this is news for you.

The first-ever Masala Food Fair is here. 2 days of desi picnics, street-eats, and restaurant favourites, celebrity-sighting (Raveena Tandon promises to show up – wipe that gravy) and live cooking demo by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor! Save the dates – 20th and 21st of February at Zabeel Park, Dubai. Log on to masala.com/foodfair for more or look up #MasalaFoodFair on Twitter.

You will probably spot me there with a spoon in hand. See you there!

PS: my auto correct has resigned. It couldn’t agree with all the desi street eats thrown in here!

Also featured on Masala Magazine Online: http://www.masala.com/masala-food-fair-special-5-places-in-dubai-that-serve-best-chats-188871.html


Grilled Chicken w Greens Cherry Tomatoes & Haloumi

Grilled Chicken on Greens, Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes and Grilled Haloumi
Grilled Chicken on Greens, Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes and Grilled Haloumi

This started out as an ambitious plan to rustle up dinner like I see Jamie Oliver do. Inspiration aside, it was the trepidation to get it absolutely right that got me completely involved in this dish that I (unimaginatively) call Grilled Chicken on a bed of Greens, Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes with Grilled Haloumi. I am sure the name would run off the page if featured on a menu. This is how it all went.


For the grilled chicken:

    • 1 chicken breast, halved
    • Rosemary and Thyme for the rub
    • Salt and Pepper for seasoning


For the Greens

    • 1 box of greens (or choose rocket leaves, lettuce of different hues)
    • 1 box or 250 grams of cherry tomatoes (quarter them up)
    • 200 grams of mushrooms (I used the ordinary white button mushrooms)
    • 2 pods of garlic, chopped
    • 4 slices of fresh Haloumi Cheese (grilled)
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • Olive oil
    • Salt and pepper for seasoning


In a large salad bowl, flip over the box of greens and roughly tear the leaves up a bit. Throw in the quartered cherry tomatoes. Lightly saute the finely sliced mushrooms in butter and garlic. Cool them a bit before tossing them in the bowl. Squeeze a juice of a lemon all over. Add in some extra virgin olive oil. Throw in a dash of salt and pepper to season. Use your hands to mix it all up and keep ready.

Heat a skillet nice and hot. Drizzle in a spot of olive oil. Add in the chicken. While the chicken gets grilled, put the slice of haloumi cheese. While the criss-cross mark of the grill looks pleasing on the haloumi skin, keep in mind that over cooking or heating the cheese will make it rubbery and chewy. Flip them over. Check on the chicken too. That was just to show how good a multi-tasking cook I can be. The chicken will take about 6-7 minutes to get done. Take them off the heat and rest them for a few minutes. Meanwhile, start the plating.

Make a generous bed of greens. Make sure that you can see the cherry tomatoes and mushrooms; adds to the treat visually. Place a slice of grilled chicken on top. Add in a couple of slices of the grilled haloumi. Et violà!

Bon appétit! 

Wifey rating: 5 burps!