Aug 3, 2013

Indonesian Delicacies and More at Wok It

When I first heard about Wok It, it was in a casual conversation with some fellow food bloggers. Described as a Pan-Asian restaurant with a focus on Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, I knew this place had to be pretty authentic for it to pass approval.  I have always been fascinated with restaurants and eateries in the "older" side of town.  They tend to have more character and depth, and they pride themselves on the quality of their cuisine not the decor or fancy interiors.  After hearing about this restaurant in several conversations, I decided it warranted a visit.  


We walked into this brightly lit restaurant conveniently situated across from the Burjaman shopping mall.  There were a number of paid parking spaces in front and around Wok It, so we had no problem accessing the restaurant.  It appeared as if they had just completed the Iftar rush from the looks of the barren tables and empty chafing dishes.  Because we visited during Ramadan, we decided it was better to go for the suhoor sitting (served a la carte) as opposed to the earlier buffet style set-up. 

We took a seat towards the back of the restaurant with views of the open kitchen and the dining room.  With stone walls and water features, it's apparent the owner took his time in the fine details of the interior which made an impact in the overall soothing aesthetic of the place.  The menus were presented to us by an eager and VERY friendly member of wait staff who appeared to be of Indonesian decent.  After a few moments of scanning the menu, I noticed some items that really stood out, such as the curry Laksa noodle soup and an entire page dedicated to *Murtabak(pictured below).   I had never seen this item on a menu before, and was immediately intrigued! At this point the Jordanian restaurant owner came over to the tables and pointed out he had no intentions of even offering this delicacy at his establishment until he took a trip Jakarta and came across it being served street side just outside his hotel.  He told us there were crowds of people waiting in line for these savory or sweet "folded" treats, and once he took one bite, he was convinced it had to be on his menu.   

This part of the Wok It experience was even more fascinating to me.  Let's think about this.....a Pan-Asian restaurant in Dubai, owned and operated by a Jordanian Bedoin and run by a staff of Indonesians. Where do you begin breaking this down? And you know what the answer is.....you don't!  It's the beauty of the city of Dubai, where anything and everything is possible! And thank goodness for Feras's (Jordanian restaurant owner) passion and interest in doing everything the authentic way,  from scratch using the best ingredients available on the market. Even the staff he plucked straight out of Jakarta because he knew if he was going to recreate this cuisine, he needed the right staff to execute it.     

*Martabak is a stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread which is commonly found in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Brunei.Depending on the location, the name and ingredients can significantly vary. The name mutabbaq (or sometimes mutabbag) in Arabic means "folded". In Indonesia, the Murtabak is one of the most popular street food menu and is well known as Martabak.)
Pictured below is the first item to arrive at the table, the savory Murtabak.  The thin layer of crispy pastry envelopes the mince beef and egg mixture which was full of so much spice and flavor, it was easyt to see what convinced Feras about this menu item.  It's one of those things you end up thinking about for days, weeks, even months after you try it, and will keep you going back to Wok It for more (since it's the only place in Dubai currently documented to be serving this item)!
Next up was the curry Laksa noodle soup, a sufficient amount to share or alone as a substantial meal, this was truly a treat!  I am a sucker for anything with coconut, and when you combine coconut with seafood and spices, it's a no brainer! The flavors in the broth were fully developed and the consistency was just right, not to thick and not to thin. I actually ended up polishing this one off by myself, with out any shame!
This dish came highly recommended by Feras, it's just a simple wok fried beef done Szechuan style.  I admit I was a bit weary, as I wanted to stick to the Indonesian/Malaysian side of things, but since the owner was insisting we try it, I couldn't say no.  Looking very unassuming in appearance, this beef dish was a flavor overload!  It just goes back to the basics of doing something simple, but if done correctly, it can be the most memorable culinary experience.  Feras also informed us he uses the best quality beef in his restaurant, which you could not only see, but taste in this delicious cuisine.  
Served as a side we also enjoyed the Chinese Morning Glory (water spinach) prepared traditionally with heaps of garlic, onion, and oyster sauce. There was nothing dull about these greens, in fact they were probably one of my favorites of the evening.

Normally I am not a fan of Asian style desserts to begin with, and after such a heavy meal, it was difficult to match a sweet dish that could stand up to the rest of this meal.  The excited and anxious Feras comes over one last time and insists we try the sweet Murtabak.  Since all his recommendations until this time have been spot on, I humored him one last time.  

When the Murtabak arrived at the table, I admit, I was not sure how to perceive it.  I was analyzing the thickness of the dough compared to the savory equivalent and all the familiar ingredients oozing out of the center.  What made this dessert so unique that we couldn't leave Wok It without trying? All it took was one bite.....WOW! The buttery and sweet doughy crepe was the perfect vehicle for the chocolatey, cheesy, nutty filling.  One bite was all it took to convince me this was the Asian dessert I had been waiting for my whole life, but trust me, it didn't stop at one bite.  I insisted on taking the rest home with me so I could indulge in it all over again the next day.  This confectionary treat is a guilty pleasure well worth all the calories, a must try at Wok It restaurant.

Wok It restaurant is a new gem amongst the existing eateries of old and new Dubai.  It has the perfect recipe to execute authentic flavor profiles of the Orient.  With a warm and friendly staff that share the same passion for cuisine like the owner, you can see how this operation is destined for success for many years to come.  Whether you are there for the noodles, stir-fry, veggies, or Murtabak, you won't be disappointed! 

1 comment:

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