Feb 26, 2014

Dubai Food Festival Gourmet Trail Guide: Arabian Inspirations

As a Dubai Food Festival Gourmet Trail Guide, I was asked to select four of my favorite restaurants in five different categories.  This actually proved to be a difficult task, as I have had so many wonderful dining experiences in Dubai.  Here are the top four under Arabian Inspirations 

  • Occasion to Visit: When you’re craving Mansaf
  • Location and Price: Al Murqabat Street, Al Rigga Rd. Deira/Meal for two AED 70
  • Insiders Tips: Opt for the Jordanian dishes, it is a specialty/Save room for the Kunafe 
  • Menu Top Tip: The Mansaf is one of the tastiest I’ve ever head.  The epitome of Jordanian cuisine

When it comes to eating out, my friends and family call me a food snob, simply because I am particular when it comes to quality cuisine.  They misinterpret my highly developed palette, and think only five star hotel restaurants will satisfy my food cravings.  This theory was all but put to rest, when I signed up for the Frying Pan Food Adventures with fellow blogger and friend Arva Ahmed
 My snobbery is misunderstood, and having traveled all over the world, I can honestly say my desire to enjoy well executed food is my life’s mission. After reading Arva’s blog posts and hearing hear speak passionately about food, I found a kindred spirit we both shared.  This was all the reason I needed to explore the hand selected foodie destinations available on the food tour.  
  Qwaider Al Nabulsi , located in the heart of Deira was a retro looking eatery.  With flashing neon lights and plastic tables and chairs, these are the kinds of places that add character to a city like Dubai.  After hearing our tour guide, Arva describe the intricate process of preparing the Mansaf, we were presented with a generous serving of the tender lamb atop the ghee laden rice, which added an even more buttery texture to this already heavy dish.   A meal that is often served on special occasions, the Mansaf is not something to be taken lightly.  It is the kind of food that sticks to your bones, but also melts in your mouth for a gourmet treat that is unlike anything else.




Turkish Village- (Jumeirah)

  • Occasion to Visit: A fun group outing/lunch for two
  • Location and Price: Jumeirah Beach Road-Jumeirah 1/Meal for two AED 150
  • Insiders Tips: Available for private events 
  • Menu Top Tip: The Stuffed Grape Leaves, Konya Bread, and Adana Kebab were particularly tasty  as was the Kunefe.  


Turkish Village is no joke, a massive structure sitting on iconic Jumeirah Beach Road, it demands a certain presence.  The multi-level establishment is brightly lit with an almost 500 person capacity.  A venue not only for a good quality meal, but also for special occasions such as weddings and corporate events, this building can cater to your every need. 
Evenings are mostly enjoyed in the main dining room where the activity level is at its peak.  The open kitchen in the back of the restaurant demonstrates the skilled labor imported from Istanbul, who have perfected the art or Turkish cuisine. The award winning chef beams with pride when introduced to his patrons and shares his passion for food with the loyal patrons of this quality Turkish style establishment.  

 The owner of Turkish Village is a first time restaurant owner, but made his mark through a fruit, vegetable, and meat supply company providing the best of the best to the region.  This makes sense as everything on the menu is quintessentially Turkish, without cutting any corners or introducing regional adaptations. 

All the meat is sourced from Turkey, which is evident on first bite. The natural flavor and juices of the lamb and beef were fresher than and as authentic as any Turkish Kebab I had tasted in Instanbul.  The Konya Bread and Adana Kebab were a couple of favorites in the meat department.  The mezze also proved to be outstanding with the stuffed grape leaves really standing apart from the rest.


The meal is worth indulging in, and best enjoyed with a large group.  Although it’s a meat heavy experience, leave some room for the most extraordinary kunefe you will ever have.  The perfect amount of sweet scented syrup, soaked up into the toasted vermicilli, layered with salty cheese, all topped with Turkish whipped butter cream and ground pistachios, it was pure decadence. 


Wadi Al Neel (Emirati Seafood restaurant-Umm Al Quwain)

  • Occasion to Visit: When you don’t have any plans for the weekend and want to take a drive out to the country side for an authentic Emirati treat
  • Location and Price: Al Riqqah Rd. Umm Al Quwain/Meal for two AED 60
  • Insiders Tips: Cash Only, Bring Hand Wipes, Avoid Using the Bathrooms
  • Menu Top Tip: “Gesheed” Mince Shark/Fried Shrimp/Local Fish/Rice
On a quiet Saturday evening, with no plans other than an oncoming craving for something delicious, a friend mentioned taking a short road trip for some authentic Emirati seafood, to which the answer was an inevitable YES! The destination was Wadi Al Neel located on Al Riqqah Road in Um Al Quwain, known mostly to the  UAE nationals as a local seafood joint, but to us expats, was treasure trove of cultural nuances never experienced before.  
Having been forewarned about the casual and humble set-up of the restaurant, I was even more intrigued to explore the menu and try a cuisine I knew very little about.  We approached the restaurant located on the barren roads of Umm Al Quwain, only to be greeted by the most delicious aroma of fresh seafood and grill I had ever smelled.  Away from the noisy streets and bright lights of Dubai, stepping into this little hole in the wall was a time warp into another dimension. 
The plastic covered tables and chairs is what I imagined eateries to be like in the UAE maybe 40 years ago, and this place seemed to maintain that old world charm to this day.  It’s delightful to see some of the heritage remains alive in the outskirts of the city, and they also take pride in the simplicity of the menu which has been mastered over the years. 

The organizer for the evening insisted on ordering, which put my mind at ease.  Amongst some of the items on order were the grilled and fried prawns, fried local Hamra, and the Gesheed (minced shark meat) of course.

 

Everything was fresh beyond words and deliciously satisfying.  The dish that really stood out to me was the Gesheed, full of flavor with buttery undertones, it was so hearty it could’ve easily passed for mince meat. 

 No need to hold back at this one of a kind joint, it’s likely you will return, but not on the regular simply because of the extended drive.  Highly recommended for an alternative evening out, and a seafood adventure that will tantalize your taste buds.


Zaroob (SZR)
  • Occasion to Visit: Casual meal/snack
  • Location and Price: Jumeirah Tower Building, SZR/Meal for two AED130
  • Insiders Tips: Sit downstair if you want to watch the food being prepared by the animated staff.
  • Menu Top Tip: Haloumi Sticks, Hummus Balila, Fatoush, Stuffed Falafel Plate, Za’atar with Labneh Saj, Fresh Fruit Juice

     This edgy Levantine style street food concept is a must try if you’re looking for a casual night out that’s easy on the pocket.  The friendly staff waltzes around the dining room with their uber cool bandanas, and a look of pride.  The funky d├ęcor and warm lighting, make an evening at Zaroob so comfortable, you tend to lose track of time.  

Although the service and food is prompt and efficient, they tend to maintain the consistency and quality on those busy Dubai weekend evenings.  The presentation also leaves something to be said, as aesthetically it’s pleasing to the eyes in so many colorful and textural ways.

The walls stocked with fresh fruits, the vintage cans and bottles lining the shelves, and the graffiti heavy tin walls all add to the liveliness of this special Arabic eatery.  It’s a blend of modern and traditional which appeals to the younger generation as well as a larger expat clientele.

Besides the cool space, the cuisine also boasts the authenticity of Lebanese street food. From the variety of fresh hummus, to the fried haloumi sticks, freshly made saj, and stuffed falafel, it made for a great vegetarian alternative for the non meat eaters.  Fear not though carnivores, because the shawarmas are juicy and sandwich options feature everything from chicken to sojuk and even hot dogs and kofta. 


Zaroob has something for everyone, it’s a must try place, especially on one of those casual nights out when you’re not looking to break the bank.


For more information on the Dubai Food Festival click on the logo below:

http://www.dubaifoodfestival.com/



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