Jun 13, 2013

A feast for the eyes and appetite, BBQ Delights Downtown has it ALL!

Walls clad with Pakistani Truck Art and the smell of spice circling the air, BBQ Delights is aesthetically pleasing and aromatically appetizing! Upon entering this grand operation in the heart of Dubai on Emaar Boulevard I noticed the large silver chafing dishes lined up towards the back.  This concept and many other Pakistani restaurants are set-up with permanent buffet stations based on cultural demands of "value for money" dining.  I am not particularly fond of this style of eating, but I understand the need to please the clientele.  It's one of the best selling points for the South Asian diaspora. It makes sense as meal time in many countries of the subcontinent are multi-course productions.  This buffet serves numerous items that range from starters to grills, mains to desserts and there is no skimping on quality here.  It's cost efficient for family style dining and consists of several palate pleasing choices. They do offer a la carte options as well, which I was happy to see.   
As I sat down anxiously waiting for my friends to arrive, I enjoyed this perfect summertime beverage.  In the sub-continent, many people label the mango as "king of fruits", and its enjoyed in various forms.  From pickles, to ice cream, and even in mocktails such as this.  Known for it's cooling properties, this drink is prepared from the pulp of raw green mangoes mixed with cumin and black pepper with a touch of rock salt for a sweet, sour, and savory summer drink. This classic drink hydrates and cools the body during the HOT summer months.
 After my friends arrived, we began to feast on all the delicacies freshly prepared by professionals in the kitchen. The first item to arrive at the table was the beef Gola Kebab.  The cute round shape and petite form of these kebabs made them extremely moist and full of flavor.  The uniqueness of the Gola Kebab comes from the mace/nutmeg used in the dish.  It gives it a sweeter and more delicate touch as opposed to the more savory seekh kebab readily available on other Pakistani menus.  
Next up was the Grilled Green Fish.  The green color comes from the marinade consisting of everything from green chili, mint, cilantro (coriander), and green bell peppers (capsicums).  There is also a medley of spices in this marinade including the key ingredient, Ajwain/carom seed, a pungent spice, which resembles a seed, but smells similar to thyme. Often used in seafood dishes in many South Asian countries, this distinct ingredient really stands out and compliments the natural sweetness of the fish.
 The third of the grilled items was the Chicken Malai Tikka, the deilcately tender cubes of chicken thighs were marinated in a medley of spices and Malai, the South Asian version of clotted cream.  The dairy element in this style of preparation acts as a tenderizer for the meat.  It imparts an immense amount of taste and texture to this simple grilled chicken,
To compliment our grilled items, we were also presented with another house favorite, stuffed naan.  There were two varieties served to us, one with a savory potato filling the other with mince chicken.  I opted for the potato since we were already very protein heavy at the table.   Buttery, chewy and bursting with flavor, the bread was absolutely DIVINE! 
After we completed our first course, the friendly waiter cleared our plates and prepared us for the Main dishes.  He brought us another round of freshly made bread, only this time we enjoyed Kandhari Naan topped with sesame seeds.  The origin of this bread is linked with traditional Iranian Sangak or even Barbari bread.  In the province of Balochistan, Pakistan (sharing borders with Afghanistan and Iran), a very similar bread  is consumed called Kaak, which is cooked over preheated stones.  On this particular occasion we paired this soft and chewy bread with a couple of classics.....
Palak paneer is one of those dishes commonly found in many South Asian restaurants.  Everyone seems to have their own variation of it, with the basic garlic, ginger, and onion as the base with tons of enhancing spices.  But what sets a good palak paneer apart from a great one is the copious amounts of fresh Methi/Fenugreek.  The sweet, and slightly bitter undertones of this magical herb/spice/vegetable are very distinct in this dish.  Going very light on the cream, which I was happy to see, the palak paneer warmed my stomach and my heart.  Even the lightly pan fried salty pieces of fresh housemade paneer/curd cheese were the right texture, with a slight crust on the outside, it offered the right balace against the savory  stewed spinach. This dish can definitely be placed in the South Asian soul food category, because the results after eating such dynamic ingredients, satisfies me and many others in so many ways.
Equally as comforting and yet another staple in any Pakistani household is the infamous Karhai! It can be made with chicken, beef, mutton, or paneer. In fact the first dish my mother ever taught me to make was a Karahi.  It proved to be useful when I needed a quick fix in university and resources were scarce.

Similar to the palak paneer, this dish has many different approaches.  The way I was taught focused on the simplicity of the ingredients. Using fresh grated ginger and crushed garlic, along with fresh tomatoes, green chillies, and chilli flakes (or powder) plus a little salt and pepper makes this an easy dish to execute, and extremely tasty.  The chefs over at BBQ Delights did justice to this tradition, and I can safely place the Saba Wahid stamp of approval on keeping it true to its authenticity!     
  Now, after enjoying around eight different specialties, you would think we should skip on dessert, right?! NOPE, we went right ahead and did our due diligence to the numerous suggested sweets.....and I'm SO glad we did.  The waiter first placed a colorful array of ice cream bowls down on the table.  We had everything from strawberry, to a pistachio mint, and even a pistachio cardamom flavor! All are house-made and tasted as fresh as they looked.  My favorite was the pistachio cardamom flavor similar to a kulfi, but a little less dense.  The main difference between kulfi and ice cream is the method of how it's frozen.  Ice cream is air-rated where kulfi is not, giving each a different texture.  

Along with the ice cream we were served a South Asian favorite, Gulab Jamun!.  These little fried balls of dough are soaked in a sugary syrup scented with rose water, cardamom, topped with ground pistachios and slivered almonds.  Super sweet and rich in flavor these were the icing on the cake for this unbelievable experience.
After I took my last bite, the gracious waiter offered us some tea and coffee.  I initially ordered my standard green tea, but he then offered the house specialty, lemongrass tea.  Known as an aid for digestion and healthy sleeping as well as an antioxidant, it also soothed the soul.  Among it's many health benefits, this tea is also easy to drink,  and it was the perfect way to end the meal. 
Surrounded by delicious food and accompanied my Mr. Wonho Chung and Mr. Layne Redman, I really did feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  It was fun filled afternoon of great food and cheer,  BBQ Delights was the perfect venue for it all.  The light and airy space welcomed us, no wonder we stayed for a 4 hour lunch!
If you would like more information on the restaurant and their offerings, please check out the website by clicking on the icon below: 

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