Monday, 1 September 2014


I am always excited when I find a new brochure from a restaurant thrown over our gate or hanging on the door of our entrance. Usually we only use them for ordering delivery, this was the first time I had ventured to the actual restaurant. The menu grabbed my attention directly and after a bit of convincing I dragged my usual companion with me  the very next day to try it out.

Credit :
ChopSuey is located conveniently in Jumeirah Beach Plaza on the ground floor where Itzza Pizza used to be. It provides California-style Chinese dishes that are made from fresh ingredients and do not include any MSG. It's interior is more spacious than one would assume. The design is quite playful, with a large colorful mural covering the main wall, adding life to the space. Moreover, crates are suspended from the open ceiling making me feel like I am in the middle of a game of Crash Bandicoot.

Credit :
We were the only one's at the restaurant, but I wasn't surprised since it is fairly new and it was a weekday. Looking at the menu it is  filled with variety, there is something for everyone. While my friend was updating me with her news my eyes kept on darting to the dim sum options and my mind drifted to a beautiful paradise filled with buns and dumplings. Noticing that I was not even listening she suggested we order so she could have my undivided attention. I happily agreed.

Crystal Prawn Dumplings

BBQ Chicken Buns

We ordered a plate of Crystal Prawn Dumplings, BBQ Chicken Buns, Crispy Lemon Chicken, Wok-Fried Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce and Wok-Fried Singapore Egg Noodles with Chicken. The Crystal Prawn Dumplings were delicious, soft and tender with a whole lot of prawn. The BBQ Chicken Buns melted in our mouth and were an explosion of flavor. The Crispy Lemon Chicken was the hero of the night with its tangy sauce. Although my date was full she just could not stop eating from this dish until there was none left. The Wok-Friend Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce was our least favorite dish and remained untouched. Finally, the Wok-Fried Singapore Egg Noodles with Chicken was another winner,  the dish as a whole had a nice combination of flavors.

Wok-Fried Singapore Egg Noodles with Chicken

Wok-Fried Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce

Crispy Lemon Chicken
Their staff is very friendly and always eager to assist. Their plating comes in colored glass bowls which I think is a very nice touch because it complements and highlights their food. I could not get their buns and dumplings out of my mind so I recently ordered delivery, the food arrived nice and hot and tasted as good as I remembered. Give this restaurant a shot, either by visiting it or by ordering delivery, I don't think you will be disappointed, I wasn't.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Al Fanar (Authentic Emirati Cuisine)

It was a hot, Saturday evening and after some shopping at Ikea, I was running quite a bit late on my Iftar and really looking forward to some good food. My friend and I initially aimed for a different restaurant, but after finding it closed and randomly running into this one, she persuaded me to give it a try.

Entrance to Al Fanar
Apprehension turned to excitement as I entered the place and the first place to greet me was... a smell that reminded me so intensely of my grandmother's house in Bahrain, that I swear I could've been there right there and then. It was a smell that told a story of family, of heritage, of long traditions where blood is stronger than anything, and of soulful, simple food that tugged at my Khaleeji roots.

This was getting exciting.

Despite being an hour into iftar already, we were graciously accepted to a table, having had to pass through a narrow corridor that spoke of the UAE traditions. The decor of the place matched the theme, with simple wooden tables and chairs and no fluff about the place.

The offer for a Ramadan iftar was a 90 Dhs set menu which includes a plate of appetisers, a salad, some soup, a choice of main, a plate of dessert and tea. Oh, water and ramadan drinks are included as well. Not bad for the price at all... 

Chopped cucumbers you say? Tomatoes? Onions? What's so special about that? Well, these simple and humble dishes are packed full of flavour. The simplicity pays respect to the ingredients, which are juicy, fresh and hit just the right spot. The combination of some sour vinegar, sweet tomatoes and rich olive oil was just what I needed at that very moment. My appetite was successfully whet.

Tomato and Onion Salad

Cucumber and Rocket Salad
My date and I ordered a meat salona and shrimp biryani for the mains. The salona, which is basically a wet dish, was cooked slightly different than the way we would do it at home, but this is after all Emirati food and not Bahraini. It was delicious, and the meat very tender, just sliding off the bones. The biryani too was filling and just the right amount of spicy.

Meat Salona

Shrimp Biryani
We ended the night with some karak and a few dates. It was the perfect, spontaneous, soulful evening. The service and hospitality was true to the Arab ways, the waiters were generous, helpful and always had a smile.

Do visit this place to experience some simple, delicious food with a strong heritage.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


The View at Sunset

I was introduced to Tortuga by a close friend during one of our ladies nights out.  I am ashamed to admit that I have never been to Mina a'Salam before, so I was undoubtedly excited to try this place and take a look around. At first glance, I found it to be very charming, the outdoor area is quite big and located right over the water with colorful upholstery and warm lighting. The interior is very spacious and inviting with its white tiled walls and its colorful and warm furniture. I have to admit, before I even sat down it had charmed my socks off.

The Outdoor Seating Area
I have already been three times in the span of a month. What definitely got me hooked on that first night was the frozen mango margarita that I ordered, it wasn't the Margarita itself that got me excited, it was the chili, lime and salt seasoning that was on the rim of the glass. I was like a little kid licking it off and embarrassing my friends. It was a small alteration to the classic margarita, but it made a big impact.

Mango Margarita on the Left
The second time I visited was for dinner. We ordered guacamole, nachos and camarones al ajillo (sautéed shrimps with mushrooms, garlic and chili) for appetizers. The plate of guacamole was quite small in comparison to the usually large portion other restaurants offer but it was still good nonetheless. The nachos  were nothing exciting, it was just a plate of chips covered in melted cheese, similar to the cheese you get at cinemas, a bit of guacamole,onions and some jalapeno peppers. Next was the  dish of the night, the sautéed shrimps and mushrooms, our waiter's recommendation. It was a welcomed surprise of flavors, the shrimp and mushrooms were cooked nicely and the combination of the garlic and the seasoning made the dish memorable. For main course we ordered a plate of Arrachera tacos ( filled with shredded steak) to be shared. I love my tacos bursting with flavor, dripping at the end and making me want more. Unfortunately, this dish was bland and the meat was not easy to chew. Finally,for dessert we ordered a plate of churros with chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce was more of a custard, but I can't complain since the dough was nice and soft from the inside and crunchy from the outside.

The Guacamole

The Nachos

The Camarones Al Ajillo

The Arrachera Tacos


We were surprised to see the bill was around 200 per person seeing that we only ordered a couple of small plates and drinks. I guess it shouldn't be that much of a surprise since it is in Mina a'Salam. Furthermore, I have heard mixed reviews about this place, I recently suggested it to a colleague of mine and he completely hated the place from the food to the drinks to the atmosphere. I, on the other hand, have a soft spot for this restaurant. Granted  I did not have the best dining experience but I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the service was very efficient and friendly.I would come back for their margaritas any day and that plate of sautéed shrimps, well I'm drooling just thinking about it. 

Margarita with Black Tequila and Black Salt on the rim.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Little Bangkok

Only recently did I start loving Thai cuisine,  my taste buds were first awakened when I had my first ever Tom Yum soup at the Roseleaf Cafe. The eye watering heat, the tantalising ginger, the lingering taste of lemongrass, I was hooked.  My mission every Tuesday was to make sure that I reached early to the cafe to get my weekly dose of Tom Yum. The cafe even had my number in case they made the soup on another day, I was that in love. Sadly my happiness was short lived since they stopped making the soup soon after. Luckily for me, there are Thai restaurants scattered all over Dubai and that is how my interest for Thai Cuisine grew from Tom Yum to all things Thai related.

Located in Media City, LittleBangkok's brown, orange and green color scheme looks so warm and inviting compared to the very neutral and lackluster lobby.  The space is divided into several dining areas, the booth area that is lit with spherical shaped pendants made of manipulated thin strips of wood, the general area that is lit with a semi transparent colorful fixture and the comfortable sofa area that is covered with umbrellas used as lighting pendants. Through the open kitchen I enjoyed watching the chefs  busily run around from station to station getting things prepared , the smell from their steaming pans made my stomach rumble.

We ordered a Som Tom Salad (papaya salad),  Goong Todd (crispy battered-fried prawns), Har Gow (steamed prawn dumplings) and Gaeng Ped (red curry). We had only been waiting for around ten minutes when all our plates arrived, it was a pleasant surprise since the place was more packed than usual and I was expecting a longer wait. We started with the papaya salad which was flavorsome and a nice beginning to our dinner. Next were the crispy prawns that were covered in a thin, smooth layer of batter with a soft prawn centre that went perfectly with the sweet chilli sauce. As of late I have had an incessant craving for dumplings, so this was the plate I was looking forward to most. The dumpling parcel was delicate but still sturdy, the prawn inside was smooth and soft and was seasoned nicely.  Finally there was the red curry, I had ordered the dish just for myself but it looked like it could feed a family of five. It was mildly spiced with coconut milk, tofu, carrots, bamboo shoots and Kaffir Lime. The tofu was a refreshing addition lowering the intensity of the heat , the carrots were cut in circles with a zigzag edge adding a nice texture to the plate. The combination of ingredients went well together reminding me why I love Thai food.

Needing something refreshing to ease the heat that was in my mouth we decided to order dessert. We got the Kao Neaw Mamuang and the Saku Cantaloupe.  My mouth does not usually water over desserts that do not include chocolate but I was surprised to notice that I was excited to try these out. The first dish was the mango sticky rice, the mangos tasted so good cleansing my palette from the spiciness of the curry. Although the mangos were delicious I did not particularly like the sticky rice , it did not have enough coconut milk and felt more like a savory dish than a sweet one.  I had ordered the second dish after reading that it had tapioca pearls that are found in the bubble tea drinks that have become a craze all over Dubai. I love tapioca pearls not because of their popularity but because they remind me of my summers spent in Australia with my cousins drinking our Easy Way while roaming the mall. The dessert came in a martini like glass with tiny transparent tapioca pearls anchored in a sea of coconut milk, shaved ice and cantaloupe balls. It is a very intriguing dish one that borders the line between edible and drinkable. The only thing that I would have changed is that I would have loved if they incorporated larger tapioca pearls ones that we could taste rather that tiny ones that got lost in the coconut milk.

The restaurant experience as a whole was enjoyable, the staff was very friendly and always smiling. Their food was quite good and exciting although not the best I have had.  An addition is that they have a small pantry of ingredients and products from Thailand, I bought some biscuits covered in chocolate that I have yet to try but if you are keen they have some interesting options. Moreover, on certain days they have an all you can eat offer for a bargain price but you have to finish everything on your plate otherwise you need to pay for the dishes you did not finish. Have a try, let me know how it goes.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

El Catrin

There's a place I have to tell you about.

But there's a catch: It's not in Dubai. It's not even in the UAE. In fact, it's not even on our continent, or the one next to it.

It's in Canada. Toronto, to be more specific.

But it's so great, and the ties between Dubai and Toronto as so strong that I feel that I have to share my experience. So if ever you have to make a stop in Toronto, do pay this place a visit.

I'm talking about the Mexican restaurant El Catrin, which is located in the beautiful, historic Distillery District. I will not say much except that the decor is gorgeous, the service is friendly and helpful, the drinks are delicious and above all, the food is fresh, flavourful, vibrant, and extremely appetising. Enjoy!

Traditional margharita
Fresh guacamole made at the table with crispy, salty nachos
Two types of tacos
Beef taco (special of that day) - also the favourite
Lamb taco (barbacoa) - explosion of flavour with the pineapple
Chicken burrito
Scallop ceviche, also a special on that day
Tres Leches cake - yum yum yum! Light, fluffy, not too sweet with the perfect amount of crunch
Ole Mole - brownie with some lovely ice-cream and a bit of crunch to go with it all

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Katsuya by Starck

After weeks of postponing and re-postponing this dinner, we finally made the time to visit Katsuya by Starck which hails from sunny Los Angeles and involves the exciting collaboration between the award winning chef Katsuya Ueichi and the renowned product designer and architect Philippe Starck. It is located in the Dubai Mall right under Friday's, with a great view of the Dubai Fountain. As you enter be prepared to be greeted by the overly enthusiastic staff yelling 'Irasshaimase!' (which is a respectful way of welcoming a guest into an establishment). Their enthusiasm is so infectious that you will find customers yelling it out as well.

I decided to make use of my Nikon that was gathering dust in my closet, and see if I could take some somewhat decent shots. I knew from experience that adjusting the settings, getting the perfect angle and trying to make use of what little lighting I had would be a tough job. What I did not take into consideration was my starving date who eyed each plate with such hunger, barely giving me seconds to snap as many pictures as possible before sinking her chopsticks into the food.  

One of the reasons I was excited to come visit this restaurant was so I could see Philippe Starck's work first hand. I spent the first fifteen minutes looking around, taking in the dimly lit space, the large Japanese lanterns and the back lit images of Samurai Warrior hats while my date impatiently glared at me willing me to turn around and start ordering. (The hazards of being friends with a designer I guess). I was slightly surprised to see that there were barely any tables occupied, from what I heard about the place I expected it to be packed. Though it was still too early to tell. 

As explained to us by our very friendly waiter, there are three themed kitchens - the sushi bar, the hot kitchen and the robata charcoal grill kitchen and in addition a cocktail bar where they create their signature drinks. Once the waiter was done with his explanation, my date hastily ordered for us pausing only momentarily to get my nod of approval, she ordered: The Mushroom Salad , Salmon Sashimi, SSC Roll, The Hollywood Roll and The Shrimp Tempura Roll. Looking back on our options, I do admit that we should have included one or two more plates that were offered from their other kitchens but unfortunately we've got a one track mind, once we see sushi on the menu we salivate and see nothing else.

Mushroom Salad

The Mushroom Salad is one of my absolute favorite salads to order, for a while there I was slightly obsessed with the one offered at Manga Sushi and did not think I could find another one that could match it. Katsuya did not disappoint at all, each layer of mushrooms was served on a bed of butter-lettuce, it was like a nesting doll, every time we thought that this was the last layer there was more waiting for us. It was delicious.

SSC Roll

The first roll that arrived at our table was the SSC Roll which was made up of sautéed shrimp with shiitake mushrooms and asparagus on a California Roll. In my opinion, it is sheer brilliance to add mushrooms to a sushi roll, definitely adds a special touch to the dish. The next roll was the Shrimp Tempura Roll which was quite nice, but needed some kind of sauce to help distinguish it from any other shrimp tempura roll. Moving on  the hero of the night  was, without a doubt, the Hollywood Roll. Comprised of shrimp tempura, spicy kanikama (crab stick), avocado, cucumber and topped with spicy albacore (tuna). It was soft and flavorsome with just the right amount of spiciness. Surprisingly, my least favorite dish was the Salmon Sashimi, which I found to be too fishy and could barely finish my first piece, though my date was not bothered at all and quite liked it.

Hollywood Roll

Shrimp Tempura Roll

As full as we were, we could not deny ourselves the joy of having dessert. Being both lovers of anything chocolate related we ordered the Double Chocolate Lava, which was presented in a metallic cup with caramel sauce on the side. The fact that I do not have a single picture of this plate should be proof enough of how fast it was consumed by the both of us. While we were taking our last spoonfuls we were visited by the restaurant's very charismatic manager. His timing couldn't have been more perfect since we were already smiling from the effects of the chocolate, we laughed, we joked and we bonded over our common love of chocolate. Getting up to leave, I looked around and noticed that the restaurant was finally buzzing with people and a line had already formed at the entrance. I was glad to see that it had lived up to its reputation.

This restaurant definitely has a lot of things going for it: its location, its friendly staff and its food variety and quality. I am always only too happy when a new Japanese restaurant opens up and this time is no exception. If you get a chance to visit don't do like we did, be adventurous and order something from the grill, something from the hot kitchen or even a cocktail from the bar.