Saturday, October 11, 2014

El Greco | Greek shack in Jumeirah

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Greek food in Dubai? I don't think we have that long of a list. I can think of Eat Greek, Elia and now, El Greco. Do you know any others? Let me know if I'm missing out!

Even though this one fits the Greek category, it's similar to the small shacks you'd find in Europe where the seating is minimal and music, smells and interiors feel authentic & homey. The shelves are filled with Greek oils (delicious olive oil!) and there's a few seats outside for the gorgeous weather that's starting to creep up. Are you as excited as I am for that? Humidity - See you later ;)

The menu is pretty much Greek street comfort food like gyros, donner and souvlaki served with traditional Greek bread. Starters and salads include well known favorites like baked feta and greek salad.

I'm going to keep this post nice and short and get to the point. Their food is delicious! Super tasty, flavorful, authentic and fresh!

I've had their 'mamaca's salad' both times that I went, it's my favorite thing on the menu. Red, plump tomatoes, authentic Greek feta (none of that fake stuff), olives, capers, oregano, parsley and here comes the best part, the Greek pita bread that's brushed with olive oil - SO GOOD. Must try!

The chicken 'gyro' comes tucked in their beautiful bread. It doesn't have fat which can be a huge turn off, packed with tomato & onion and your choice of sauce. I kept things traditional and opted for tzatziki of course. As simple as a tzatziki sauce is, sometimes there isn't enough flavor or too much garlic but theirs is beautifully balanced and creamy. Spot on!

I love watching my food being cooked in front of me and with that in mind, my 'souvlaki' was grilled to tender perfection on the grill. Served with generous portion fries, choice of sauce (tzatziki, what else?), veg condiments and a side of happiness :)

I'll be stopping by here on the regular. Service is friendly and fast, parking is a little minimal but it's nothing unexpected with any shop directly on beach road and food is fresh & tasty.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To hype or not to hype: Meat Me There

I know you've seen those sesame seeded buns sprawling on your Instagram feeds. Fess up. You've seen them haven't you? So did I. A few too many times. And since I have a weakness for burgers, I said it's time to try these lil' sesame bad boys out. Let's be honest, they do Instagram very nicely ;)

If you don't know the new 'Souk' mall that they're located in, chances are you might be a little lost like my sister and I were today. I wish they added their GPS coordinates on their Instagram bio. I love when all basic info is laid out for new places. It just makes for easy access.

Once you do get to it, it's one those burger 'shack' type places, a few indoor tables, simple & short menu, you're in-and-out-before-you-know-it sorta thing. I personally like these places. I don't always want a big restaurant with long waiting time for food. Sometimes you just need to grub you feel me? 

Let me say, the outdoor seating was great. So so so glad the weather is getting better. I get so excited when it does in Dubai. I love to be outside as much as possible so whenever the weather allows, I'm a small kid jumping for joy!

The menu has 3 burgers, 'Me Burger' - usual toppings hold the cheese (I will never understand why people hold the cheese on burgers. Never), 'Meat Me Burger' - usual toppings with the cheese (boom) and 'Juicy Double' - a double patty version of the meat me burger (double boom). Toppings included onions 4 different ways - caramelised, roasted, crispy, raw. A bit of an onion obsession going on at this joint, I'm not sure why. For fries, you get normal 'Me', 'Paprika' or 'Chizu'.

We got one single and one double burger along with paprika and chizu fries.

Besides the burger hype, I've seen a ton of hype on the chizu fries so we were pretty excited for those. The burger itself was so juicy but not greasy which we loved. The duo colored sesame seeds gave a nice dimension of texture and you could taste each and every topping inside. Points to that. I don't like burgers that taste like mush in your mouth. Burger down, we were super pleased.

As for the fries, we did enjoy the paprika dusted ones. The chizu however, was meant to have gruyere, american cheddar, parsley, spring onions and green onions. Let me tell you. There was barely a pinch of cheese or parsley. Personally more concerned with where the cheese was. Not happy. It was a little too onion-y for us and I generally like onions. Downside to both fries was they were both heavily salted and I also generally like my fair share of salt. We were a little too thirsty after. If I go back I'll get the normal or paprika fries (ask for less salt).

Is this place worth the hype? Hmm... Burger was really good. Fries had issues. Place was cosy but music was a bit of a roller coaster - they should just keep it chilled. I may have to say (burger aside!) it's not worth the hype for a few reasons. One, it was over priced for what it is. You get more fries in other gourmet burger joints and topping variety was pretty much onion variety. For the single patty, the meat wasn't substantial enough to complete the burger. You needed two patties to balance out the bun & toppings. Third, fries were too salty.

So verdict is, burger aside - not worth the hype. Does that even make any sense for a burger place verdict?? Ok I've given you the low down. You decide! Comment below, to hype or not to hype?


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Frioul - Bistro de Luxe: A new concept of 'luxe' in Madinat Jumeirah

Last week I had the chance to try out the new Frioul Bistro de Luxe in Madinat Jumeirah in their soft opening stage.

My first impression was that it reminded me a bit of La Petite Maison, which I think their food is 
delicious. Granted it's on the pricey side, I truly think their quality and flavor pays off. So with that in mind, I was pretty intrigued.

We were greeted to the soulful sounds of the live jazz singer which I loved. Very spacious, the interior was very clean in color with everything mainly in white with subtle warm tones. I also loved the large open kitchen where you can see the chefs cooking the dishes flying out the pass. The dress code didn't seem as formal as LPM, the crowd was a mix of formal and smart casual which I liked.

Aside of the airy dining area, the other two parts were part lounge and part mural/painter-in-action area. I haven't seen this concept before. I'm not sure if this was part of the opening or if this is an ongoing thing they'd be doing. I sure hope they do. It gave the place a sense of character and edginess which a lot of bars/restaurants in Dubai can lack.

I'm going to be honest and say service was a little shaky which is why soft openings are there. Another thing I've realised is since I now work and understand more about the restaurant industry, I sympathise a lot more with restaurants especially new ones when they have their mishaps. It's really not as easy as some might think. Disclaimer over but just thought you should know.

A friendly server came round with assorted breads and dips. As a group of 4, we were all not too impressed with this. The bread didn't taste too fresh or warm and the dips were lacking in seasoning.

On to the the menu, it had French flair with majority of seafood items along with the classic duck, frog, steak, etc. I personally would have liked to see snails on the menu.

On to the real 'feast' for the night, we ordered bits and bobs off the menu.  We were noted that their concept is a 'sharing' concept, especially for mains. Interesting... Here's my picture diary of the night. Please mind the weird lines in the photos from the lighting, I noted it to the restaurant as well.

Starting off with tapas of 'frog legs, parsley, garlic puree'...

My first time trying frog actually. It tasted a lot like chicken. Didn't taste much of the garlic puree but the parsley flavor was very strong. This was alright, I believe it could have had a little more seasoning and maybe a bit of tang to counter off the overpowering parsley. I have a very thin line when it comes to parsley.

Next up was the 'poached lobster, heirloom tomato, peach salad'.

The lobster was cooked very well and tasted fresh. I loved the medley of tomatoes. I wish the peaches were a little cooked as they were a little hard to cut into. Other than that, I really enjoyed this. Highly recommended.

We followed with the 'red prawns, chilli, mango, mint'.

This was just eye candy for you. The colors were gorgeous! My favorite dish of the night. I love mango with prawn and this was a delight. If you want to try a less pricey version, try the 'kataifi phyllo wrapped prawns' at Markette in Dubai Mall. Similar flavors and has an addition of crunchy phyllo pastry wrapped around the prawns. Deelish if I do say so myself.

'Steamed cod, fricasee of vegetables, lemongrass' was next.

This was pretty good. Buttery cod, cooked very well, al dente vegetables with a hint of lemongrass. My sister and I really enjoyed this one even though the rest didn't. I would've liked a touch more of salt.

I really enjoy when fish is cooked 'en papillote' so we ordered the 'seabass, lemon, fennel, radish'. Sorry there's no image for this one. We didn't think the fish was juicy enough and quite honestly, it was a very thin piece of fish. I think they needed to add a lot more substance to this dish. The flavors were alright but I was pretty bothered at how small it was. When ordering sea bass at other high end restaurants, you always get a more substantial piece of fish.

At this point we were still somewhat hungry so we opted for the 'cured salmon, sweet & sour shallots, leek, camembert pizzetta'.

Came out a little smaller than we had hoped. We all thought it was a little dry and the shallots were very overpowering. It wasn't a very memorable pizza.

We decided to end the night with two desserts, first was the 'salted caramel sachertorte'...

Second was 'chouquettes with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream'.

The sachertorte didn't taste much of salted caramel which was a little disappointing because who doesn't want to taste salted caramel? Am I right or am I right? Also wish there was more sauce at the bottom of the plate. The mini puff 'chouquettes' were simple and tasty. You just can't go wrong with eclairs filled with creamy custard dipped in chocolate sauce.. I mean come on. No further comments.

I really liked the space and I'll come back for the lounge and drinks area and maybe a few nibbles. I do think they need to up their quantity in food per dish and maybe edit the message of "sharing concept". Other than that, the music was great, the space was lovely and service was good with few mishaps.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rated: Tasha's

When I hear The Galleria, I instantly think of Home Bakery and their addictive chewy melt cookies. And that my friends, are exactly what they are. But let's not get into that right now.

Now we're talking about Tasha's, the new South African export recently opened at The Galleria. I saw a few posts here and there on Instagram but had no idea how popular this new gem was until I got there.

It was a late dinner on a Friday night and we were told there was going to be a 45 minute waiting list. My friend and I were eager to try it so we waited it out. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do you know what I mean? Honestly, even parking was a struggle. I accidentally parked in what I thought was the "extended" parking of the mall but later on that night, the kind Dubai Police told me I was parked in their authority parking! Whip out a little Arabic with these bad boys and no biggie ;)

Back to Tasha's!

Finally got a table and it was jam packed but still cozy. It was a mix of warm, honey interiors with pops of color from the exposed fruit and dessert counters. Furniture was a blend of textures with hints of leather couches, wooden and crisp white chairs. It felt like a homey-elegant-deli-cafe type feel if that makes any sense.

Our server, Caroline was the best! One of the best servers I've seen in Dubai. She took care of us the entire night and gave us honest suggestions which I loved instead of the usual "Everything is good." answer. 

The menu has something for everyone. It ranges from delish-looking breakfast options, sandwiches & flatbreads, salads and sharing platters and even a 'healthy appetite' section. There's global hints all over the menu from a 'Tabbouleh & Halloumi salad' to a 'Shnitzel Sarnie'.

We decided to start off with the wagyu beef carpaccio, served with rocket & shaved parmesan, caper berries and truffle.

This was delicious! Alongside were these holed out sliced bagel like crisps to prepare the perfect bites with the beef. Super delicious, would definitely have this again. Only downside is there was some mayonnaise in the dish that wasn't necessary. It was sort off odd to see mayonnaise on a beef carpaccio.

For mains, we shared the salmon flatbread and chicken milanese. The flatbread had classic flavors that pair so well together. Listen to this, smoked salmon, avocado, mascarpone, chives, seaweed caviar and dill... Now I know this sounds super simple but sometimes restaurants here forget that you have to be good at the simple stuff. Man was this good! Great quality salmon, beautiful medley of fresh salad and scoop both on the crispy, fluffy flatbread and you're in business! I'd order this again.

Chicken milanese was huge! Enough for 2 if you're sharing and 3 if you've ordered starters prior. Two crispy pieces of chicken breast cooked to perfection topped with a fresh salad that I loved! Fennel, cherry tomato, rocket, red onion and a punchy dressing to balance with the crispy chicken.  Also served alongside was a side of mash potato. This was pretty good too although, very very filling. Definitely share this one. In general, the majority of dishes flying out of the kitchen were on the larger side. Ain't no complaining bout that. Side note, I've just checked online and can't seem to find this dish on the menu... not sure why that is :(

We were super stuffed but decided to still indulge in dessert since we were in it to win it. We ordered the highly recommended doxas chocolate cake served with vanilla bean ice cream.

It's pretty simple. The ultimate bite involves a scoop of the ice cream with a slice of the cake topped with the caramel sauce. Decadent and delicious. Loved the crunchy candied pecans too! So so so good.

Overall food, service and ambiance are all a winner! I'm pretty excited about this place - it's been a while since I've experienced such a hit with a newbie in town. Small note is it is on the pricier side but that doesn't seem to be slowing this place down whatsoever.

I've rated Tasha's 4.5 out of 5!

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

To hype or not to hype: Qbara

So it's been one of those weekends where I haven't moved out of my bed. Not because I'm lazy but since there's been a coughing-sneezing-blockage-stuffiness-headache-the-works-type-of-situation. Oh yeah. Fab combo

With that beautiful image in mind, I've been meaning to try this place for a long long time but that applies to a lot of places and keeping up can be a tad bit difficult.

I've heard a lot about Qbara! From the dishes to the atmosphere to the music, pretty much everything has been very positively 'hyped'. The other day, I got around for a quick Saturday night dinner with a friend. I'm sure you already knew that from my Instagram ;)

Here's my take on whether Qbara lives up to it's hype.

I really liked the fact that Qbara was located somewhere a little different. Super easy to find when you're in the wafi/pyramids area.

The venue itself was gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous. Beautifully warm dim lighting, cool light projections against a huge wall, amazing music with remixed slow jams... just what I like. The place itself wasn't busy so a heads up for you, we were notified Tuesdays & Thursdays are the busiest so plan in advance if you're heading on those days.

We were seated upstairs. On the way to our table, we passed by the wine bar, enjoyed the glass window edges overlooking the downstairs seating area and the hues of purple/blue/pink light projections on the giant wall.

I've heard a couple of recommended small dishes so without any time to waste, we ordered the 'Crispy soft shell crab "saj", garlic & harissa and the 'Lobster kibbeh with fresh herbs, avocado labneh'.

Soft shell crab was amazing! Seriously good. The crab meat tasted really fresh and tender. The texture resembled a falafel because of the crunch factor. The harissa was the perfect added kick - not too spicy, I actually could have had it a little spicier - but can definitely suit all. The garlic wasn't overpowering either, and trust me, I love me a hit of garlic. Also, great portion. Highly, highly recommended.

Kibbeh was good. I am a huge fan of kubba (how we pronounce it in Iraqi). I always remember my grandma hand making her delicious kubba, which nothing can beat, even Qbara - sorry :) Anyways, these were crunchy, had a decent amount of lobster - not dry at all, and that avocado labneh was yummy! If you know me by now, you know I love me some avocados. It's hard to ignore it on any menu I see. The labneh was creamy with chunks of avocado and swirled in olive oil. Nice topping to the kibbeh.

Our main was a shared pot of "Chicken tagine, preserved lemon, apricot & walnuts" with a side of (I don't remember the exact name but this is what it was) Spiced brown rice with puy lentils & fried onions.

Delicious! Succulent generous portions of chicken, balanced flavors of spices, fruits, nuts and a delightful addition of cooked quinces (similar to pears)! The rice went so well with this dish. I highly recommend this combo if you are looking for vibrant flavors with a twist but keeping true to authentic Moroccan palette. I absolutely love dishes with fruit, nuts and spices - have grown up eating such types of dishes and can't get enough.

Although I regret it now, we were just way too full at the time to order any dessert. Another excuse to go visit Qbara now :)

As for the service, it was great. Food came really fast and all the waiters were quite knowledgable of the menu.

For good quality food with generous portions, great service & music, and a clear concept of original dishes with an added twist, let the hype continue about Qbara!


Friday, August 8, 2014

Once upon a foodie in London... Part 3: B&L, Spun, Ceviche, Mix

How are you? Has anyone asked you that today? If not, I'm asking right now... and I hope you're doing great :) 

My London diary has come to an end. Until next time that is. Somehow at the beginning of the series, I thought I had this all planned out. 3 parts was just enough to cover it all... and suddenly it seems that I'm squashing a whole lot in this part. Woops! You now know that I'm not a huge 'numbers' person. 

Just grab a cup of tea, relax and enjoy the read...

Part 3 - let's roll!

Burger & Lobster

I'm sure this already grabbed your attention. Everyone and their grandma seems to know and love this place. I went for the first time with a big bunch of hungry girls. It was a great combo. 

Here's the low down. There's a burger, a lobster roll and a lobster on the menu. That's it. Clear and simple. Since I have a weakness for burgers, as you very well know, I still wanted to try the famous lobster roll everyone speaks about. So my sister and I decided to share the two.

Oh my. I now know the hype behind that lobster roll. Perfectly cooked lobster. Creamy. Lemony and the hit of chives tops it off. Delicious! Highly recommended. As for the burger, it was good. Decent size. Simple ingredients and great portion of sides.

Loved the simplicity of this place and would definitely go back for good food and service.

Spun Candy

For those who don't know, Spun Candy is a super cute candy store which allows you to custom make your own candy, even of your own face! How cool. Opening soon in Candylicious Dubai, I had the chance to tour Spun Candy in Covent Garden, the headquarters. Check out their UAE Instagram to keep up with them. 

They also had a mini pop-up shop in Selfridges. Their signature candy is the hard candy "London Mix" which is so cute for souvenir gifting if you're traveling back from London. It's a very interesting concept and watching the candy makers in action at the store is such a cool experience. I'm excited for what's to come in Dubai!


Situated in the vibrant area of Soho, a delightful Peruvian kitchen awaited us for a dinner of endless ceviches and tapas. I loved the place! The ambiance, the decor, the staff, the music and the menu. Oh my. It's half kitchen/half bar with super dim lighting - just how I like it - and it's not that large but also not as 'cosy' as a lot of the places in London can be.

'Don Ceviche'

We ordered everything from king fish & watermelon ceviche to braised beef tongue. The stand outs included 'Don Ceviche' - fresh sea bass in amarillo chilli tiger's milk, radish, limo chilli, sweet potato & red onions, 'Sakura Maru' - tiradito of thinly sliced salmon Nikkei tiger's milk made satsumas, mirin, soy sauce & limo chilli (tangy and delicious) and 'Lenguas' - braised beef tongue and caramelised onion, cassava mash & aji limo chimichurri.  As usual I'll keep it real and say I didn't try the tongue but everyone else on the table did and said it was amazing. I felt it was a little too fatty of a meat for me.

Definitely go to Ceviche for a night out in Soho before or after catching a broadway show :) we went after Phantom of the opera and was an awesome duo for the night.

Mix: Chipotle/Wasabi

I thought I'd add in a couple of 'bits and bobs' that I experienced over here. I've heard a ton about Chipotle and since I'm a big fan of good Mexican, I gave it a try.

There's no pretty image to really show here but their burritos are bomb diggity GOOD. Stuffed with vibrant flavors, fresh ingredients and generous portions, I can see why this place is always packed in London. Dubai, get on it!

I personally think we lack affordable every day sushi places that we can order during work or have weekday meals at. That's something London is known for. One of the most popular ones is Wasabi. There are ready made sushi combo platters or you can pick and choose your own. I tried out both ways and really enjoyed it. Definitely give it a try. If you wanna see my sushi picnic with wasabi, check out my Instagram here.

Thanks for tuning in... Happy weekend!


Friday, July 25, 2014

KANAFA CHEESECAKE: To hype or not to hype?

In the foodie/blogger/overall Dubai life, there is always a new cupcake, a new flavor, a new dish, something... that starts to float around everyone's Instagram accounts like a virus. Some of the time, it lives up to it's name but a lot of the time it doesn't. I've decided to tackle each one that creeps up, haunts me until I try it and give you my lowdown.

Debuting with the all mighty, Kanafa Cheesecake from Sukar House of Desserts.

First things first, the name just reels you in immediately doesn't it? I've never heard of this combo. Also, I'm pretty much a sucker for anything kanafa since I've been brought up eating kanafa quite a lot, so I'd like to think I know what a good one tastes like. I always get my fix at Feras Sweets - they have the BEST 'kanafa khashna'.  It's the one with the crispy 'sha3riyah' pastry on top with ooey gooey Nabulsi cheese and perfect sugar syrup to pair it with. I always add extra pistachios too!

So let's get down to business!

It's a beauty to look at. It got my taste buds going.  I was recommended to have the cake cold and have the syrup warmed... guessing to enjoy both worlds of a cheesecake and a kanafa? So I did just that. As for the taste, I was a bit torn honestly. I'm so used to the original kanafa that I think I prefer that. I also hoped that the cheesecake base was a biscuit so there would be added texture but it was sugary and soft. The kanafa pastry topping was a little different to traditional kanafa but was still tasty and I enjoyed the warm syrup to pair. Definitely ask for extra syrup and pistachios on the sides since each slice is huge and needs it :) 

So... kanafa cheesecake: to hype or not to hype? I'm just not sure but a lying a little more towards the not to hype side. Purely because I'd much rather have traditional kanafa or traditional cheesecake and not mix the two.

Have you tried this? What did you think? Let me know if there's anything new that you've tried recently that's been hyped up?

Thanks for stopping by!