Thursday, April 30, 2009

Manvaar Restaurant, Dubai

Manvaar Restaurant
Opposite Reem Residency
Near Fish Market
336 8332

Manvaar serves some outstanding Rajasthani food and while they do deliver home, I would highly recommend eating on location at least once. The experience starts right at the great wooden door and continues to the waiters dressed in costume and the bandhini printed table napkins. Its a lovely place to take non-Indian friends to impress them with the colors of India and lovely food to boot.

Their paneer starters/kebabs are good(in the 20dhs range) as the paneer is of good quality. I love the glotty kebab (8pcs - 28dhs) although it is as far from a Lucnowi galouti kebab as you can get. The Manvaar version is made from pounded mince, but mixed with solid chopped pieces of onion, green chilli and corriander. The Lucknowi version is sometimes difficult to even pick up with your fingers before it disintegrates. If you would like to try out the variety of starters, you can opt for the mix platter (veg-32dhs and non-veg-42dhs)

They have a long list of Rajasthani special mains. The most famous being the dhal batti churma (22dhs) which is excellent. The Rajasthani Phumbi (mushroom 15dhs) was very tasty, but I have my suspicions that the mushrooms came from a tin. We had ordered this as a delivery, so I can't be absolutely sure. Methi Papad, papad ki sabji, gulab jamun ki sabji (I wonder what this is) are listed as other specials.

The Lal Maans (26 with bone, 30 for boneless) is a traditional Rajasthani meat dish made very well. I remember hearing somewhere that this was an easy to cook dish devised by Rajasthani cooks of yore when out on a hunt with the ruling royalty. They used ingredients that were easy to carry and did not need much preparation to cook the game. Nowadays Lal Maans is normally made from mutton. Rotis are between 2-4dhs each and 5dhs for the masala kulcha. The bread basket (20dhs) is a good way to smaple the different Indian breads.

While the Rajasthani dishes and some of the North Indian dishes on the menu are excellent, I would not recommend their biriyani(18-25dhs), simply because Dubai has much better biriyanis to offer. If you want to order this dish with the rest of your meal from Manvaar then it is ok, but not as your main order.

Desserts are also excellent. I would highly recommend the rabri ghewar(12dhs) which is a large orange jelebi (called an imarti in some parts of India) soaked in rabri (Indian version of clotted and whipped cream)

Do visit them on location to enjoy the whole experience of eating a Rajasthani meal.

Bikanervala Restaurant, Dubai

Bikanervala Restaurant
396 8813

This is a vegetarian restaurant that specialises in Rajasthani sweets and snacks but has now expanded to included South I:ndian dosas, chaat and Indian chinese too.

They offer everything my husband craves from home from Kadhi pakoda and rajma chaaval to parathas and puris. Their chaat is excellent, each in the 5-10dhs range. I love their paani puri, papdi chaat and sev puri. Their badam pista kesar milk (8dhs) is outstanding and worth stocking in the fridge for those hot summer days. They do deliver home, but seem to have some restrictions on timing, days of the week, order value vs distance etc.

Their grilled vegetarian sandwiches are tasty. The dosas aren't exactly like back home (Mangalore/Udupi) but passable. Their thalis include a paneer dish, a seasonal vegetable, some pilaf, dhal, 1 naan, 1 roti, raita, papad, salad, pickle and sweet. This has to be consumed on the premises, it cant be delivered at home.

Il Fiume, Dubai

Il Fiume
Marina Heights Tower
Dubai Marina
04 422 4664

A charming bistro on the Marina in Dubai. It offers a delectable range of pastries, coffees, juices and meals too. We sat down here to grab a coffee (frappucinos - 20dhs), but liked the ambiance so much, that we decided to have an early lunch. They do serve sheesha at this cafe, so the smell can be a bit nauseous or reminiscent, depending on which way you look at it.

Il Fiume is decorated in a very contemporary style with a glass kitchen so you can keep your eyes on the chef while he prepares your food. They serve Italian and Lebanese food. While we waited for our order, we were served a basket of breads with 4 different dips and olives with cornichons.

I ordered a carpaccio di manzo (34dhs) which was beef carpaccio served with a salad of roccola leaves, halved cherry tomatoes and what tasted like pickled mushrooms in a balsamic vinegar dressing and parmesan shavings. It was good, but I have had much better carpaccio where the raw taste isnt as pronounced and the slices are much thinner. The Grand Hyatt in Cairo serves a wonderful version of carpaccio.

Our other order was a fettucini pollo (45dhs) without the chicken but substituted with mushrooms for the husband. This was outstanding. The pasta was cooked just right, but what elevated this dish to a much higher level was the mixed cheese sauce with herbs and sun dried tomatoes. Comfort food at its best.

They also offer risottos and pizzas on their menu.

Portions are just right. Service as seems usual for Dubai was quick and efficient. They were not at all cranky about the requested substitution of mushroom for chicken. After Egypt, this kind of service takes some getting used to (tongue in cheek-laugh) They have outdoor seating too and Il Fiume will have a wonderful view once the surrounding construction comes to a halt and the protective boards around the construction sites are taken down.

Chop Chop, Dubai

Chop Chop
Mall of Emirates
+971 4 341 3618

Chop Chop is a restaurant in the Mall of the Emirates (famed for its ski slope in the desert) that serves South East Asian food. The menu was extensive and had a gamut of Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai food.

We tried the Asian vegetable Tempura (22dhs) which was crisp and tasty in conjunction with its dipping sauce. We also had the crisp mushrooms which were excellent. For a main course, we tried the Phad Thai (38dhs) which was served with the 4 customary sides in Thai food - sugar, lemon, chilli flakes and ground nuts. Excellent balance of flavours.

I opted for the Massaman lamb curry (39dhs) a yellow coconut based Thai curry. It could have been spicier, but it was still very tasty. Smooth and creamy with tender pieces of lamb and bell peppers served with a bowl of Jasmine rice.

Avoided the desserts again as we were in a hurry to make it in time to another appointment. Note to self: Do not walk into a mall to grab lunch in a hurry. Too many distractions in the mall and its a long walk each way, from and to the parking.

Service was excellent. Quiet, quick and unobtrusive. Decor was a lovely black and red. We loved the food here, can't imagine why we ever ate fast Food on previous visits to this mall. Husbands dietary restrictions are ensuring we stay away from fast food and we are eating much healthier and more flavorsome food when eating out these days.

Calicut Paragon

Calicut Paragon
Opp Lulu Centre
+971 4 3335 8700

Calicut Paragon is a Malabari (Kerala) restaurant with many decades of history in India. This was a restaurant that was highly recommended to me by my Mallu friends in Egypt and given the huge queues outside this restaurant each Friday, I have never been able to eat here on my previous visits to Dubai. For a change, I found myself in this area on a week night and the queue outside wasn't serpentine.

Seating is basic, but comfortable. There was a certificate on display that all the staff had attended some heavy duty hygiene training. All the staff including the serving staff wore hair nets. Hehehe. Men in shower caps with mustaches showing - its quite a sight, I tell you! Fresh fish was on display at the counter, so you could pick your choice.

We settled for a very basic meal, that was reminiscent of home for me. Kerala cooking style is very similar and overlaps with the Manglorean style of cooking, especially in the sea food domain. I had a king fish mango curry (18dhs) and squid varathiyathu (26dhs) with appam (1.5dhs per piece). The fish curry was a red coconut curry made with green mango. The last time I had this dish with prawns, it was made by my grandmother who passed away just over a month ago. Eating this curry, had me close to tears, as I never thought I would be able to taste food the way nana made it, ever again. The squid was a spicy semi dry prepration with roasted coconut and curry leaves. The appams were just right, light and crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the center. I could make a meal of just the appams.

All the biriyanis were already over, even though it was not yet 9pm. Husband being on a vegetarian diet, had the kerala paratha (thin, flaky and layered 2dhs/piece) a malabari dal curry (10dhs) and ghee rice (10dhs) The rice had nuts and raisins in it and was more of a pilaf than ghee rice, but very tasty. It was served with chutney, a sweet and a spicy pickle, coconut chutney and two pieces of Kerala Pappadums. (very different from North Indian Pappadums)

A large bottle of mineral water costs 3dhs. I saw someone at the neighbouring table being poured a red liquid in their water glass and I promptly requested my own share of hot water. This was a drink I last had, in copious quantities, over 12 years ago when traveling on a students budget across Kerala. Mineral water in those days was very expensive and not something you would buy, when on a budget. Most small Kerala restaurants in those days served hot water boiled with some herbs in copper/brass tumblers. The herbs turned the water red and imparted a faint taste to the water which wasn't unpleasant. This was the first time, I was seeing this water being served, since ages. Would appreciate it, if someone could tell me what the herbs used in this water are and the purpose of these herbs (appetiser, digestive, cooling for the humid heat?)

My friends had highly recommended the chootu (small fish) fry, but I really wanted the green mango curry and some squid. Paragon does serve some North Indian style food, but its the mallu food that is outstanding at this joint. This is a restaurant that I would love to keep going back to.

Here's a link to Time Out's Review

Shakespeare And Co, Dubai

Shakespeare And Co
Multiple Outlets
Across Dubai

Shakespeare and Co has a couple of outlets across Dubai. Their decor is quaint: a mix of a traditional English tea shop, but with a bit of the Mad Hatter's tea party thrown in too. Seating arrangements are different at each table. Stuffed Victorian Style seating and kids play room benches fight for space. Decoupage and pastel colors provide a strange yet pleasing visual collage. Tables were all low at the outlet that we visited (Emirates Hills).

They have a pattiserie on the premises and the pastries, chocolates and meringues were absolutely beautiful to look at and very attractively displayed and it took every ounce of our willpower not to indulge our sweet teeth :) We settled for a natural sugar fix with a fresh watermelon juice (23dhs) and an iced mango lassi (yoghurt drink - 32dhs) Both of them came with no extra sugar.

All attempts of trying to eat healthy went out the window with our food order though. I thought I was ordering a smaller portion when I ordered the Shakespeare special (45dhs), but this turned out to be batter fried calamari, french fries - outstanding, fried lemon slices - my first time trying something like this and halved jalapenos fried - nice and spicy, all served with an excellent tartar sauce. The lasagna al forno (42dhs) was also outstanding. But it is so rich, that it is an ample meal for two or more.

We were served some complementary bread that was fresh out of the oven and completely heavenly while we waited for our order to arrive.

Loved the decor, loved the ambiance. They do not allow photography on their premises (strange for Dubai) else I would have loved to put up plenty of pictures of this place.

Dynasty, Dubai

Ramada Hotel
Bur Dubai
+971 4 351 9999

The Dynasty restaurant at the Ramada is a quiet haven in the middle of the constant bustle of Bur Dubai. The low lighting and quiet but efficient service is very soothing as you walk into the restaurant.

Complementary pickled cabbage was served at the table along with our menus. We tried the crisp mushroom manchurian (35dhs) which had a variety of mushrooms and spare ribs in honey sauce (44dhs) as our appetisers. The ribs were sweet, sticky and syrupy, but we couldn't say that we weren't warned. The wonton soup (28dhs) was a clear broth - Simple, hearty and flavorful.

The American Chopsuey (48dhs) was sweet and tangy with a mix of different meats. The noodles used were not the regular egg noodles but more the style of a rice vermicilli fried snack popular in South India. I could have eaten just the deep fried noodles without any sauce or toppings. The Mixed fried rice (44dhs) was rather plain, but good in combination with a saucy side. Our choice was for the Sinagaporean crab (68dhs) The crab could have done with a bit more spice to be authentic, but the side sauces helped up the spice quotient.

Mineral water was 15dhs for a large bottle.

Dynasty serves a wide variety of vegetarian, seafood and meat dishes including scallops(165 dhs) and lobster(165dhs).

For dessert, choices ranged from ice-cream (15dhs) to almond biscuits (28dhs) and batter fried lychees with ice cream(38). Since we had already indulged in Hagen Daaz ice cream earlier in the day, we decided to skip this section.

Quantities are large and we could have done without ordering the fried rice or American Chopsuey as a meal for two.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sushi Recommendations in Cairo

Sushi is one of the few foods, that I do not like. I've tasted it in different forms and locations, but it is not something I have developed a taste for.

Hence I cannot provide a primer on the best sushi in Cairo. But my friend Mona Daoud, loves sushi and this is her list of recommendations for sushi in Cairo.

"Mori Sushi. There are two in Zamalek; one which is right before the fish gardens and the other is a branch in Sequoia (reservation essential) It tops the other branch because they serve alcohol and have a pretty view. There is also a branch in Mohandessin.
In Maadi, there is Gaya on Road 253 next to seoudi market (stick to their temaky, it's awesome)

Then there is the Makani chain (excellent fresh salmon sashimi) but their other stuff is good too. There is a branch in Maadi next to Maadi grand mall and one in Mohandessin somewhere near Syria street. I heard the one in Heliopolis was horrible. There are other branches but I have no idea where.

There is also Sapporo (Fresh and basic, no fusion, no experimentation, authentic and positively succulent) at the Sheraton in Dokki. The prices are like sushi everywhere.

(Gaya and Makani are the cheapest two in Cairo)

Jo Sushi
on Mohamed Mazhar street in Zamalek has it's on days and off days. Depends on your luck... just make sure to tell them not to use wasabi while preparing sushi for you because they mistakenly think that if they're generous with it, it will taste better.

There's also INakaYa , 6A Midan Aswan in Mohandessin. They have all you can eat nights for 90 LE on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. I haven't tried them though, so I'm not sure if they're good. I only heard about them.

Asia Bar on Blue Nile (boat in Zamalek) They have amazing sushi though it's more expensive than all other places, but it's worth it.

And there's Hanami in Giza, overlooking the Nile. 70% of the time their sushi was spot on.

There's L'Asiatique in Le Pacha but I don't like their sushi.

Bon Apetit"


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