Sunday, May 24, 2009

Marzano, Dubai

Marzano
Pasta Pizza Grill
Old Town Souk
Downtown
Dubai
420 1136

A lovely restaurant with a classy yet relaxed atmosphere in the airconditioned souk attached to Old Town. It has a substantially large menu with various Italian dishes, but on this stopover we needed something quick. We told the Maitre D, that we were in ah urry and when we ordered the risotto, she warned us that it would take some time to be served.

Looking for something quick, we ordered the carpaccio di manzo (52) and the tagliatelle funghetto (46).

The carpaccio was really thin and well sliced, served with rocket leaves, parmigiano cheese and truffle olive oil. My only complaint with this dish was that I wish the rocket leaves had been de-stemmed. It gets a little messy to eat when you drizzle olive oil or balsamic vinegar on it and the leaves bounce as you try to gently raise them to your mouth.

The complimentary hot bread served with a garlic based dip and a sundried tomato dip was excellent.

The pasta was a bit too al dente for me, but the sauce was lovely.

The fresh water melon juice -24- was really fresh and refreshing.

Woudl love to go back here when we have more time for a relaxed meal.

India Palace, Dubai

India Palace
The Walk
JBR
Dubai
437 0279

The India Palace in Delhi is a greta restaurant that serves authentic Mughlai food. Lured by the name, we walked into this restaurant on the walk.

The interiors were beautifully done and very enticing. Sadly the food did not match up to the standards set by the decor.

It may be easy enough for the India palace to purport to be authentic Indian cuisine to the tourists pounding the sidewalk, but no self-respecting Indian would ever go back a second time.

The Thandaii - 13- almond and cardamom flavored milk based drink - was an interesting starting point which lulled us into believing that better things were to come. Unfortunately other than the stuffed aloo kulcha (7) - Indian bread stuffed with potatoes - nothing else even came close.

We ordered the tarah tarah ke kebab (an assortment of kebabs/grilled meats) - 52- hoping to enjoy a selection of tender chunks and morsels of meat. What was served was dehydrated bits of meat that did not seem to have seen the enfolding embrace of a marinade for more than a minute.

The tadka dhal - 14- yellow lentils was absolutely band without even the flavor of tomato or tempering of cumin.

The banjara kabab - 22- extolled as a cottage cheese dumpling, coated with spinach and nuts cooken in saffron flavored rich tomato and cashew gravy tasted as vegetable dumplings tossed into a generic butter chicken/butter paneer gravy.

Normally in large restaurants, different chefs manage the tandoor (where kebabs are grilled) and the main kitchen. Hoping to strike lucky with some rice, we ordered the ghosht biryani-35- lamb biryani. the rice was dry. Large pieces of mint leaves were liberally mixed into the dish and the meat was dry.

If you want to eat good Indian food in Dubai, stick to Karama. Those eateries may be basic, but they sure know how to cook food the way an Indian mom/grandmom would cook it. Lots of effort + fresh ingredients = unbeatable flavor.

Japengo Cafe, Dubai

Japengo Cafe,
Multiple Locations
Dubai

Outlet visited:
Dubai Festival City
232 6220

The Japengo Cafe decor looked cool and welcoming, so I selected this location over all the other endless eating options at Festival City. The ratio of staff to customers looked 3:1 and I hoped that it meant quick service at 3:30pm, but unfortunately I was in for a long wait.

I was seated quickly enough by a very polite Maitre D, who gave me enough time to peruse the lengthy menu of Appetizers, salads, sandwiches, sushi, sashimi, maki, temaki, Italian, wood fired pizzas, stir fries in crispy baskets, Oriental, Lebanese, Specials, Sides, Desserts, fresh juices, fruit cocktails, coffes, teas and Persian dishes.

I ordered an iced tea - 16dhs - which arrived soon enough. While ordering the iced tea, I had also ordered my main course. Unable to decide between the grilled lamb chops(72) and the Nasi Goreng (51), I asked the Maitre D for her recommendation. Usually if a Maitre D recommends the cheaper option, it means the restaurant is sure of that dish ensuring repeat customers.

I went with her recommendation, but was in for a really long wait. After 25 minutes of trying to prolong my iced tea, I finally found a waiter who hovered close enough to get his attention and asked for my meal. He brought it instantly and what followed leaves me with no doubt that they forgot to serve me my meal even though it was ready much earlier.

The fried rice was colder than room temperature, the side stick of chicken satay was cold and starting to harden around the satay stick. the roast chicken piece was starting to dry out and was also cold. The rice had no balance in flavour, the satay sauce had potential, but served at low temperatures lost its punch. the roast chicken could have been awesome, but was a solid lump of not too tender flesh. (all 3 were a part of the nasi goreng dish)

With so many staff manning seperate counters for each specialty and with very few customers, I expected much better service. Seems they were more involved in their own conversations and preoccupied with eating their own lunch (which I saw some of them do in the restaurant) than serving paying customers.

Didn't bother ordering dessert as I was already running half an hour late with this delay and couldnt afford another half hour.

Would rather grab a sandwich at Cinnabon, the next time I am in the vicinity.

The BBC Good Food Team seem to have had a better experience at the Mall of Emirates Location:
http://www.bbcgoodfoodme.com/bbcGF/restaurants/Default.aspx?m=rs&v=1&rID=387
Dare I risk it at another location?

Baanthai, Dubai

Baanthai
Oasis Mall
Dubai
515 4000

Baanthai is part of the foodcourt at the recently re-opened Oasis Mall. At 1pm - lunch time, all the dishes were ready cafeteria style and you just had to point and choose. Each main dish comes with its own side of steamed rice.

We tried the Massaman Nua-25- Massaman curry with braised beef and potatoes. A coconut milk based curry that isnt too spicy (unlike the red and green curries) and still distinctly Thai. It was understated and simple, the meat was well cooked and the potatoes were just the right consistency.

Also had the Gai Phad Med Na Maung -25- stir fried chicken with cashew nuts. This had a sweet and sour taste to it. Although it is a stir fry, it did have a bit of gravy with it to eat with the rice. This dish is also high on capsicum peppers and onions, so its high in fiber and veggie content too.

The tod man pla -15- deep fried spicy fish cake was not as mincy as it could have been. It was a solid flattenned slightly chewy lump, even though it took 15 minutes more to prepare (presumably fresh)

Other than the fish cakes the food was fresh and good. They do have a choice of soups, starters and salad. The prawn curries had really large sized prawns in them.

The menu lists a Thai tea which wasn't available today, but they do serve the entire fountain range of Pepsico drinks.(5/7 med/large)

They do not have desserts, but that was easily remedied by a stop at Subway in the same food court for cookies :)

Staff is pleasant and quite efficient.

Good for a quick meal.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Warning : Estoril Restaurant, Downtown

We found cockroaches in our drink and in the tomato soup last Thursday night at ESTORIL . I would recommend avoiding this place.
When we complained, the management tried to convince us that they must have flown in when the door was opened and just shrugged their shoulders. The only thing they offered was to replace the drink and soup. But we could not eat another bite after these two simultaneous discoveries and just left the rest of the food (that we did pay for) and walked out.

The Management was completely nonchalant and unapologetic about the episode and that was most galling. Even if the Management did not have the courtesy or the wherewithal to waive our bill, the least we expected was an apology, but there was absolutely no chance of that happening, the way things were going.

This place is best avoided.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Leil Nhar, Beirut

Leil Nhar
Ashrafieh facing Sagesse School
Hekmeh Street
Beirut
01 325326
www.leilnhar.com

Leil Nhar means "Day and Night" and is a wonderful eatery that is open 24 hours. The vibe we got when we walked in was that of a 60's style diner transported into 2009. The place was buzzing at midnight when all the eateries in the nearby mall had closed for the day. It was filled with young people, just chatting and laughing, smoking cigarettes, having fun and just enjoying the company of their friends. The bright decor and the large screens playing cartoon network with the volume muted but English subtitles, just added to the lively atmosphere

The menu is mostly breakfast kind of items with a few pizzas and desserts thrown in for good measure. The menu is divided into traditional Lebanese breakfast items(1000-4500), various cheese platters(6000-7500), salads (6750-8750), baked potatoes with different stuffings(4500-7000), sandwiches(6250-11000), pizzas(9000-11500), Desserts(3500-6000) and drinks(1000-4500)

We ordered the eggs and potato sandwich (6250) which had mint, tomatoes, olives and olive oil thrown in for taste and I ordered the crab sandwich (7250). My sandwich was excellent - light, crispy and fresh with the lettuce and lemon mayo not masking the delicate flavor of the crab meat. Sandwiches are served rolled in Lebanese pita/eish/khubuz which is a very thin bread compared to what is served as Lebanese bread outside of Lebanon. The closest I could compare it to is an Indian Roomali Roti, but this is much softer.

I also ordered an eggs and bacon (9000) which was eggs scrambled with bacon served with freshly baked Lebanese bread, cucumbers, tomatoes and olives.

To drink we had a carrot juice (4250) and a Lemon Iced Tea(3750), both excellent.

Our first experience with Lebanese food was excellent. Everything we ate was light, fresh, clean and just felt so healthy. No wonder Lebanese are known for their wonderful looks and complexions. if I eat this healthy and fresh daily, my complexion should improve too.

The desserts on display looked excellent especially the marshmallow cake (chocolate cake topped with marshmallows and smarties (6000), but we were quite stuffed with our mains and dessert seemed too decadent after all the healthy food. So we turned it down, which in hindsight we could have indulged in, given the steep climb to reach our hotel! (all those calories would have simply melted away)

Leil Nhar does deliver home except the egg items.

Our bill came to 36750 with 2 large bottles of water. The bill came printed with both Lebanese currency value and the dollar value. There is a 10% VAT added onto the prices. The dollar value was about 25USD.

Service was excellent, quiet, quick, unobtrusive but extremely attentive. We'd love to go back if we were staying longer and I didnt have this compulsive need to try out as many different restaurants that I can in each city that I visit.

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