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!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Once upon a foodie in London... Part 2: Petit Déjeuner, Jerk and Serious Meat

I see you're back for part 2 of my London diary. Without further a due, please continue and enjoy the read... :)

L'eto Caffé
Located in the heart of Soho, we were drawn in to this French spot simply by just passing by and here's why.

Good reviews and no table empty in sight also reeled us in. We headed there for breakfast and instantly fell in love with the menu. Simple, French with some Mediterranean and British hints floating around on some dishes. What also really intrigued me was their wide selection of fresh tea mixes.

We opted for a selection of egg dishes. Fresh, high quality, perfectly cooked eggs. All served with feta in olive oil and rosemary, tomato and fresh baby rocket, and sour dough bread with smashed avocado, cumin and chilli. I am a huge fan of eggs and I always order the simplest egg dishes at breakfast joints to test their quality. This was a winner. We also shared the best french toast I have tried with perfectly poached peaches, pecans, and an ice cream I can't even remember at this point since my mouth is salivating thinking about. Unfortunately it was not pictured for obvious reasons :) 

I definitely recommend trying out one of their amazing fresh teas. I enjoyed my forest berry and rosemary one a lot! Really generous portions, ended up sharing this one with everyone.

Cottons Rhum Shack @BoxPark 

Photo credit to
Watching the football matches was also in our London schedule as I love the spirit of it and more importantly, since my cousins are partially German :) The champs!

We headed to BoxPark in Shore ditch, a funky pop-up housing shops, restaurants and airing the games. Definitely go if you're in the area! Loved the ambiance, culture & variety of food.

We chose Caribbean to feast on at Cottons Rhum Shack. We all went for the signature jerk chicken with coleslaw, fried plantains, rice n' peas and mixed salad. Delicious! Beautiful homemade tangy BBQ sauce to accompany which had a slight kick. My first time trying fried plantains and it was so good! Great experience and generous portions. My cousin went for the Trinidadian fish curry, which of course I sampled, and it was such a beautiful blend of spices and flavours. Highly recommend this place!

Meat Market by Meat Liquor

I won't lie, this next one was a home delivery order but I thought I'd keep things real between us and share with you all my food excursions. Purely since we had a match to watch and we were super tired from being Londoners all day. In Dubai, the main movement we do is walk from our house to the car, if you know what I mean.

You could sort of say I'm one of those people that has a weakness for burgers. By sort of I mean sort of a lot. I surfed on Zomato London and saw Meat Liquor was a must try so we took the nearest option which was the spin off Meat Market - serving the same burgers.

Meatburgers, cheeseburgers and red chili cheeseburgers were ordered with pretty much every sort of side they offered: hippie fries, chili cheese fries, fried pickles, jalapeño poppas and bingo wings. Even though each burger had 2 patties, they were on the smaller side and did not leave us very stuffed as expected. Which is a good thing. Meat was juicy and cooked medium well. For sides, I recommend everything except chili cheese fries and the wings, they weren't that memorable. The others hit the spot - especially those hippie fries! Love the topping of grilled onions and the tangy "hippie sauce" they use. Overall, a pretty decent, good quality burger place.

Part 3 is coming your way really soon! If you liked, don't forget to subscribe, comment and let me know what you think.

If you don't know already, my first feature is currently on Krisp Dubai - a new online magazine showcasing homegrown talent. Full article can be found: Check it out now!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Once upon a foodie in London... Part 1: Pizza, Columbian and Cheese

Is it still ok to say hi? Anyone out there still reading this?

I'm back with a BANG after a 2 month hiatus! *insert fireworks here*

After settling in to a new job (within food - woohoo!), travel, fasting and since we're always honest with each other, just a tad bit of procrastination in the mix of things, I neglected my FMTB baby for a little bit. But frowns must turn upside down! So I am back and I'm here with a delicious and dynamic foodie getaway for your eyes from London.

London is starting to become a regular spot to visit since I have cousins (more like sisters :)) over there. Miss them already. Planning my next trip there as we speak? This time I came in prepared with my tasty ambitions to bring to you my diary. So here it goes... well part 1 for now.

Franco Manca

Super cute, bustling and has a unique take on pizza offering sour-dough pizzas with toppings ranging from organic olive oil to buffalo ricotta. You had me at sour-dough pizza. Menu is very simple which is what I look for in Italian places - minimal and to the point with ingredients that shine.

We quickly skimmed the menu and ordered everything on it. If there is a burrata on a menu, it's almost impossible for me to ignore it. See what I mean?

Probably not the best picture but you know what, it was one of those moments where the smell and look of the pizza could not let me try for more photo taking attempts.

The pizzas were delicious. I would highly recommend the classic: tomato, mozzarella (we changed it to buffalo - for obvious reasons ;)) and basil. I love when authentic Italian places do the simplest things best. The other pizzas were great as well like the courgettes, basil, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta & Franco's pecorino. I know... your mouth just watered. Same. I absolutely loved the elastic, soft and melt in your mouth sour dough. So different and interesting.

Brixton Market 

This one is more about the experience and a little less about the food. We were walking around in Brixton market and stumbled upon a Columbian shack. Their "arepas" looked delicious - cheese stuffed corn bread fried and served with spicy salsa. One by one, all of us starting devouring these small pastries of goodness. What made the experience for us was the man behind the shack, Louis. He was the grandpa running the show along with his wife, daughter and grand daughter. Here he is teaching us about Columbian food and culture.

I absolutely love meeting these types of people. I can talk to them for hours and just explore their side of the world. Here's a special moment we shared with him. The idea for the photo was all him! 

Left-right: Dalia, Yasmin, Lina, Monica, Me, Joanne, Louis

Morty & Bobs

Here's a fun side note you should know about me. I'm a huge fan of Backstreet Boys. Oh yeah, hard core fan since the 90's. I was super happy to get a chance to see them for the second time in London. Don't leave the page, this relates to the food part I swear! 

One thing I enjoyed about this concert was that there were tons of food pop up shops at the venue. Something I wish we had in Dubai, instead of the over priced bland food that gets served here. Any who, before jamming out to "I want it that way", we needed to get our grub on. My cousins and I have a soft spot for grilled cheese toasties, super simple but when done right, you just can't go wrong. 

A cute pop-up shop called Morty & Bob's won us over with their grilled cheese. 

No joke. No lies. All seriousness. One of the best grilled cheeses I've ever had! Oh my. Whenever you're in London next, track them on twitter and find out where they're popping up so you can get one of these. Crunchy, toasted, sour dough, delicious trio blend of cheese with onion mix - crispy on the outside, ooey gooey on the inside. You have to try it. I highly recommend the "Straight Up" - their signature.

Stay tuned for part 2! If you liked, don't forget to subscribe and comment. Let me know what you think. 

OH and big news! My first feature is currently on Krisp Dubai - a new online magazine showcasing homegrown talent. Full article can be found: Check it out now and let me know what you think.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rated: Nay Restaurant & Lounge

I heard about Nay from a couple of friends and decided to try it out for a weekday dinner a little while ago. Positioned as a Lebanese restaurant, the menu has a tendency to twist the flavours and dishes of authentic Lebanese cuisine (such as a traditional Lebanese white cheese starter served with an oriental ratatouille sauce). It's always interesting to see modern chefs putting spins on traditional dishes.

Situated in DIFC, it's a perfect central spot for post-work dinner and sheesha. The venue itself is huge. and I mean huge! It hosts a lovely outdoor seating area (unfortunately the weather now is slowly eliminating that option) and the indoor seating has an Arabic singer at night. Since it was a huge space and it was still in it's opening month, when my friend and I arrived, the ratio of people to chairs was quite low (aka a little on the empty side). I feel like it can look like that anyways since the place is really big and can accommodate a large number of people.

Our server was very friendly and explained some popular items on the menu for us. He complimented us with a crispy strip of bread topped with olive oil, sesame seeds and zaatar with a garlic-flavoured dip. So so so good! Ordered for another round in seconds.

For starters, we chose one of their spins on hommos which was 'Hommos Green Rihan' (literally translates to Hommos Green Basil). This was delicious! Basil is also my favorite herb so maybe this could have been an easy win for me? I don't know. Balance of the added basil while maintaining authentic hommos flavor was ticked! My hopes were super high right now since bread and hommos were both spectacular.
'Hommos Green Rihan'

Our second starter was the "Nay Labneh" - again another twist. Although this sounded fabulous - labneh mixed with confit sun dried tomatoes, thin garlic crisps & fresh thyme - the taste did not live up to it. The issue was the oil from the sundried tomato which was a little too acidic overpowered the whole dish.

'Nay Labneh'

Our third starter was 'Hommos Sorra', roasted Arabic bread filled with beef, served with hommos and pine nuts. Unfortunately this was more about the presentation rather than the taste. The beef-stuffed bread or what I like to call them the Arabic-looking "money-balls" tasted old and very dry. This was not a winner.

'Hommos Sorra'

For mains, we ordered 'Shish Taouk' and 'Kebab Mushroom'. I know Shish Taouk can be a boring choice sometimes but most restaurants don't get it right. It usually comes too dry and tasteless. This one shamefully fell into that same category of restaurants. The chicken was way too dry - almost rock hard. The fries were very good as well as the vegetables. I really liked the presentation of the veggies on the metal skewer. Pickles & garlic sauce were delicious. Only downfall, well, the main thing: the chicken. As for the Kebab, not too sure why it was called 'Kebab Mushroom' since there was no taste of mushroom whatsoever. The kebab was alright but nothing special. Also the spicy tomato sauce on the side didn't add much to the dish as well.

We were too full to order dessert since portions were very generous. I would come back for good service, good portions and try our other main dishes. Also that basil hommos got me sucked in! Need to come back for more.

Total price breakdown below (for 2):
1 x 'Hommos Green Rihan' = 28
1 x 'Nay Labneh' = 28
1 x 'Hommos Sorra' = 36
1 x 'Shish Taouk' = 58
1 x 'Kebab Mushroom' = 58
1 x Large Lebanese Mineral Water = 20Total (AED) = 228

I've rated Nay 3 out of 5!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rated: Elia

I know, I know, 2 Greek restaurants in a row? Sue me why don't you! but hey, the way I look at it is I'm discovering the Greek food around Dubai for YOU. See? This is all for YOU. Not me. Just YOU. Geez, be thankful. Kidding.

I was quite surprised that this place had been around for a whopping 6 years and I've never heard of it. I guess that was the beauty of it. Tucked away in the 3rd floor of Majestic hotel in Bur Dubai, Mankhool area, this place escapes from the loud and noisy Dubai.

And so our "Greekilicious" night began at Elia...

Upon entering, you see a mixture of a crowd from couples, seniors, families and friends dining and chit chatting their way through their meals. The Greek music in the background was a perfect mood setter and the place itself has a cute, rustic meets modern take on European style (much like their menu). The ambiance and look & feel already made me escape from Dubai's usual settings and took me to a European escapade - along the lines of Greece. My friend and I decided to sit in their glass terrace area which was beautiful. So homey and inviting and surrounded by trees and minimal views of buzzing Bur Dubai.

I know that Greek food traditions are similar to Arabic and so mezze was a must. You muzt mezze. Was that funny or plain cheesy? Now while we're on the topic of mezze and this is where you're wondering what we ordered & I was wondering what to order, this pops up on our table --> 

Eggplant salad, marinated olives with fresh baked bread. Okay let me break this one down for you. The eggplant dip was so smooth, full of flavors dancing in my mouth like olives, eggplant, garlic - just yummy. The olives were sitting in rosemary & garlic infused olive oil and the fresh bread had an assortment of carob (not pictured since this pic is the second round of bread), sesame crusted and olive sourdough. This was so good we had to tell each other to stop and save room for mezze.

Since we're on the topic of mezze, here's what we got:

We ordered the Tomato Kefte and Cheese saganaki. Looking at the kefte, I was afraid they were going to be flavorless or bland but one bite of this, and YUM. Super super crunchy (best part about it) and filled with delicious and simple flavors of herbs that go so well together. Doesn't need any sauce and was not one bit dry. Now I have never tried graviera cheese and was pretty excited about this one. I also appreciated the hefty portion they give you (since it is AED67!). The cheese itself was super tasty - salty, flavorful and delightfully crispy on the top from being baked. I also loved the balanced flavors of the tomato, garlic and pepper sauce that it sat on. Both these starters, I will definitely go back for.

At this point, we've done two rounds of breads and dips and two starters and I have to say we were 60% full. Note to self, eat less bread next time (let's see how that goes!).

So far so good. Here's where things started to fall a bit. We waited around 15-20 minutes for the main courses after our starters which meant we were getting even more full. We also mentioned it our waiter and the manager took note of that.

Once our mains did come, this is what we were about to tuck into:

Since the menu was split up into two: one being traditional Greek food and the other authentic with a contemporary twist, we decided try one from each section. I'm going to leave it to you to guess which one ;)

The chicken was cooked well and had flavor. The downside was that it was heavily coated with dried mint and was borderline bitter. The pita bread it was served on top of was too oily to eat. On a positive note, the crunchy onions went well with the chicken sewers as well as the tzatziki. The stuffed capsicum with tomato and rice was yummy and reminded me of homemade dolma. I prefer Iraqi dolma over this since I love the additions of meat in the stuffing and the sweet pomegranate syrup it's cooked in.

The second was a sea bass spring risotto with egglemon/'avgolemono' sauce. I didn't know what that was until I checked and it's pretty much the same meaning as it's name - a thickener consisting of egg and lemon. The sea bass was cooked well, however, the risotto was under cooked. Although the dish had good flavor and was almost there, the under cooked rice left you with a chalk-like taste. It's kind of surprising since the mains did come late. Since I ate the best sea bass risotto of my life last weekend (read about it here), that was the reference I was comparing this to and it was in two different playing fields.

We were super full by the end of our meal but the manager came
round and delightfully complimented us with two dishes of their milk pie dessert ('Galaktompoureko') as a sign of courtesy for the earlier delay. Although we were full, doesn't mean we don't taste right? :)

The texture was great since the outer filo pastry was crispy and browned with sugar while the inside was creamy and milky.

Their service, aside of the slight delay, was great and we were very pleased that the manager reconciled our slight issue with a complimentary dessert.

I am definitely going back to Elia to try out more dishes and absolutely love their getaway location and ambiance!

Total price breakdown below (for 2):
1 x tomato kefte = 23 
1 x cheese saganaki = 67 (A bit too pricey)
1 x chicken souvlaki = 56 
1 x sea bass risotto = 69
1 x large water = 15
Total (AED) = 230

I've rated Elia 4 out of 5!

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