Frioul – A Taste of the Mediterranean in Madinat Jumeirah


Its been a while, since I have last updated the blog – Hope everyone had a wonderful summer.  A quiet summer from me doesn’t necessarily mean I have been on a diet, and staying home – on the contrary.  To the shock of my cardiologist, my lust for gorgeous dishes has kept me busy.  Old favourites have been revisited (Mahesh Lunch Home – Superstar) and new venues have been explored.  There have been two definite outliers for the summer of 2014.  Two very different restaurants, with cuisines at polar opposite ends of the culinary spectrum.  Frioul is one of them – Dubai’s latest offering to the Gods of French Mediterranean cuisine.  What started out as my friends dragging me there kicking and screaming, led to one of the most delightful dining experiences I have had recently, and my adding Frioul to my top 5 list of restaurants to take my out of town guests to (in addition to frequenting myself).

I am not an easy person to deal with, when it comes to going to certain parts of Dubai.  I have traffic phobia – and one of the side effects of a Dubai’s hockey stick growth curve has been exponential traffic growth on the streets.  Downtown Dubai is avoided – as is the Marina.  I changed my barber of 4 years when going to JBR became mildly challenging.  You get the picture.  So when someone told me that a new restaurant was being planned for the bowels of the old Trilogy complex in Madinat Jumeirah, my first thought was hardly, “Giddyup”.   We were invited to the soft launch opening of the restaurant, but, unfortunately, due to work obligations were unable to go.  I heard mixed reviews – typical for a soft launch.  Needless to say, I wasn’t in a rush to try Frioul out when it opened to the public – parking in Madinat Jumeirah is usually a nightmare – there was no valet parking – and getting a taxi can be a very lengthy process.

This past weekend we were looking for a reservation for a fairly large group on a Friday night – usually not an easy order to fill.  Someone suggested Frioul – I, for the aforementioned reasons, flatly refused to go.  The Boss, in her usual subtle way, threw a glance over at me, and I knew I was in trouble.  So I reluctantly relented.

I am so glad I did.  When you enter Madinat Jumeirah, there is a set of stairs leading down (on your right), near the entrance to the underground car park.  Take those down and you will immediately see Frioul on your left.  The proprietors have done a wonderful job turning this space into a stunning, monochromatic, venue.  Open spaces, lovely white furniture, wonderful use of mirrors, and open kitchen on one side and a sprawling bar on the other.  My first impression – its empty – on second glance, no its not!  While other restaurants tend to cram in tables, Frioul has left ample space between tables, to let guests maintain a sense of privacy – somewhere where you can sit and speak openly with friends without having to worry if the person sitting 8 inches away from you, at the next table, car hear what you are saying.  Oh, and they have a jazz band and a phenomenally talented singer in house!  The proprietors have definitely spent some money on the fit out – and it shows – from the dining room to the washrooms – very elegant.

The staff was impeccable – friendly, courteous, professional and quick.  We were led to our table and seated – very plush comfortable seating.  We had a combination of couches and chairs and both were built to encourage the guest to linger – again, very atypical to a restaurant that this will be and has been compared to in Dubai – who it seems is all about the fastest turnaround possible.  A wide selection was ordered off the menu and we sat back to enjoy the music – its fantastic!  Old school favourites delivered in a flawless, silky voice by a seasoned chanteuse who knows she is good and has the confidence that shows that.

The bread basket comes out – not your usual white or brown – around 5 different choices.  What looked the most interesting was what the waiter called their brioche.  Didn’t look much like other brioches I have had – imagine Cinabon.  The small ones, not the giant ones.  Minus the fruit and raison.  Concentric circles of flakey, soft, crispy delicious delight.  Outstanding.  To compliment the brioche, we were served little plates of Fromage Blanc.



What a pleasant change from the usual various types of butter/tapenade that is served at these kinds of restaurants with the bread.  This was topped with some fresh lemon zest, which elevated an already creamy and tangy topping, which complimented the warm, flaky brioche perfectly.

As I had mentioned earlier – we did pretty much order everything off the menu.  Management was kind enough to send over a few things for us to try as well, on the house – very gracious of them!  We had:

Basil Crostini with Tomato Tartare

Poached Lobster, Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad

Scallop Ceviche with Oyster Mayo

Violet Artichokes, Sweet Garden Peas with Lemon and Basil

Seabass, Lemon and Fennel

Roasted Scallop and Shellfish Risotto

Spinach and Taleggio Garlic Bread

Baked Bone Marrow

Cote De Boeuf

Roasted Beets with Fromage Blanc

Salmon, Pan Fried Foie Gras, Carrot and Orange Puree

Sole Goujons, Yoghurt, Capers and Baked Potatoes

Red Prawns, Chilli, Mango and Mint

Steamed Cod with Lemon Grass

Mushroom Fricassee

As a whole, we had ordered entirely too much food, but it was all excellent.  It was delivered quickly, was cooked perfectly, servers were smiling and ensuring no glasses were every empty.  It would have been nearly flawless, if not for the Poached Lobster.  May as well get the comments on that out of the way, before waxing poetic about the rest of the meal.

Poached Lobster, Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad



So, where is the lobster, you ask.  Took us, and the waiter, a few minutes to figure this out.  Once we did locate the 2 small medallions of lobster under the mountain of tomatoes and peaches, I found them to be overcooked and tough – very chewy, and plastic, to be honest.  The tomatoes were very fresh and paired with the tart/sweet peaches well.  The salad was lightly dressed, which was just the way it should have been dressed – the intended sweetness of the lobster would have been ideal, had they not been overcooked.   I like the combination of the ingredients, and have recently embarked on a love affair with artisanal tomatoes – so this kind of hit the spot.  Hopefully next time the chef will actually remember he has the lobster in the poaching liquid – and not forget about it until its rubber.

Basil Crostini with Tomato Tartare – Very simple and very tasty.  CRISP Baguette slices topped with a basil pesto and served with a side of diced fresh tomatoes.  Great, clean way to kick off a meal and get the taste buds going.



Scallop Ceviche with Oyster Mayo – A beautiful, simple dish.  Lovely fresh scallop, sliced thin and served with some greens for a crunch.  Sweet, tender, smooth – excellent.



Violet Artichokes, Sweet Garden Peas with Lemon and Basil


Seabass, Lemon and Fennel – Another very fresh offering from the kitchen.  Seabass crudo with lemon and lemon zest – Tastes and smells just like you would expect a Mediterranean summer to.  This is an excellent plate.


Spinach and Taleggio Garlic Bread – Crisp, Garlicky, Cheesy – whats not to love?


Baked Bone Marrow – Unfortunately, by the time I got done taking the picture, it was all gone!  But it looks good, and was served with some crisp toast points on which the marrow could be spread.  Look at the lovely escargot on the plate as well!


Cote De Boeuf – Those who have read this blog before understand my passion for good beef.  I have always maintained that one of the best cuts of beef in town is the Ribeye at LPM.  I stand by that, but mark my words…….there is a new contender in town.  Cote De Bouef is a fancy name for a bone in ribeye.  This is tier 1 quality beef, folks.  Marbled throughout, melt in your mouth deliciousness.   Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the beef was well charred on the outside, and juicy, moist and red in the center – look at the way its glistening below.  Because I am as critical as I am, the only thing I could point out to the kitchen was perhaps they could pay attention to add a little more seasoning to the meat, as it was a little bland….but thats easy enough to rectify when you have such a perfectly cooked, high quality piece of beef – a quick hit of salt and I was on my way.  P.S. My son just looked at this picture, licked his lips and made my promise to take him to the restaurant next weekend!


Roasted Beets with Fromage Blanc – I’m not crazy about beets, but well prepared.


Roasted Scallop and Shellfish Risotto – What a lovely risotto!  The rice was cooked al dente, as I like it.  The scallops, as you can see, were cooked well – there could have been a little better sear on the them, but better to err on the side of caution and stop before they became overcooked and rubbery.  I liked the crunch of the carrot in the rice – I haven’t had this before, but I quite enjoyed it.  I can swear I tasted a bit of saffron in the risotto, which added to its luscious flavour profile.  I will be ordering one of these for myself, next time.


Salmon, Pan Fried Foie Gras, Carrot and Orange Puree – Nicely cooked filets of salmon served on a lovely, orangey carrot puree and topped with wonderfully rich, seared foie gras.


Red Prawns, Chilli, Mango and Mint – Though posted later in this entry, this is a very fresh way to start your meal.  Large, meaty prawns served on a bed of mango salsa.  Didn’t feel much heat from the chill, however – but I didn’t mind.  I liked the sweet backdrop that amplified the natural taste of the Red Prawns.  Very impressive.


Steamed Cod with Lemon Grass –  Lovely, flaky medallions of cod, steamed with Lemon Grass.  I remember it tasting very nice, and the cod being lovely and flaky.  But I wish I had paid more attention to it – the foam and the drizzle of what I am hoping is truffle oil looks very interesting.  I would order this again, for the presentation alone!


Sole Goujons, Yoghurt, Capers and Baked Potatoes – Frioul’s interpretation of fish and chips.  Fried goujons of Sole, crispy on the outside and moist inside, served along with baby baked potatoes and a yoghurt “tartar” sauce.  Very nice.


Looking back, in retrospect, at all the pictures, the menu offered at Frioul does seem to personify the Mediterranean, on a plate.  The dishes were elegant – simple – using the finest of ingredients.  I walked away stuffed, but not in a bad way – The food was light and delicious.  A few small tweaks here and there, are to be expected of a restaurant so early into its life.

When you say French Mediteranean, the obvious comparison always comes up – how does it compare to La Petite Maison in the DIFC.  Tough question – LPM has been around for years – Frioul is brand new.  Ingredients used are top notch in both places.  The Chefs are both very skilled.  I like the fact that Frioul has kept its menu unique – offering a new selection of dishes – other competitors have kept their menu’s very similar to LPM and direct comparisons are inevitable.  I think the valet parking option at Madinat Jumeirah will help traffic into Frioul.  But here is one thing that I think Frioul has going for itself – the vibe was very relaxed, fun.  LPM has become a tough reservation to get – diners are usually kept waiting for extended periods of time, well past their reservation time, while their table is prepared.  Service seems to be hurried, and it does seem that the restaurant feels you, as a patron, should feel privileged to be eating there.   This is a dangerous attitude in the service industry, where the fickle customer is king, and business can be easily lost if the right competitor comes along.  Granted the location for DIFC is a massive plus, I think Frioul could be this competitor.  I really enjoyed the feeling of the restaurant – the space given to diners, the attentive service, the live jazz music, the lack of post-work poseurs preening at the bar with their Tomatinis.  Look – don’t get me wrong.  LPM is consistently excellent – there is a reason why its the bellweather that all new restaurants offering a similar style of dining are judged.  What I am trying to say, that I’m a little done with the pomposity and the sheer effort that goes into a night out there.  I think Frioul offers a very relaxed alternative – and for this, I plan to be a repeat customer.

Frioul – Bravo on a job well done.  You have a restaurant you should be very proud of.  I wish you the all the best in your journey, and look forward to becoming a regular.


Ristorante Rinaldi – Roma

Feeling peckish for a late lunch, and dashing off to see the Coliseum, we asked our hotel concierge for a recommendation for a restaurant around the Coliseum (The Boy had to make his annual pilgrimage there.)  The concierge turned up his nose and recommended that we not eat in the immediate vicinity of tourist areas, but, rather, a short walk away.  He recommended Ristorante Rinaldi, a short 15 minute walk away, off a quiet residential street.  Due to its location, its a place that we would have never stumbled across, so we were thankful for the pointer and made our way over in a taxi.
The restaurant is quaint – and yellow.  We walked in, and walked down a flight of stairs into the main dining room.  The hotel had made a reservation for us, but the dining room was fairly empty, save a local family, out for a late lunch with at least 4 generations present, and a few business men lingering over a bottle of wine.  This place is known for its seafood, but, with the Boy’s allergies taken into mind, we were going to avoid that entirely.
I have found all restaurants I have visited in Rome very child friendly.  The Boy is 7 going on 24, and I always ensure I ask if they allow children when making my reservations.  The staff welcomed us with open arms – all smiles and warmth.  We were seated and asked which water we would prefer.  We were asked if we wanted a bread basket – starving, of course, so we insisted it be brought out immediately, which it was.  The menu was examined and orders were placed.  For appetizers, we had:
Smoked Fresh Mozzarella
Insalata Caprese
Smoked Fresh Mozzarella – Rinaldi has quite an extensive selection of fresh mozzarellas on offer, and this was one that was recommended to us as a Roman speciality.  Small mozzarella balls that have been wood smoked so they develop a blackened exterior coating.  Very interesting – texture, taste etc. was spot on.  But, a little too smoky for my liking.  The Boss and the Boy did not partake.
Bresaola – Air dried, salted beef – whats not to like?
Insalata Caprese – The classic Caprese salad – tomatoes and fresh (unsmoked) mozzarella.  Usually, when ordering this app, people tend to attack the cheese and the tomatoes are the leftovers.  Not if they ordered this – I have never had such firm, crisp, sweet and delicious tomatoes……ever.  I mentioned this to the waiter and he was delighted – he said the chef had selects the tomatoes for this dish and would be very happy to know that I had made it a point to compliment his choice.  Amazing tomatoes – I guess thats the beauty of cooking in an area where access to such amazing produce is availably.  Farm to table, at its finest.
For the main courses, we didn’t want to fool around with anything to complicated – simple pastas all around.  We had
Gnocchi Al Gorgonzola
Tonnarelli Cacio & Pepe
Spaghetti with Black Truffles (of course, ordered by her Excellency, The Boss)
Gnocchi Al Gorgonzola – I like chewy pasta.  I like Gorgonzola cheese.  Put them together, and you have this masterpiece.  It was excellent.  I could eat it all day.  Interesting point to note – while speaking with our waiter (we were discussing pasta – making it, cooking it, shaping it) he told us that the Rinaldi’s pasta chef has been with the restaurant for close to 30 years…….and he is Chinese!  Chinese I asked… an Italian restaurant????  He said something I completely overlooked – who knows noodles/pasta better than the Chinese?  CHURCH!
Tonnarelli Cacio & Pepe – The Boy wanted Mac and Cheese.  This is fancy Mac and Cheese – Tonnarelli, Pecorino Cheese and a little Pepper – thats it.  It was delicious and he ate it all.
Spaghetti with Black Truffles – This must have been good (I could smell it across the table – Truffle scent makes me happy) because The Boss finished her plate – this never happens!
No desert at Rinaldi – It was time for the Coliseum.  We were surprised by a complimentary plate of oven fresh cookies, dusted with icing sugar.  We had to order coffees to wash these bad boys down!  Perfect ending to a delightful meal.
I have to admit – I read some of the poor review on Trip Advisor when I got back home and was a little surprised.  I found the service to be flawless – speedy, friendly and very accommodating.  The owner and his son were around, and made it a point to stop by the table and share a laugh or two – as good hosts should.  The food was fantastic, the atmosphere very pleasant – it’s hard to ask for more in a restaurant.  This is a top notch establishment, and, unfortunately, with tier 1 restaurants, sometimes staff can be standoffish and arrogant.  But it is my experience, that people in the service industry treat guests in a reciprocal manner to how they are treated.  This is a restaurant where Italian heads of states and captains of industry entertain their guests – where to go when they want an excellent Roman meal.  If you show up in cargo shorts and crocs, expect a frosty welcome – as it should be.  The same would apply if I were to show up to a similar restaurant in NY, LA or London dressed in a similar way – except, they probably wouldn’t let me in at all.  Respect the establishment and be respected back – its really quite simple.
Food – Excellent
Service – Excellent
Atmosphere – Inviting and Welcoming
Fantastic restaurant that I will recommend enthusiastically to my friends.  Loved it.
Till next time!

Ristorante Agata e Romeo – Michelin Starred Roman Cuisine

Before heading to Rome, we had heard from a couple of different friends that we just had to try a little gem – a gem with a Michelin star.  Agata e Romeo is situated in a pretty dodgy area – this would explain the buzzer on the door – the door stays locked (see picture below)!
The taxi dropped us off – we rang the bell and were ushered in by the manager.  Its a small set up – a very intimate set up.  The open kitchen is in the front of the restaurant and is run by head chef and co-proprietor Agata.  The somelier/manager/order taker is her husband – Romeo.  They are the Agata e Romeo on the storefront.  There was one more waiter and thats it.  There must have been 6 covers in the restaurants while we were there.  Lots of personal attention, lots of fantastic recommendations and lots of smiles.  We were shown the menu and the choice was between going a la carte or taking the tasting menu.   Because The Boss and The Boy can be picky eaters at times, we opted for the former option.  
The Buzzer!
There was no steak on the menu – thank God – else, I would have been unable to resist defaulting to that choice – One thing I noticed from this summer holiday, and all the pictures I took documenting all of my meals, is that I eat a LOT of steak – like an abnormally large quantity.  I’m officially detoxing from red meat for the next 2 weeks!
The Boy said he wasn’t very hungry and wasn’t in the mood for a starter, so the two we ordered were:
  • Cow’s Milk Cheese Flan Served with a Pear Sauce
  • Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Ricotta Cheese and Safron Sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano
The starters were divine – so simple – prepared with such few ingredients, and every ingredient serving a definite purpose.
Cow’s Cheese Flan – This was served warm, and it was delicate, creamy, fluffy, salty, sweet – a flavour explosion that took a moment to really burst on your tonge.  A slight smear of the balsamic reduction onto the flan added a gorgeous sweet/tart dimension to each bite.
Zucchini Blossoms – We were told to order these, and I am so glad we did.  This isn’t something that would have been on my radar ordinarily – Zucchini Blossoms? Seriously?  Man – these were great.  You had to get through the slightly crunchy blossoms to get to the fresh ricotta.  I felt that the blossoms added more of a textural element to the dish rather than a flavour component – a great very slightly crunchy contrast to the smoothness of the cheese – a little chew, if you will.  The saffron sauce was rich and added a flavour blanket to each bite, wrapping it all together.  Would highly recommend this to anyone who visits.
For the main courses, we ordered:
  • Fresh Mezelune Pasta Stuffed with Buffalo Ricotta and Egplant
  • Spaghetti with Baked Small Tomatoes and Grated Salted Ricotta
  • Rack of Lamb with Aromatic Herbs, Potatoes Flan and Pistachios
Mezelune Pasta Stuffed with Buffalo Ricotta and Eggplant – This was magnificent.  If there could be an example of a chef who could take basic ingredients and elevate them to stardom, this is it.  The pasta had been freshly rolled – the Ricotta was light and yet creamy – the eggplant was mild, but present in every bite and the tomato sauce doing its thing – acting as the acidic ting to the dairy’s creamy yang.  The Boss had ordered this one – I finished it
Spaghetti with Baked Small Tomatoes and Grated Salted Ricotta – Fresh spaghetti, cooked al dente, simple olive oil, oven baked tomatoes that were sweet and tart and delicious.  And, topped off by grated, salted ricotta.  Parmesan, I have had.  Grana Padano, check.  Pecorino, check.  Had all of them on my pasta.  Had never tried grated ricotta, primarily because the only ricotta I had encountered was a very moist cheese made of milk whey.  This was a different type – similar to a ricotta salata – and aged, salted and dried variety of the run of the mill ricotta.  I found it less granular in texture than the traditional cheeses i have mentioned – very creamy, yet salty – very nice.  Pasta was the stage, the baked, intensified tomatoes were the star and the ricotta was the “glittery lights”.  All together, a fantastic production.  Bravo and Encore.
Rack of Lamb with Aromatic Herbs, Potatoes Flan and Pistachios – The lamb was my least favourite entree of the evening.  No offence to the lamb (or the chef), but I can get good lamb and potatoes anywhere.  This was excellent lamb, mind you – perfectly cooked, seasoned and presented.  But it was lamb.  The Boy, because he is as carnivorous as they can possibly come, ordered this, and polished it off.
On to the deserts.  We ordered:
  • Tortino Caldo Al Cioccolato Con Panna e Salsa di Ciccolato (essentially, Chocolate Fondant!!)
  • Il Millefoglie Di Agata (Agata’s Mille Feuille)
Agata’s Mille Feuille – No doubt the signature desert of the restaurant.  If you visit Rome, you should definitely visit this restaurant – if for nothing else than to eat this masterpiece.  This ain’t your neighbourhood Mille Feuille – this is one of the absolute, best deserts I have ever had in MY ENTIRE LIFE!  Again, not too sweet.  Stunning, flaky, crispy, light puff pastry with the most luscious, creamy, decadent custard cream – dusted with confectioner’s sugar.  So simple.  Unreal – look at the picture – its ridiculous.  I didn’t even eat the chocolate leafy thing – so can’t comment.  But this was amazing.  And it didn’t leave you feeling stuffed and ill – light, gently sweet and stunning.
Chocolate Fondant – Excellent.  The cake was moist and airy, the melted chocolate center was warm, gooey, and exactly how you would expect it.  It was semi sweet, and exactly as I would have liked.  Whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate sauce on a blue plate – a little 80’s in terms of presentation, but a solid desert.
This is not a restaurant you go into to gorge on massive portions and be rolled out of the restaurant.  Agata e Romeo is about elevation – elegance – simplicity taken to another level.  Refinement on a plate.  I couldn’t recommend it enough for anyone to visit while in Rome.  I loved it, and our family will be adding this onto our growing list of “must do” restaurants around the World.
Till next time!

La Giostra – Dining with Florentine Royals


Visiting La Gisotra is becoming a summer tradition for our family, so it was no surprise that we found ourselves there, again, last week.  What started out as a small experiment in turning a chef’s passion into commercial enterprise, has now become a veritable institution in Florence.  The chef/owner is a Hapsburg Lorena Prince, and the restaurant is managed by his family.  Celeb pictures cover the walls, posing with the management – not necessarily a plus, but something to help pass the time when you are waiting for your table.  Its a small space – 2 dining rooms connected together.  In the 16th century, this space used to be a storage room for the various parts (wooden horses, canopy etc.) that made up the carousel set up in Salvemini Square.  La Giostra actually means The Carousel.  Gotta have a little schooling before the food pics!

We had a reservation, and were seated almost immediately after arriving.  The menu really hadn’t changed since the previous year, with the exception that when we visited in 2013, Tuscany’s weather had been very Truffle friendly, so there were numerous specials relayed to us – all piled high with fresh Truffles.  Unfortunately, we were told that the weather had been unfavourable this year, and truffles were in shortage in the region – so a little less liberal usage should be expected – fair enough.  It was just the three of us – The Boss, the Boy and myself.  We ordered:

  • Beef Carpaccio
  • Burrata Cheese x2 (The Boss has a rule about the sharing of Burrata – she doesn’t!!!)
  • Ravioli with Pecorino Cheese (definitely the go to cheese of this summer’s Italian culinary journey) and Williams Pear
  • Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushrooms
  • 1.5 kg Bistecca Fiorentina served with roast potatoes


Before our order was delivered, we received a complimentary plate of nibbles from the kitchen. Two types of delicious crostini – 1 topped with a tomatoes and the second topped with finely chopped, sautéed chicken liver.  The bread base was crisp and light and the toppings were delicious.  The tomatoes were fresh (you will hear me rave about the tomatoes we had on this trip in later reviews too) and crispy and had a slight drizzle of olive oil and balsamic that just brought out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes, and didn’t overpower at all.  The chicken liver was delicious – very aromatic, rich, smooth and earthy.  Excellent.  Also we had some grilled peppers and eggplant – heavily spiked with balsamic, but fantastic – tart, sweet, soft and smoky.  In the foreground of the picture above, you all see something else – this was entirely forgettable….to the point where I can’t remember whether it was artichoke hearts or something else – it had mayo on it and should have been left off the plate, in my opinion.


The beef carpaccio – I had forgotten how large the serving was, so it was quite a surprise when this massive stainless steel platter (above) was brought to our table.  Too many greens loaded on top for my taste – made it difficult to find the beef, and multiple mini treasure hunts ensued.  Hunting aside, The Boy and I loved this dish – the beef was super fresh tasting, and the perfect bite consisting of the beef, cheese, and rocket trifecta was fantastic.  The beef was so tender that it was melting in your mouth – the saltiness of the cheese and the fruitiness of the olive oil bound the package together – a slight squirt of lemon juice brightened everything up, and put the bow on the package.


So, you like Burrata, and think you have had some good versions of it.  My friends, let me tell you – When you eat the Burrata they serve at La Giostra, you will realise that the great Burrata you rave about to your friends is, in reality, little more than a good quality plate of run of the mill buffalo mozzarella.  Look above – this mammoth size portion comes in a GRAVY BOAT (well, not really a gravy boat – but it looks like one).  There is very little firm outer layer of mozzarella, and LOTS of the delicious, creamy, luscious cream/mozzarella duo in that boat. It was served with a fig jam, some honey, and some blood orange segments.  As I had mentioned, The Boss doesn’t share Burrata, so we had two of these jumbo sized bad boys between the three of us.  Look at the creaminess of the Burrata (below) – it’s literally one of the best things I have eaten….ever.


On to the next one….


Ravioli with Pecorino Cheese and Williams Pear – This is  one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, and it is marvellous.  Fresh pasta, obviously, stuffed with cheese and pear puree, served with a cheese/butter sauce.  Simple. Elegant. The pasty had a nice chew to it, which I love.  The sweetness of the pear complimented the saltiness of the Pecorino – everything came together beautifully – truly delicious. Although a stand alone dish, we used it as something for the table – to peck on – because thats how we roll – literally – we rolled out.


Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushrooms – The Boss’s favourite.  I didn’t try it, but she was raving about it.



The  pièce de résistance – The Bistecca.  The traditional T Bone / Porterhouse steak cooked over charcoal to a perfect medium rare – we had to put in a request for it to be cooked to medium, as The Boy and I were sharing, and he can’t take medium rare……yet.  This was amazing – as typical with this cut of meat, we got both the strip steak from side 1 of the T bone and the tenderloin from the other side.  The meat was grilled over high heat – quickly, and seasoned simply with olive oil and salt.  It was fantastic, and we were unable to finish the entire steak.  We both sat back with our hands on our tummies, though – satisfied, completely.

Another magnificent meal, at La Giostra.  one thing to note, though.  This place is getting a LOT of coverage on sites like Trip Advisor etc., making it very popular with the tourists – some of whom are loud and obnoxious to start with, and get increasingly so as the vino flows.  Being tourists ourselves, its silly to point fingers at others in the same boat, but I really have little tolerance for such boorish behaviour.

In our case, we happened to be seated near some very loud and obnoxious people.  One party in particular, was most fascinating – lets call them party A.  They were very inebriated, and proceeded to get louder and louder as the evening progressed – F bombs were flying, regardless of who was sitting around them, waitresses were being harassed, bottles were being knocked over and raucous laughter abounded – kinda like a drunken tavern scene from Game of Thrones, minus Tyrion, the armour and dragons – also missing was knowing that the scene would end soon.   Enter Party B – a young couple in Italy for a week to celebrate their anniversary – she was a school teacher, off for the summer (teaching elementary school I believe) and he was an accountant.  They live in Manhattan.  All of this information….and more….was obtained by the interview that Party B was subject to by Party A – once it was established that they lived on the same continent.  Through further due diligence, it was determined that a member of Party A had actually been to Manhattan at some point in their life – this resulted in Party A dragging chairs over to Party B’s table and joining the dinner for two.  Party A lectured Party B (and the rest of us seated in close proximity) on US foreign policy and the supremacy of the “American Military Machine”, conspiracy theories, the backwardness of various countries of the world, Watermelon vs. Cotton Candy jelly beans, and how awesome it was that perfect strangers could meet for dinner at a restaurant in Florence.   Party B, by this time, wanted to jump off the bridge.  There were many interesting points made/allegations flung/and conspiracy theories offered – and one exchange with the waiter, I happened to document.  It went as follows:

Waiter:  Sir, would you like desert

Party A: You better believe it, man, but my Italian is crap so you gotta help me with the menu because i don’t know what the F it says.  

As my friend RM used to say – Quel Class.

Anyhow – back to the food.  Amazing Amazing Amazing.  Love everything we have tried so far that comes out of the question.  The service has always been excellent and everyone has been very welcoming.  Its hard to find fault with anything here – we love La Giostra and will continue to visit when we are in town and will also continue to recommend it to our friends.   If you find yourself in Florence, make sure you try and save an evening for a dinner with the Royals.  You will walk out stuffed and smiling – as it should be.   Truly La Dolce Vita.

Till next time!

Baccano – An Ode to simplicity

Gonna make this a quick one.  We arrived into Rome on a red eye flight from Dubai.  We love Rome, and try to make it here every year, en route to North America.  Fortunately, despite being overbooked, our hotel was able to get us into our rooms by 8 am – Amazing to be able to take a hot shower, and prepare for the day.  My son had made us promise that we wouldn’t make him take a nap, and we would get out into the city – so we did.

Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain – legend has it that if you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, a return trip to the Eternal City is guaranteed.  It’s worked so far, so off we went.  Mush to our dismay, the Trevi Fountain has been closed and drained, temporarily, for renovations.  There were a lot of very disappointed tourists mulling around – taking pictures of the works in progress – so, naturally, I did too.


Disappointed, and feeling just a little peckish, we thought we would grab something quick to eat, to tide us over until dinner.  We have all heard repeatedly that one should avoid any restaurants near major tourist attractions as the food is sub par and the prices are exorbitant.  We were making our way out, meandering through the lanes, working our way to the main road to find a taxi, when we cam across Baccano.  This is very close to the fountain, and there was wonderful cold A/C air wafting out, so we looked at each other, nodded Heck Yeah, and headed in.

Very bistro like set up, with a decent menu.  The staff was super friendly and accommodating – and definitely knew the menu well.  Very helpful, and understanding of our dietary requirements – Don’t Dig on Swine.  The Boy was not very hungry, The Boss just wanted something cold to drink, and me – I could always eat.

We ordered a plate of Beef Carpaccio, a plate of Burrata Cheese and a simple pasta – Cacio e Pepe.


Carpaccio – An Italian classic.  Raw, premium beef – sliced/pounded paper thin, and served with a drizzle of fresh olive oil, peppery arugula, and some cheese…and in this case, a pickled onion.  It was delicious – and so simple.



Burrata, served with an anchovy sauce (and some anchovy filets on top).  Some may hate the humble anchovy, but I love its overpowering salty and fishy flavour.  I had never had it paired with a cool, creamy burrata before, so this was a very pleasant surprise.  The cheese, itself, was very nice in texture – a very smooth, creamy inside, that had a mild, dairy sweetness to it.  The sharp flavour of the anchovies contrasted beautifully with the mildness of the burrata.  I’m going to try this at home – spread on a nice crostini, this would be delicious.


A very simple, traditional, Roman pasta dish – Cacio e Pepe.  Homemade Tonnarelli pasta, tossed with Pecorino cheese and pepper.  An Italian mac and cheese, if you will.  Couldn’t get more stripped down than this.  The pasta, itself was wonderful.  Tonnarelli is like spaghetti.  Home made, it was dense, weighty and had a slight chew to it – perfect.  Pecorino cheese is made from sheep milk, and is hard and salty. Pepper… well, its pepper.  Three ingredients – can make it at home.  Leave a tiny bit of the water that the pasty is cooked in inside the pot – add the Pecorino and some pepper.  The water helps the cheese melt and the starch in the water helps bind everything together.  Outstanding.

Great little spot, which was a welcome surprise being in such a touristy area.  Prices were average (everything looked cheap compared to Dubai).  Service was great.  Would recommend this place to all friends.

On to the next one – many more to come from our travels during Summer 2014.  Stay tuned.  Till next time.

Mahesh Lunch Home – Seafood Paradise in Bur Dubai


Thursday night – it had been a long week, and the weekend was here.  The Boss, B, says, “We are going to try a new seafood place in Bur Dubai!”  She swears I do something called an “inside eye roll” when I find her plans suspect (I don’t, for the record) – my friends, there was nothing as subtle as an “inside eye roll” when I heard this suggestion – it was an all out OUTSIDE EYE ROLL.  All I wanted was to curl up, in bed, watch the latex episode of Game of Thrones, order in a nice Doner sandwich and be asleep by 10pm.   The Boss always tells me that she is never wrong, and I should blindly follow her lead – a part of me wants to say no, but its hard to argue when its the Gospel truth.  So, Bur Dubai, here we come.

Mahesh Lunch Home Seafood Restaurant – now THAT’s a name.  Head towards Bur Juman Mall in Bur Dubai – this is across the street from it.  If you know where the original purveyor of Korean Fried Chicken goodness is (Kimchicken, AKA Bon Chon), this is right next door to it – in like with the Park Regent Kris Krin hotel (long names seem to be a neighbourhood thing.)  An average looking storefront – you walk into a holding area, which is tiny and holds a tank for live mud crabs, topped by a tank for live lobster………and a lectern like desk with a hostess behind it.  On my right, a small door leading to the dining room.  Kinda felt like I owed the hostess a password so I could be let into the back room of a China Town restaurant for the nightly, dodgy, game of chance.  My mind works in strange ways when I am sleepy – it had been a long week, remember?

Ok, so we get to our table.  Lots of families – lots of chatter – lots of smiles and general all-round feeling of mirth – a good vibe that usually preempts a solid dining experience.  A little background – I read on the website today, “Established in 1977 the restaurant has completed its Silver Jubliee i.e 25 years of serving its guest. The restaurant was started by Mr. S.C. Karkera.  The first Manglorean cuisine restaurant in Mumbai serves home-style food which tempts its guest to come here again and again. Mr. Karkerra himself have his lunch and dinner in the restaurant.”  Nice – a little provenance – a little history – a little pedigree.  Should be interesting.  The menu is extensive – primarily seafood based (as the name would suggest), with a few chicken and vegetarian options.  We stick to seafood, primarily.  There are 4 of us, but, as usual, order for 8.  Before I go any further, let me just say this.  If you like seafood, you MUST immediately make a reservation at Mahesh.  The service is excellent.  The atmosphere is casual and loud.  The food is OUTSTANDING.  Skip the appetisers and go for the crab and lobster.  The daal makhani was very respectable as well.

We get (apologies in advance for the quality of the pictures – technical issues with the IPhone):


Bombay Duck Fry

Crab Tandoori

Crab Butter Pepper Garlic

Prawns Koliwada

Prawns Tandoori

Pomfret Masala Fry

Lobster Green Chilli (or something like that)

Bombay Duck Fry (Bombil Fry):  To those unfamiliar to Bombay Duck (its really not a duck), it is the local name for a lizard fish.   The etymology of the term Bombay Duck is fascinating – if you get a chance, take a look at   I’ve heard of my mother rave about this dish (she was born in Bombay), but I had never tried it – when I saw it on the menu, I had to.   Very well prepared, but the taste didn’t jump out – a little bit oily, in my opinion.  I didn’t notice a defined flavour or aroma – just a well fried fillet o’ fish.  Not bad, but not a stand out.



Tandoori Prawns:  The prawns, albeit small, were very well cooked.  The chef knows his way around prawn, for sure, because the the prawn was cooked for just the right amount of time, avoiding the usual rubbery prawn that is served in South Asian restaurants, and the tandoori marinade added a slight heat, which one would expect.  I would have loved to have seen an option for a larger prawn on the menu – of course at a different price point – because I loved the marinade and the preparation.  I would have liked to see that paired with a more meaty, substantial prawn.   I think the combination would be dynamite.


Prawns Koliwada – Tasty small shrimp (pardon my interchanging use of the words shrimp and prawn), coated in spiced besan (gram/chickpea flour) batter, and flash fried.  Again, very well cooked, and a prefect little crispy snack to start of the meal with.  Unlike the Tandoori Shrimp, I didn’t find myself yearning for a larger piece of protein.  There were a nice size – perfect little poppers that bursted with texture and flavour in your mouth.


Tandoori Crab – The reason why we came to Mahesh – the crab.  We were told be a friend, that we had to order the tandoori crab and the butter pepper garlic crab at Mahesh.  This friend, HK, had been eating at the Mumbai branches of Mahesh for years, and was waiting for the Dubai branch to open – needless to say, he requires no menu when ordering.  The thing I liked about Mahesh was that there was no surprise when it came to pricing the crab and lobster.  The waiters bought out a selection of crab and lobster (live) and each showed a clearly marked price – the customer is free to choose exactly which one they want.  We picked 2 healthy sized mud crabs and a pretty giant lobster.  Crab 1 arrived – Tandoori.  AMAZING!.  The smokey fragrance it was infused with was intoxicating.  It wasn’t overly spiced, but had a little something on it that just lingered on your palate but didn’t bring enough heat to result in the delicate, sweet flavour of the delicious crab meat being lost.  The fragrance of the smoke from the tandoor permeated each bite.  This is truly one of the tastiest things I have tasted in a very long time.  Highly recommend this one.



Crab Butter Pepper Garlic – I loved the Tandoori Crab, and thought nothing could beat that.  This puppy came close – like within a hair’s distance from eating it.  It is DELICIOUS.  Not spicy at all, but as you can see from the picture below, LOADED with garlic – which I adore.  The garlic is cooked in the butter and pepper so its crispy (make sure you ask your waiter to spoon a mound of the “masala”, the garlic, onto your plate to accompany the crab.  Again, the crab was cooked beautifully and the crispy garlic was magnificent.  Highly recommend this one too.


Lobster Green Chilli – Again, delicious.  If I were to go back, I don’t think I would order this style of preparation again, however  Though it was lovely, I kept thinking through this course that had it been cooked in the Tandoor over, like crab #1, the result would have been glorious.  Tandoori Lobster.  This version had chopped up chunks of lobster in a tomato and chili paste.  Lobster was tender and the sauce was pretty good.  To sponge and scoop up various sauces we had ordered two different kinds of break – of course, the naan and something called Appam, which was entirely new to me.  Appam (pic 2 – not from the restaurant, but taken from the Internet) is a crepe like concoction, originating from South India, made from fermented rice batter and coconut milk.  Whats not to like, eh?  If you have ever had a masala dosa, its similar to the dosa component of that.  Very nice addition to the meal and perfect for the sauces and the daal.



Pomfret Masala Fry – I was expecting a very spicy dish, but what came out was fairly mild.  Slices of pomfret in a tangy tomato sauce. It was a nice – the sauce was rich and complex, and the fish just tasted fresh.  I love pomfret, and this was cooked so the meat was juicy and fall off the bond tender.  The Appam was perfect to scoop up the accompanying sauce, which was not runny, but thick.  If I were to order this again, however, I think I would ask for the sauce to be made with more punch – some more heat.  But all in all, a well balanced dish.


Hats off to HK for this amazing recommendation.  I see Mahesh Lunch House Seafood Restaurant definitely joining the ranks of my Go To restaurants in Dubai.  While sitting at the table, The Boss and I thought of at least 6 out of towers we just HAD to bring here for the crab.  Its a great place for a quiet, relaxed, casual dinner – no fuss and no pretense.  Excellent and quick service, outstanding food, weighty menu (which leaves me wanting to try new and exciting dishes on my next visit) and relaxed vibe.  Definitely going back.  Standout dishes – Tandoori Crab, Butter Pepper Garlic Crab, Tandoori Prawns and Appam.   Those will be staples going forward – rest, I look forward to trying.

Till Next Time.

Wingsters – “Say Hello To My Little Wings”


A quick shout out to Wingsters in the Dubai Marina – I’ve heard about this new place that’s opened up that has taken a very basic concept, and executed it flawlessly.  I’ve been saying for years that there is no real chicken wing place in Dubai, and there exists a gaping hole – I’ve told many an inspired restaurateur to adopt this concept and fill said hole – none listened.  It seems the people behind Wingsters ( saw a similar opportunity and seized it – good on them.   Chicken Wings, a variety of different sauces/flavours, burgers, shakes.  Simple. Easy.

One problem – its in the Dubai Marina.  Well, not really a problem, but a problem for me. People who know me know my thing – my aversion to the Marina and to Downtown Dubai.  I tend to have a strict no go policy to both places (exclusion for my barber, who happens to be in the Grosvenor House Hotel, and he I only visit early mornings on the weekends).  I just don’t do it.  If they deliver, awesome, but I ain’t battling traffic to go eat somewhere.  I had called Wingsters a few weeks ago, asking if they would delivery to my home in Al Barsha 3 – they said no – only Al Barsha 1.  This was a little baffling to me, as Al Barsha 3 is actually closer to them than Barsha 1 – but anyway.

So, today, I found myself, post haircut/shave, in the Marina area – the clock was creeping close to lunch time, and I had an inspired though – Wingsters?  Could I get some takeaway?  I hit up their Facebook page, got a couple of flavours of wings that sounded good, and put in a call to have them prepared.  Little did I know, that it’s so close to the Barber – I was there in no time.   For those who don’t know the location, head down the main Marina road (going from Dubai towards the Marina Mall).  Pass the Metro Station.  Look out for the SAS Radisson Hotel (there is a Mama Mia Italian Restaurant on the corner) – Make a right there and your immediate right again, so you are behind the hotel.  Wingsters is on your right.

I had ordered 3 sets of 8 wings – to get a nice sample of the offering.  I was concerned about the quality of the chicken wings – wings found in this part of the world seem to be, well, small.  I was curious to see what these guys would serve up.  It’s a organised crime themed menu, as promised by the name of the restaurant, their “Say Hello To My Little Wings” tagline, and the black fedoras the servers in the restaurant wear.  The menu has items such as The Don (Chicken Salad), The Escobar (A Beef Burger) and The Tommy Gun (Chicken Sandwich).  The wing flavours have unique names too – I ordered:

1.  The Godfather (Spicy BBQ)

2.  The Dillinger (Garlic Parmesan)

3.  The Hitman (Classic Buffalo)

They were boxing them up when I walked in – my first impression – nice – large styrofoam containers, a little plastic container of blue cheese dressing, some carrots and celery – promising, so far.  The wings were put into the container, and they looked good – I’m getting to a happy place now.   The proprietor was there and gave me a good tip – if the wings are cold by the time you get home, pop them into a pre heated over for a couple of minutes and they will come back to life.  Sage advice from a man who knows his chicken wings – if you put them into a microwave they get soggy and gross – ovens are the way to go.   Fortunately, they were still warm by the time I got them home (hint Wingsters – Al Barsha 3 is pretty close if you would like to include that in your revised delivery area :))

Before I get into how the wings were, let me share with you how I mentally evaluate a wing.  There is a science to the perfect serving of Wings – it’s not simple.  The key factors are:

1. Size of the Wing – The Meat / Bone Ratio.  We will rank this from a lowly 1 (the typical wing of a malnourished pigeon) to a mighty 10 (the Ultimate Warrior-esque wing from a hormonally enhanced falcon)

2. Sauciness – The Sauce / Meat Ratio.  We will rank this from an arid 1(show me the sauce) to a dripping 10 (would you like some wings with that sauce)

3.  The Delivery – The Drums / Flats ratio.  This is crucial.  An equal ratio of drums/flats rounds off an ideal wing experience – Don’t try to stick me with too many flats!

How does Wingsters score?

1. Size of the Wing – A very respectable 7ish – I’m impressed with the size of the wings that Wingsters was able to source.  Those who are Dubai veterans will understand why this was impressive – usually we get wings that can best be described as “toothpicks” (thanks Ahmad!).  Very meaty wing – both the drums and the flats.   You actually got a good portion of meat once you got past the crispy skin.  A lovely nugget of moist chicken, a bit of crispy, well seasoned skin, all covered with a coating of very tasty sauce.

2.  Sauciness – I like my wings more saucy than dry – I usually ask for some extra sauce on the side.  These were, again, a saucy 7.  Each wing was very evenly coated with a glistening coating of sauce, without the sauce pooling on the bottom of the container, getting the lower layers all soggy.

3.  The Delivery – Excellent.  Seemed like a 50/50 split.  Can’t really ask for more than this.


The Godfather – Look at these beauties glisten! What a rich, delicious, spicy, smoky, sweet and lightly spicy sauce this was.  A very robust flavour profile in a sticky, stick to your fingers kinda sauce, that implores you to lick you fingers clean when you are done.  Highly recommend this one.






The Dillinger – Very impressive.  Creamy, garlicy with a very pronounced parmesan flavour.  Even coating of sauce on each wing.





The Hitman – I was very curious about trying this flavour.  I’ve had many interpretations of a “Buffalo” wing through my lifelong chicken wing odyssey – my benchmark was the original wing, from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY.  Some were close, some, not so much.  Close doesn’t necessarily mean good – some that were close in flavour fell well short of some of the hotwing variations I have tried.  In my opinion, my perfect Buffalo Wing should have a butter based sauce.  Vinegar should be present – I should get a vinegar hit in the back of my throat.  There should be heat – I’m not heat crazy, so there should be a definite heat present, but I don’t want my sinuses cleared.   These were very close to my benchmark – As you can see, there is no thick sauce on these wings.  Butter based? Check.  Vinegar? Check.  Slight heat? Check.  This is a very, very tasty Buffalo style wing.



Sweet Potato Fries – Gotta have some fries with the wings.  Sweet potato? Even better.  Wingsters gave a little side of this chipotle aioli to dip the fries into – this is fantastic.  The Smoky/Spicy aioli contrasted and paired with the sweet potato amazingly well.  Definitely ordering these again.  My only recommendation – need more of the aioli – was very small portion – the container should at least be filled up to the top!


So – Wings were excellent. Fries were excellent.  Any downside?  I had two concerns.  The first is the side of carrots and celery.  Take a look at the pics above – especially the ones of The Dillinger.  Don’t think much more needs to be said about this – details, guys.  The second concern I had was the Blue Cheese dressing.  For the quality that was the wings/sauce, the Blue Cheese fell well short of the mark.  No chunky pieces of blue cheese that comes in a quality dressing – no sharp flavour burst in your mouth, as a backdrop to the creamy, cool dressing.   Weak dressing – this didn’t matter much when eating The Godfather and The Dillinger, but you need a good Blue Cheese to go with The Hitman.  Lets pick up the slack on this.

All in all, I wake up this morning, thinking about the wings I had yesterday.  It’s 10 am, and I just checked out to the website to see when they open.  I think I will be ordering up some more wings for lunch today.  Kudos to Wingsters to bringing quality wings to Dubai – it was much-needed.  I hope you keep the quality up, consistency high and widen your delivery area.

I woke up thinking about when I can get a repeat performance of a yesterday’s lunch.  That’s impressive!  If you like wings, you have to try this place.

Till next time.

Zuma Brunch – Brunching Like a Gentleman

In a city known for its numerous high-end brunch offerings, everyone has their go to spot.  Some like Traiteur in the Park Hyatt, while some swear by the Al Qasr Brunch.  Both, exceptional in their own ways.

Some like the rowdy kind, filled with a bus load of pikey types, double fisting Coronas while balancing a margarita or two under each armpit.   Not my scene.

Me? I like to roll with a little bit of panache – like a Gentleman….Which brings me to the Zuma Brunch.



This Brunch has become one of the hottest reservations for a Friday afternoon in Dubai.  It gets booked up super early, and you have to plan way ahead – good thing that I am a planner.  It’s a family affair – The upstairs private dining area is converted into a play area for the little ones.  My son, even though he is allergic to all kinds of seafood, loves the Zuma brunch.  Kids used to be free – but now, they are half price or something.


How it works is like so – All the favourites are laid out near the sushi bar, and downstairs, around the Robata Grill.  In the back, near the elevator, there is a desert station – so far, all buffet style.  You take what you want, and get to select a main course from the menu.  Pricing – three tiers – (1) Non Alcoholic, (2) House Beverages and (3) Champers.  The non alcoholic tranche includes unlimited samplings of Zuma’s famed mocktails, which are delicious and varied.

So, we sit down, and we are offered up some fried squid, steamed and spicy edamame, and some miso soup.  Drink orders are taken, and then we are free to get what we want from the buffet.  The favourites are pretty much all here – a very strong selection of sushi/sashimi/maki, some kobe beef shabu shabu, ramen noodles, the steamed spinach with sesame, seaweed salad, sliced sea bass with yuzu and truffle, various sorts of tartare, beef sashimi, gyoza, a brilliant mushroom risotto, the obligatory yakitori skewers – the list literally goes on and on.  If you love something at Zuma from the a la carte menu, it’s probably being served up in the buffet.  One of the most tasty things they do is they roast a large ribeye roast on the robata – slice it up a perfect medium rare onto your plate and give you a little pile of flour de sel – salty, crunch, moist – magnificent.


Steamed Edamame


 Spicy Edamame


Mushroom Risotto – This is lovely. The rice is cooked al dente (was a little underdone for some on our table, but I like it this way.).   The flavour is earthy and robust, and there is a hint of truffle that you can catch.  It can be a little tough to find for the first timers – here is a clue – look in front of the grill.  There will be a wooden serving bowl with a wooden cover – lift up the cover and help yourself.




The Maki Counter – Soft Shell Crab (my favourite), Spicy Tuna, California, Zuma’s classic Chirashi Maki, tempura, egg, eel, cucumber – if you can name it, the sushi chefs can likely roll it and serve it up.  Everything is freshly made – there isn’t an exorbitant quantity of few items, like at many sushi buffets, so it keeps turnover high and the servers are always refreshing the offering.  The rolls are tightly wrapped, the rice is subtly flavoured, and the main ingredients are left to sing their own glory.  A little dip of soy, and you are good to go.


The fried heads from the shrimp served up for the sushi – they may look daunting, but if you haven’t tried them, and like soft shell crab, you MUST!  They are crunchy and packed with the flavour you would expect from the heads of shrimp, crawfish, lobster etc.  At a crawfish boil, you pinch the tail and suck the head.  Try these ones too – they are surprisingly tasty!


This came from the robata grill – lamb riblets and seared scallops.  The lamb was outstanding – crispy on the outside and moist, fatty and delicious on the inside.  Scallops – of course, delicious.  Just lightly seared, so not to damage the delicate insides – still cool and sweet on the inside, like these gems should taste like.  People who over cook or over prep scallops need to be put on trial.


These may look simple but if you head to this brunch, make sure you get the grilled chicken wings.  These are delicious – nothing on the menu is over spiced, so if you are someone who loves overtly spiced food, this is not for you – ingredients are of the highest quality, and are left relatively un-assaulted.  You can taste individual flavours, layers and really appreciate what you are eating, rather than focusing on sucking air between your two eye teeth, because what you are eating is so darn spicy!  Back to the wings – charcoal grilled, crispy, moist – fantastic.


Beef Yakitori and Black Cod Gyoza – Superbly tender beef on a bamboo skewer and grilled – served with a sweet teriyaki type sauce.  Some on the table considered the beef to be vastly underdone – in all fairness, the temperature was close to rare.  Perfection for me is a nice medium rare, but I don’t mind if it skews more towards rare, and less towards medium.  I thought they were very nice.  Not a big fan of the gyoza (dumpling) however, as the black cod inside was a little mushy for my taste – I thought it was unfair to take such a firm, flaky flesh and turn it into mush.


 Ramen – Take your noodles, get them freshly heated, add some toppings and enjoy – not my cup of tea, but people seemed to enjoy it.


Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu – An elegant take on what has become a fast food phenomenon.  A chef takes a few pieces of kobe beef, takes them lightly through a broth, and serves them up to you in a little bowl, with some sauce.  It was lovely!


A slice of the ribeye roast on the robata grill, with some flour de sel on the side.


On to the sushi course.  Sweet Shrimp (Ama Ebi) Nigiri in the foreground – Sweet Shrimp is served raw, as opposed to regular shrimp (you can see it at the back of the plate) which is served cooked.  A little slimy, but sublime. You see a piece of Salmon (Sake) Nigiri, and a Spicy Scallop Roll to right.  Won’t get into too much detail on these – Zuma is a highly rated Japanese restaurant.  Rest assured, all sushi is magnificent.

Octopus (Tako) and Tuna (Maguro) Sashimi


The Spicy Scallop Roll


This is what it all comes down to! The Toro.  In Sushi making, the most valued ingredient comes from Tuna and is called Toro.  This is the fatty cut of the fish (most likely from the belly).  There are two kinds usually – Otoro and Chutoro.  Otoro is the better, MUCH more expensive kind – obviously the kind of the buffet counter was not this type.  Regardless, melt in your moth delicious.  Compare the colour of the Toro with the Maguro (Tuna) a few pics above – the Maguro is a vivid red – almost maroon.  The Toro is a light pink, with clearly visible marbling.  Texture wise, the Maguro is fleshier, tougher, more rigid, if that makes sense (it’s still lovely!) – the Toro is tender, buttery, melt in your mouth, and so rich.  This is magnificent stuff, which you must put on your gastronomy bucket list!


What happens when you take a regular piece of sushi, and gently torch the fish?  You get the Aburi style of sushi preparation.  The taste changes – you are not cooking the fish here, but merely caramelizing the very top of it – this elevates the taste to another level.  You get the fish, and the seasoned rice, but you get a new dimension of smoke, sweetness from the caramelization, and an enhanced aroma.  Very, very tasty.


Salmon (Sake) and Maguro Sashimi

After eating all of the above, if you thought you were done, think again.  Zuma has a list of main courses for you to choose from.  The Adults get to choose from the main menu, and the kids get a choice of mini burgers/sliders, fish and chips, nuggets etc.  My lil guy picked the mini burgers.  On the main menu, you have your choice of (cut and paste from the Zuma menu):


Spicy Beef Tenderloin with Sesame, Chilli and Sweet Soy – A Zuma staple.  A beautiful, tender cut of beef tenderloin, grilled and served with a sweet, and spicy sauce.  Very well prepared, and hard not to like.


Miso Marinated Black Cod, Wrapped in Hoba Leaf – Zuma’s version of the Nobu classic.  Very good, but as mentioned in my Nobu review, Nobu is still number 1.


Jumbo Tiger Prawn with Yuzu Pepper – Firstly, apologies – the picture came after I had already started pecking away.  Very nice sized Prawn, with the meat already cut into bit size pieces that make eating it with a pair of chopsticks very simple.  The Yuzu Pepper sauce provided a very nice citrus backdrop to bring out the delicate flavour of the prawn.


And finally, the little guy’s mini burgers and fries!

I’m not much of a desert person, as anyone visiting our home will tell you.  We always seem to focus entirely on the dinner itself – desert, when it is remembered at all, is largely just thrown together at the last-minute.   That being said, I didn’t take any pictures of the desert station.  They have the obligatory chocolate fountain, cakes and ice cream, but where there seems to be a large line up for is the belgian waffle station – waffles are made up to order, and there is a smorgasbord of toppings that you can pile on – from chocolate sauce and whipped creams to berries and other fruit.  The chocolate offerings are present, but me, the non desert eater, would like to recommend two things:

1.  Green Tea and Banana Cake with Hot Toffee Sauce – The cake is cut tall and some hot sauce is poured over it to order.  Its fantastic.

2.  Chawan Mushi – The egg custard – Its rich, and smooth and just amazing.  There is a passionfruit foam they put on top with some exotic fruits and it’s just magnificent.

So obviously, I like this place.  A fantastic afternoon our with my family to our favourite brunch in town.  Would highly recommend this for anyone who hasn’t tried it – you really can’t go wrong – everything is delicious.  A wonderful way to try out all of Zuma’s wonderful offerings, without going through the a la carte menu, one by one.

Till Next Time

Shogun Media City – Shoulda Called it Harakiri Instead

There are some old school establishments in Dubai, that are a part of most people’s restaurant rotations.  One of these is the classic Shogun, in Al Ghurair Center in Deira.   This is home to cook it yourself Korean BBQ – Kalbi and Bulgogi are the standards, and some like the chicken and shrimp too.  I, being a purist, stick with the standard options.  Some nice chill sauce, some crisp lettuce to wrap up the tasty, meaty morsels in, and some kimchi on the side – I’m Golden.  Shogun does a good job of bringing this to those of us craving Korean food in Dubai.

So, obviously, when we saw the signs that Shogun was opening in Media City, in New Dubai, we were ecstatic – the wait was on – and on – and on – and on – and on – and on………  A year plus later, we got the call from our friends, who live next door – it was open.  Plans were made, cars were loaded, and the short trip was made.  Nice set up – obviously some money has been spent on the interior.  We were seated, menus were provided and then the news was broken – no permits yet to allow for table side cooking.  The food would need to be prepared in the kitchen and then served – ok…….not ideal, but let’s go for it.

Out comes the variety of kimchi – overall, clean, fresh tasting.  Can feel the subtleties of the more mild varieties and can feel the punch of the more pungent varieties with ease.  Cool and crisp – soft and smooth – I liked it.


Some radish, some carrot – pickled with some chilli, hence the redness.  Not overpowering at all, but crisp, and slightly sweet, with a bit of an afterbite.


Bean Sprouts – Very clean flavours – nothing overpowering at all.  I like the cool crisp feeling of the sprouts in my mouth.  Defined flavours of sesame seed oil provides a background smokiness, which is very pleasant.


Bean Curd and asparagus – Didn’t try this one.  Not a fan of bean curd.


This was very tasty – never had eggplant served with kimchi before, but this was slightly stewed, which took away from the meaty texture that can come with eggplant sometimes.  Was very tender and cooked through.  Nice.



The classic, spicy, vinegared cabbage kimchi.  Strong flavours, crispy cabbage, good balance, and not too spicy.  A nice punch to the palate.

So why the negativity around the title you ask, if everything was good up to this point.  Remember, the kimchi comes out automatically, virtually immediately.  We are now about 9 minutes into the ride.  Minute 10, disaster.

The first thing we had actually ordered front he menu was spicy tuna rolls, just to get things kicked off.  The old Shogun has a surprisingly good sushi chef, so I assumed it would be a similar offering here.  Wrong.


Spicy Tuna Rolls – The rice was mushy, the rolls were opening up when dipped in the soy, the tuna just wasn’t seasoned well, and the hot sauce permeated through the rice (as you can see above) rather than staying constricted with the tuna mixture.  The parsley garnish was a little odd, also.  Ok, so not disastrous, per se, but the foreshadowing on what was to come was unmistakable.

For the main courses, of course we had ordered the Kalbi and the Bulgogi.  If any of you have been reading this blog since late last year, you will recall that I take my Korean ribs pretty seriously (  When I think Bulgogi I think perfection – a beautifully marbled piece of beef rib, cut thin so the meat is tender, fatty, juicy delicious.  According to Wikipedia, “It is listed at number 41 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods readers’ poll complied by CNN Go in 2011″.  The flavours are complex – yet simple.  Sweet Soy, brown sugar, garlic, onions, sesame oil – classic Korean BBQ flavours.  You grill it up so it’s slightly charred on the outside, yet medium rare inside – wrap it up with some rice and chill paste/oil in a crisp cool lettuce leaf and you have perfection.  This is what its supposed to look like:


And this is what we got:


Sorry? Are you sure this is the grilled Kalbi? Yes Sir….Kalbi.  Think of everything I described above.  Forget it.  Think greasy, oily, spicy, overcooked, stewed/stir fried, SPICY – this was more dopiaza than grilled Kalbi.  Korea with a 200 year stopover in Kerala, onwards to Media City.  This was not what I ordered.  They gave us the lettuce leaves, but I should have asked for some Naan bread.  Terrible – absolutely awful.

Bulgogi – Korea’s most beloved bbq dish.  Instead of using a rib, it uses thinly sliced rib eye steak or sirloin steak, but the flavour profile for the marinade is very similar to the Kalbi marinade.  Sweet-ish.   This is what was served:


This was best described by one of our friends as a fairly decent Tawa Gosht.  It was tough, spicy, oily and, all in all – miserable.  Just miserable.


The chill oil was the highlight of the meal – it was salty and spicy.  I spooned some on my white rice, and filled up on this.

New restaurant – teething pains – I get it.  Maybe I should give it another shot – A friend was told by the manager of the original that they were having some trouble with their meat supplier, and hence the inconsistency with the quality.  My question:  (1) Why serve it  (2) Doesn’t justify the horrible flavour/preparation.

I wish I could give it another shot – I really do – but I can’t and won’t.  There are too many good options out there for me to go back here again.  If I can make it better at home, I’m not about to pay for a mediocre version at a restaurant.  Sorry Shogun.

Till Next Time.

Royal China – The Emperor’s Comfort Food

RC Logo

Chinese food for me has always been one of my go to comfort food options.  Moving to Dubai from Toronto, I was used to a more traditional Cantonese/Hong Kong style cuisine,  given the large number of immigrants from that geographical area in the Greater Toronto Area.  The other variation to this style of cooking available around town was the Hakka style.  Lets get one thing straight – this isn’t your Chinese Hakka cuisine – the kind actually from China.  It’s the bastardized South Asian adaptation of the Hakka style – fried, spicy, greasy, cheap, and usually delicious.

My Cantonese local in the Toronto area was a very plain (read down market) restaurant that sat two steps down from the street, in a nondescript strip mall in Richmond Hill  – Simple formica tables with plastic chairs – each table with a stack of napkins, and a big jar of chilli oil – not just any ordinary chilli oil, but the most special variety.  This chilli oil carried some heat, for sure, but it was also salty.   Putting that over some white rice resulted in an amazing, smoky, salty, spicy rice/sauce combo which went just perfectly with all their dishes.  The roast duck, stir fried crab with garlic, steamed Grouper, lobster in black bean sauce – magnificent.  So, when we moved to Dubai, we found an abundance of Hakka Chinese restaurants (special shout out to Mandarin Tree in Al Barsha) but were struggling to find The One.  Then, it came.


Royal China opened a couple of years ago in the DIFC (of course).  I had eaten at the ones in London a number of times – especially at the Canary Wharf location, as its right between the office and the hotel I usually stay at, and is perfectly placed for a quick takeout on the way back to the room.  I have to admit – i always remember it being good, but I wasn’t jumping out of my seat, making a run for Royal China at the crack of noon,  in time for their first serving of Crispy Noodles with Seafood.   I thought I would make it over when I did – wish I would have made that first run, because I could have squeezed in a couple of more meals here.

My love affair with Royal China started with some lunch time pickups.  I make an order, and one of our runners would head down and pick it up for me (no delivery).  Next step, I made it in for a sit-down lunch, on a quiet Sunday – this was probably at the suggestion of ZA, who has his own special chopsticks reserved for him at the restaurant.  But, when it really struck home for me was when I brought my wife and 6-year-old in for a weekend lunch – though the fit out / location would make it a fancy shmancy place, I was so pleasantly surprised by the graciousness, enthusiasm, hospitality shown by the staff towards my young son.  We sat around a table, tried different things, and had a wonderful family lunch.   It has become sort of weekend thing for us now – we try to make it there whenever we can – and have a nice family meal by ourselves, or with friends – kids always welcome!  I remember the owner once mentioning that he and his family had a favourite place in London that they used to go to every weekend with the family when they lived there – they wanted to recreate that feel and vibe here in Dubai.  Mission Accomplished.

On to the food.  I found myself at Royal China, on the back of an invitation by ZA and AMA – kids and all.  Being open to anything, but just making sure that there was something for my little guy to eat, as he is allergic to seafood, I let ZA run with the ordering process.  Like LPM, there is nothing not good on the menu – you can’t go wrong.  Recently, I wanted something small and new to try – I ordered the fried tofu with five spice.  I don’t know why I ordered this, considering I don’t really like tofu, but I did.  Three words – FAN TAS TIC.  Squares of creamy tofu, quickly fried and dusted with a spice blend (I’m going to guess and say there are five spices in that blend??)  But, I digress.  So, ZA ordered up a big spread.  Some thoughts below:


Pan Seared Chicken Dumpling – My son loves this one.  It’s not sticky, because it’s not steamed, and anything he can pick up with his little fingers and toss in his mouth, is appreciated.  A staple on our table.


Crispy Shredded Chili Beef


Some Baked Pastry Thing I didn’t try – but sure looks good!


One of my favourites – Steamed Fish in Special Soy Sauce


Hot And Sour Soup – Normally, when served this kind of soup at a restaurant, I always find the need to doctor it with the house soy and vinegar and chilli sauces.  Not here – a perfect balance of hot and sour – just as it should be.  Consistency is perfect – not lumpy, clumpy or thick, as this soup can be at times.  Silky smooth with some beautiful, clean pieces of chicken and velvety tofu.  Perfect pick me up, and an ideal comfort food.


A Classic – Szechuan Prawn.  Lightly battered and fried jumbo prawns served hot and fresh.  Nice crispy bite and the sweetness of the prawn is visible from the start.  That gets offset by a slight, lingering heat from the chilli and the saltiness that is inherent in the background.


Steamed Barbecue Chicken Buns – My son can go through two plates of these in a sitting.  He LOVES them, and so do I.  The dough is steamed to perfection – light, airy, and definitely not doughy and heavy.  The chicken on the inside is sticky and sweet – together, its heaven.  He likes them as they are – I like them dunked into some chill oil.IMG_1781
Steamed Prawn Dumplings – Another must have when visiting RC.  Lightly seasoned prawns inside a lovely, slightly chewy outside.  Steaming hot (obviously) so be careful on the first bite.  I like them dipped in some soy, for some saltiness.  Lovely.

Amazing food, perfect service, super friendly staff, can’t go wrong menu, and the best Peking Duck in Dubai (which I didn’t order on this visit).  Family friendly on the weekends, but oozing class for a special business dinner as well.  RC, is my favourite Chinese restaurant in Dubai, and one of the go to places to take out-of-town guests when they are visiting.  Being in the DIFC makes it very accessible – I just wish they had delivery!  All in all, truly the Emperor’s Comfort Food.

Till Next Time