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.


La Petite Maison – You’re Still the One

La Petite Maison Logo

La Petite Maison, or LPM is it is fondly known, opened in Dubai a couple of years ago with a bang.  It was the restaurant that everyone was talking about – Nicoise Cuisine at its finest.  A little bit of St. Tropez in Dubai.  Here we are – March, 2014 – it remains the best meal in town – hand’s down – without a doubt in my head.  Getting a table on the weekends is close to impossible, but if you do manage to get a reservation, you can be assured that what you will be served will consistently be excellent.

So, the AB’s, ZA’s and the Clan M met up at the Jamil Naqsh exhibition on Saturday night for a quick look see on what was cooking in the world of Islamic caligraphy.  Underwhelmed, I was glad that the stunning Mrs. M had a lovely dinner lined up for us at a place I was looking forward to trying.  While we were wrapping up at the art exhibition, Mrs. AB got a brilliant idea – why don’t we all go to LPM.  Great – let’s do it – but wouldn’t it be impossible to get a table, for 3 couples, at the last-minute?   Mrs. AB whips out her phone, dials a few numbers and, BOOM – water into wine.  A table for 6 was made available – and not at some random time – 8.30 pm, sir – prime time, baby.  Alternate plans were quickly put aside and we made our way over to the restaurant, which was virtually next door to the Naqsh exhibition.  We were led to the back of the restaurant – The Chairman’s Table, suitable for at least 10 was waiting our arrival.

So we settle in, a bottle of still and a bottle of sparkling makes its way over – some other bevvies are ordered.  The menu is, and has been, pretty standard.  Everyone has their standard go to items, but i love trying something that I would have never tried on my own at LPM – just to see how the chef interprets these simple (simple does not equate to less than prime, in terms of quality) ingredients and elevates them through the stratosphere.   Food is served family style – for the table to share – so everyone gets to try everything.  Usually, I’m not the sharing sort – but I was guilted into it (actually, I wasn’t planning on sharing, but then I saw the lamb chops and the duck on the table, and decided to get guilted into it)!

For the starters and main courses we ordered:

Salad de Haricots Verts au Foie Gras

Betteraves Marinées

Salade de Lentilles Vertes

Ratatouille avec Féta

Burrata et Tomates

Carpacio de Boeuf

Crevettes Ti’des – l’Huile d’Olive

Risotto aux Champignons

Rigatoni aux Cépes

Entrecôte Grillée

Canard a l’orange

Pommes de Terre Gratinées

Every single item was sublime.  The ingredients were simple, as I mentioned before, but fresh, bright, and uncomplicated.  The dishes are not complicated in their presentation – each ingredient can be tasted and appreciated.  It truly is elevated cuisine.   Something as simple as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and feta – I had never ordered this before – it was amazing.

The pics and the breakdown:


Each table is set up with some tomatoes and lemon (Alexander McQueen clutch not included).  Just a little something to tide you over until the food starts being rolled out.  Get in there – sliced up the tomatoes, drizzled a little olive oil and lemon over them, cracked on a little pepper and some salt – delicious.  Then, out came the apps:


Betteraves Marinées – Marinated Beetroot.  This is a perfect example of LPM’s genius.  Who would have ever thunk to order this?  Not me.  Mrs. AB’s choice – a favourite, she declares.  You have never tried this before???? *GASP*  Me:  I am not a fan of beetroot.  Shut up she says – try it.  WOW.  There are like 6 pieces of beetroot shown, right.  They were marinated/pickled/brined so delicately – you got the sweet of the beetroot, you got some vinegary tartness which balanced the natural sweetness perfectly – never too overbearing.  This was amazing.  Soft without being mushy – wonderful flavour.  It’s really hard to describe the complex layers of flavour, because they don’t exist.  Simple food, simple ingredients – just elevated.  Definitely adding this on my list of go to items.


Salad de Haricots Verts au Foie Gras – Green Bean Salad with Foie Gras.  One of my favourite starters.  A green bean salad, lightly dressed, with some small chunks of foie gras tossed in.  Love the smooth texture of the foie while feeling the snap of the beans – the soft sweetness of the dressing marries everything together.


Salade de Lentilles Vertes – Green Lentil Salad.  The secret to this beauty is apples.  Lentils, scallions, red onion, celery (i think), marinated in an apple juice linked marinade, with some crunchy chunks of apple tossed into the mix.  The lentils are the definite star here, and the apples add a sparkle.



Ratatouille avec Féta – Ratatoille with Feta.  So, here was the surprise contended.  4 ingredients.  Eggplant, Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers and Feta.  Some olive oil.  Thats it.  Lightly cooked together to bring this masterpiece to light.  Unreal – the eggplant was meaty, without being tough.  The peppers were sweet.  The tomatoes still had some firmness, and didn’t melt into the rest, making a salaan of sorts.  The feta – wow.  Normally, I find feta to be overly salty.  It’s a crumbly cheese, particularly the Greek variety – the Middle Eastern types, less so.  This feta was smooth – velvety – a texture sort of like fresh cottage cheese, but without the “I don’t taste much like anything other than milk” vibe to it.  It was salty, of course, but not like the store-bought feta I have had.  Really very very good.



Burrata et Tomates – Burrata cheese with Tomatoes.  LPM must go through 90% of Dubai Burrata imports.  This is the KING of all LPM apps, and is usually a fixture on most tables.  A piece of burrata cheese, some sweet mini tomatoes, some basil and olive oil.  If you like burrata, this is some of the best I’ve had, anywhere.  If you haven’t tried burrata, and are a cheese lover, particularly if you like fresh mozzarella, you HAVE to try this.  Burrata is basically a pouch of fresh mozzarella, filled with pieces of mozzarella and cream.  Its unbelievable.  The creaminess of the cheese paired with the brightness/sweetness of the tomato is divine.


Carpacio de Boeuf – Beef Capriccio.  Raw beef, pounded paper thin and served with Olive Oil.  Whats not to love.



Crevettes Ti’des – l’Huile d’Olive – Prawn in warm olive oil.   If the burrata is the King, then, this appetizer is most definitely the Queen.  4 jumbo pieces of prawns, sliced in half, and served very very lightly poached in a warm, lemony, olive oil.  You think this would be greasy, soggy, and heavy – think again.  The prawns are sweet and keep their unique texture.   The olive oil is wonderful, and with the lemon, you not only want to keep dipping the prawn in it while eating it, you want to mop it up with the fresh bread that is served.  5 stars.

On to the main courses:


Risotto aux Champignons – Mushroom Risotto.  Not one that I order, but something that the boss, a.k.a. Mrs. M, loves.  Very smooth and creamy, the risotto.  Great earthy flavour of the mushrooms.  A warning – if you are someone who likes their risotto rice cooked through until its soft, this is not one for you.  The rice is served quite al dente – I am partial to this, but some on the table were not.  Delicious, but just a heads up.


Rigatoni aux Cépes – Rigatoni Pasta with Mushrooms.  Again, a favourite of Mrs. M.  She and Mrs. ZA ordered this and the risotto to share between themselves.  Didn’t really taste this, but it smelled good.  The ladies liked it.


Entrecôte Grillée – Grilled Ribeye Steak.  La Piece de Resistance.  In a city with numerous (not all great) steakhouses, its ironic that the best steak in town can actually be found at a restaurant that does not bill itself as a steakhouse.   Now, don’t get me wrong.  You can get a fantastic meal at Ruths Chris, the Rib Room, Center Cut or Seafire (and some even swear by the old school joints on the other side of the bridge) – but trust this die-hard carnivore and beef enthusiast when he tells you – this is THE best steak in town.  A succulent piece of tender beef, stunningly laced with ribbons of fat that melt through the muscle and give every morsel that enters your mouth a tender explosion of beefy, salty goodness.  A nice, easily removable, fat cap, which I personally love to eat rests around the steak.  Not marinated – just seasoned with salt. Served with a mustard sauce, of sorts.  This is living, ladies and gentlemen.  I like my beef medium rare – perfectly cooked – nicely seared on the outside, while keeping the centre a mouth-watering red.  I love this, and my fellow beef enthusiast from Karachi, the Prince of Chiniot, AA, will agree with everything written above!


Canard a l’orange – Duck with an Orange Sauce.  Usually, when you get served Duck a L’orange, you end up with a sickly sweet, goopy sauce onto of either a well cooked or crap cooked piece of duck.  I like duck – some don’t, but I’m rather partial to it.  But, i tend to stick to ordering a pan seared beast of Muscovy duck or something, and away from the goopy sauces.  This was a choice of Mr. AB, who insisted that we try it.  I’m impressed.  The sauce did have a sweet undertone to it, but it was hardly overpowering.  It actually suited the duck perfectly, because rather than the fatty breast meat, we had two lean leg pieces, and the slightly sweet orange sauce complimented the earthy dark meet very well.  The duck was cooked perfectly – the outer bits were crispy, while the inside was moist, flavourful and tender.  Very nice.


Grilled Lamb Chops – I think the picture speaks for itself.  These were amazing, meaty, tender lamb chops, perfectly grilled.  Delicious.  No heavy spices – very simple.  A little mint sauce on the side.  Excellent.


A little Pommes de Terre Gratinées (potato gratin) on the side.  Feasting.

Then, it was desert time!


French Toast – I love French Toast, you say.  I remember my mother making it for me, while I was still in school.  A couple of pieces of white bread, dipped in a sweet eggy milky batter then fried.  Heaven on a plate right?  ALMOST.  The LPM French Toast, my friends, is truly heaven on a plate.  Do you see the caramelization on the top of the brioche?  Soft, moist, sweet (but not over sweet) – a little bit of bitter crispness on the outside, where the sugars did exactly what they were supposed to do.  I didn’t eat the ice-cream, but usually its cinnamon flavoured.  I know some people are thinking – French Toast?  For desert? Fine dining?  Listen – don’t even think about it – when you find yourself eating at this restaurant (and, I mean, why wouldn’t you – either you are already a fan, or you have seen the pictures/descriptions above and have handwritten it into your bucket list – right at the top) just get the French Toast.


Usually, its the French Toast for me, when at LPM.  So, Mrs. M was in the mood for something chocolatey – and ordered the Mousse.   My friends, this is no ordinary, gelatinous mousse.  What arrived, as you can see above, is a mousse/soufflé hybrid. Oven baked, obviously, with a soufflé like crust on top.  So, I’m thinking….this is mousse?  I dip my spoon, crack the crust, and lurking underneath is the most luscious, velveteen dark chocolate mousse you have ever seen.  The crust, in itself, is delicious, but the inside – like a fine piece of dark chocolate, not too sweet, melting over your tongue, minus the textural viscosity and denseness that comes with fine dark chocolate melting on your tongue.  This was lighter – easier to eat bowls of.  Excellent.

Finally – Mr. AB was insistent that we try the cheesecake.  I love cheesecake, but after such a large meal, I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy desert.  He insisted that we get a piece – Mrs. AB insisted that she would get her own, as sharing deserts was not an area where compromises were made.  This beautifully symmetrical piece of cheesecake comes out with some strawberry compote on the side.  Good looking – do you see the thickness of the crust – paper thing.  I’m intrigued.  But, how will the filling be? Will it have the usual thick, heavy texture (not that I don’t like the Cheesecake Factory style cheesecakes – I am just too full by this time)?  The first bite was magical – again, not too sweet (this seems to be a theme through all the deserts at La Petite, and I like it).  The inside was light, creamy, but LIGHT!  A vanilla flavour – you can probably see the specks of vanilla bean in the filling above.   Truly outstanding.  Both the chocolate mousse and the cheesecake were new experiences for me – I’m still going to get the French Toast, but I will stop and think for a few minutes.  Maybe I’ll get all three?  Most definitely #firstworldproblems.

I concluded this a long time ago – but this conclusion was further supported by my going deeper into LPM’s menu on this visit.  There is not a bad dish on the menu.  You don’t like a particular ingredient?  At LPM, you probably will.  It’s unbelievable how the kitchen maintains the consistency it does, for as long as it has.  I had heard that a number of the employees had left to join another restaurant in Dubai, that opened fairly recently – you honestly, wouldn’t know it.  LPM hasn’t missed a beat, and the customer’s are still in love.  You will find me eating here, as often as I can, for as long as the guys here continue to do what they do best.  LPM, you’re still the one.

Till Next Time.