The Act – Stage Fright From The Get-Go!





The Act in the Shangri La hotel in Dubai opened to much fanfare around a year ago – another supper club type concept, that seem to so en vogue these days – a high end meal with some entertainment to enjoy.   The restaurant to convert into a nightclub around the bewitching hour.  I can’t believe it took me so long to make it over here, but, finally we decided to make a reservation for a Thursday night for dinner.   I don’t like being late, especially if I have a table reserved at a restaurant – unfortunately, sometimes, sh1t happens.   On that particular night, we caught some traffic almost immediately in front of the hotel, which prevented us from making it into the parking area on time, and we were running around 15 minutes late.   Now, i would have usually called, but as I had not made the booking (it was in my name, with my number provided), I didn’t have the number handy.  So, my phone rings – hello?  Its one of the hostesses – I get absolutely chastised!  Scolded like a little child – Asked if i knew it was rude to be late, and I should never be late again, should I book a table there again!  Absolute disbelief silenced me for a second, and then as I was about to launch into a tirade, I remembered – there were around 5 other couple who were hoping to enjoy a fun night out, and my verbally undressing the person on the other end of the phone would only prevent any chance from this happening.  So, I told them I would be there shortly, and hung up.


We got up to the restaurant with the rest of our party, and behind 2 non-descript doors, with the signs reading “No Photography” we walked into the venue.  First impression – very nice – set up like an ornate theatre, with the stage in the front, dinner tables scattered through the room, some lounge tables interspersed, and a balcony upstairs, with what I assumed were lounge tables.  I had a quick word with the manager when we walked in, explaining to him my disappointment with the way one of the staff had behaved on the phone, and he was deeply apologetic.   He led us over to the table that had been reserved – the table was in line with the stage – What?  How are we supposed to watch the show if we are seated exactly stage right – in line with the end of the stage?  By this time, I was starving, and couldn’t have cared less – I just wanted to eat and leave.  The ladies told the manager that the table was unacceptable, and after what seemed like an eternity of back and forth (part of which included one of the waitresses copping major ‘tude) we were moved to a table immediately in front of the stage.   Great – lets order.  The menu offers diners a tasting menu – 3 options for the table – 3 starters, 3 main courses / 4 starters, 4 main courses / 5 starters, 5 main courses.   We went for the 4/4 option and got to selecting – I don’t get this sharing concept – what can’t I just get what I want to eat?  Why make things more complicated than they need to be?  Ok – whatever.  I honestly can’t remember what we ordered to eat – it was that forgettable.  The ceviche appetisers were actually quite good – everything else was just blah.  I wish I could provide more, in terms of details – I feel like I’m not doing this review justice, but, honestly, blah is a good adjective.




Salmon Tartare served on a crispy wonton




Ceviche with Wasabi – Yellowtail 


Eggplant Carpaccio


Grilled Asparagus with Truffles – The highlight of the meal


Tagliatelle with Mushrooms, Truffle and Chili Paste


Grilled Lamb Chops (I seem to be consuming a lot of lamb chops!)


Potato Gratin


Burrata – Ol’ Faithful

I didn’t even take a picture of the deserts – I was that unimpressed.  I remember we ordered the Tres Leches cake – I remember being excited about getting this – I was disappointed.  If you have never had the opportunity to taste good Tres Leches (Three Milk) cake YOU MUST!  Its sponge cake thats been soaked in 3 kinds of milk (evaporated, condensed and cream) – its super moist (as something soaked in milk would be) – what we got was dry and crumbly.  If you want good Tres Leches, go to Maria Bonita’s Taco Shop in Umm Suqeim – now THAT’s some cake!

The show?  The performers were good – good singing, nice acrobatics – started too late, and by that time, I was so PO’d that we could have had anything on that stage, and it’s impact would have been reduced.  Apologies to the performers – I know you work super hard, but the evening was doomed from the get-go.

Till Next Time (though not at The Act)


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.

Gymkhana London – Tasty Treats in Mayfair (served with a side of *snap* attitude)

I was in London last week, and was fortunate enough to be invited out with some colleagues for a dinner at one of the most celebrated and lauded new restaurants in town.  There is obviously no shortage of ritzy, high end Indian restaurants in London, and after having eaten at the likes of Michelin starred Tamarind, Benares and Quilon in the past, I have got to say – I’m not a fan.  Eating desi food is an experience best enjoyed away from starched white tablecloths, sommeliers, and tasting menus.  There is something special in indulging in a steaming bowl of Chicken Karahi, street side in old Lahore.  Something irreplaceable about ripping open a hot Paratha, fresh out of the fryer and breaking off a juicy chunk of Seekh Kabab, precariously balanced on the hood of your car in the old hood of KDA, Karachi.

Getting both complete experiences for a sum totalling what you would pay for one1 naan at any of the above restaurants makes them all the more fantastic.   Call me old fashioned but desi food, when served, should be hot, delicious, spicy, aromatic, unforgettable, addictive and plentiful – my mother always used to say that any dinner was only successful if every guest raved about the food, and no one ever had to think twice when going for seconds.  The bottoms of the serving dishes should never be seen – PLENTIFUL, being the key word!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  Gymkhana has been lauded by the critics – its tasting menus and innovative cocktail menus heralded.  When I heard we were going here (another two people had suggested that we go here while I was in London, by the way), of course I went through the website and clicked on the menu.  It was evident from what I had read that the tasting menus were the way to go – now, whether to pick the regular one or the one that focused on game, was the question that needed answering.  I am a big fan of game – I love the Teetar and Batair masala you get prepared when out for on a hunt.  Venison cooked any which way is superb, as is Goose and Duck.  Rabbit, pheasant, quail, partridge, deer – all amazing.  Also, not very PC, but if you haven’t tried Assafeer – little larks threaded onto a skewer and grilled until crispy (delicacy in the mountains of Lebanon), which are eaten bones and all, you are really missing out!

So, I get to the restaurant, which is a quick walk around the corner from the Green Park tube station.  Fairly non descriptor entry, with a lovely hostess in a sari who greets you warmly.  The room has a very colonial feel to it – could be one of the dining rooms at Sindh Club in Karachi.  Lots of pictures of cricketers on the wall, and its obvious the proprietors have paid attention to minute detail – from the furnishings, to the pictures on the wall, to the toilet tanks, which were reminiscent of my Grandfather’s house, back in the day.  I’m sure these toilet tanks are not available in your neighbourhood Home Depot – very cool.

Toilet Tank

As we were a party of 9 or so, a special private dining area has been reserved for us.  We were led to the back of the restaurant and down a couple of steps into what can best be described as “cavey” type of room.  Low ceilings, VERY dark, mock stone low ceiling.  Immediately one of the members of the party asked if we could get the dimmer turned up, as it was difficult to read the menu……..crickets…….no response.  Sorry about the terrible picture, but you can get an idea of the room below:


It was a good thing we had opted for the tasting menu, given that the lighting situation was dim.   The game menu was not in the cards, as most of the diners had opted for the regular tasting menu – I decided to join my colleagues and try the regular tasting menu.  The menu was as follows:

Tasting Menu – GBP 55.00
Potato Chat, Chickpeas, Tamarind, Sev
Gol Gappa
Lasooni Wild Tiger Prawns, Red Pepper Chutney
Gilafi Quail Seekh Kebab, Pickled Green Chilli Chutney
Kasoori Chicken Tikka, Sprouting Moong Kachumber
Kid Goat Methi Keema, Salli, Pao
Butter Chicken
Butter, Pepper, Garlic Crab
served with Dal Maharani, Wild Mustard Baby Potatoes – Bread Basket or Basmati Rice
Chestnut and Date Kheer
Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Falooda

We were offered a lovely basket of Papad – Papadoms.  There was a selection of chutneys in which to dip the papad too.  Papad were nice – like papad should be.  The Chutneys were also tasty  – I remember there being one spicy, shrimpy one, which was my personal favourite.


Course 1 – a fairly simple chaat.  Sweet, tart, spicy – tasty overall, but nothing out of the ordinary, really.  I can get comparable chaat at Bombay Chowpatty or Flamingo in Karachi.  The table was hungry, coming straight after work, so the little plates were wiped clean fairly quickly.  I wouldn’t attribute this to fundamentals – merely a market technical.


Course 2 – Gol Gappas.  I don’t think this was a course, as such – probably one plate offered up to a diner who had opted for the vegetarian option.  It was devoured by the table, and I don’t know if the guy who had ordered them even got to taste them.  Nice crisp shells, well cooked chickpeas, and a lovely, cool, spicy, tart pani (sauce) served in a convenient container to allow ease of pour into the shells.  How quickly these were lifted can definitely be attributed to fundamentals.

Pani Puri

Course 3 – Grilled Prawns.  Serving size, 1 per person (though some devious participants took down 2+ each, leaving others who were on the phone with their palates longing for the taste of grilled shrimp!  Tandoori type flavour, well seasoned without being overpowering, and, in my opinion, the most important factor to consider when considering grilled shrimp – not overcooked at all.  Very delicate balance of flavours – the spice from the marinade offsetting the sweet flesh of the shrimp perfectly.  I would have loved to eat a dozen of these as my meal.


Course 4 – Quail Seekh Kabab.  Of all the dishes that were served to us, this was my least favourite.  Seekh kababs are supposed to be served hot, glistening with fat, just off the coals.  Quail is a lean, dry meat.  Grinding it up, putting it on skewers and putting it over coals, in my opinion, is a terrible way to prepare this delicate bird.  There was no fat in the meat to self baste, and what it resulted in was a dry, brittle kabab which tasted over spiced, as there wasn’t the fat to offset the spice.   Not a fan.

Seekh Kabab

Course 5 – Chicken Tikka.  Very tender pieces of boneless chicken grilled up in a traditional chicken tikka marinade.  Extremely flavourful, moist, tender and delicious.  My only complaint – one little piece per person.  Again, I could have made a meal of these alone, given the chance.

Chicken tikka

Course 6 – Kid Goat Keema.  Second least favourite.  Was ok, but by this point I was starving and the tiny little bite size courses that preceded this just were not cutting the mustard.  This was served with one little piece of Pav bread for each person.  The Pav was delicious – buttered and toasted, and reminiscent of a nice brioche.  The table agreed – a basket of these to eat the keema would have been better suited.  When we made a joke or two about this to the waiter, we were reminded that this was a tasting menu and this is how things were done!  This was not appreciated, and this kind of behaviour (not an isolated occurrence) is what put a damper on my evening.  I’ll get more into the service towards the end of this piece.



Course 7 – Butter Chicken.  The alternative to this, which was on the menu, was Pork Vindaloo.  As there were few pork eaters on the table, we decided to opt for an alternative, and the butter chicken was brought to the table.  It was fine – like butter chicken – smooth, creamy, slightly sweet.  Chicken was not overcooked, and retained its moisture well.

Butter Chicken

Course 7/2 – Butter, Pepper, Garlic Crab.  Underwhelming.  The crab was shelled, of course.  Wouldn’t have imagined it coming with the shell.  The dish was a little mushy and greyish looking – not the most visually appetising entree.  I had a little bit, and left the rest – the others didn’t seem to enthused by this either.


Along with course 7, we were served various other little vegetarian dishes.  Some Daal Makhani (called Maharani here), some Potato Sabzi and a large bread basket.  I like my naan to be fluffy, slightly chewy on the outsides and crisp in the middle.  The naans here were crispy all the way through – not my cup of tea.  The Daal was actually very good – but I have a soft spot for Daal Makhani anywhere.  The Potatoes were not bad either.  It was good to finally get a desi style meal that i was used to seeing, with all the food on the table at once, rather than being served piecemeal.  My conclusion was that Indian/Pakistani food is supposed to be served together – appetizers, main courses and even desert.  There are some of us who are used to eating a little halwa before actually moving on to the more savoury stuff.  We like a cornucopia of yummy treats served to us, family style, not tasting menu style, where we can eat with friends and loved ones, and share numerous laughs.  These large feasts sum us up, as a people (not the angry faces you see on CNN).

Mix Plate

The bread basket

Bread Basket

Finally, it was desert time.  I’m not a huge desert fan, but I have to say – the Kheer was SWEET.  Like go see a dentist before dinner is done, sweet.  The taste was pretty rich and creamy – tasted great.  But just left my teeth aching, even after I had a tiny spoon full.


So – lets bring this to a close.  The food, individually, pretty good.  Well seasoned, well cooked, well presented.  Good.  The entire service – I’m not a fan.  As I mentioned, I don’t think desi food was meant to be served like this – cheap, plentiful, hot, spiced and served with chewy fresh naan.  That’s my sweet spot.

Lets get on to the service – as I had mentioned earlier, the table made a few jokes with the waiter about how long it was taking for each course to come out, the size of the portions etc.  He snapped back and pretty much told us that you could take the boy out of Karachi but couldn’t take Karachi out of the boy – tastings menus are supposed to be like this, my country bumpkin friend.  Cool.  He then seemed to go and tell his manager, who proceeded to storm into our dining area and say that he had heard we were not happy with the size of the portions – if we were not happy all we had to do was tell him, and he would just get us more.  We were a little taken back with the aggro behaviour – but asked him to move along.  You may have the serving style down for Mayfair, Hero, but you need to fix the attitude.

Then there was that damn incessant knocking.  Behind us, in the area heading into the main dining room, there was a wooden door.  I don’t know if someone was held prisoner down there, or what the heck was actually going on, but every few minutes, someone would knock, LOUDLY, a few times……..knock knock knock……then silence.  Creepy.   Annoying too.

So, would I go back again?  Look – you can serve me the best food in  the world – if the staff have a poor attitude, I’m out.  You lost me.  I ain’t never coming back.  Its not like I am being served some El Bulli type fare – this is Indian food.  Options are plentiful, and butter chicken is butter chicken, for the most part.  So, I guess the answer is no.  As my friend MN said.  Seller.  In Size.

Till next time

Nobu – Often Imitated, Never Duplicated (#Firstworldproblems)


For all the Zuma and Okku nuts out there, let me break the pecking order down for you:

  1. Nobu
  2. have to leave a spot
  3. Zuma
  4. Okku

WHAT??? But Zuma is so happening!  Have the seen the crowd at Okku?  My friends….this is mytastingmenu…..not mysocialdiary.   Bar none, Nobu wins the culinary battle 10 times out of 10.   I mean, talk about first world problems – don’t think you can go wrong with any of the above, but when it comes down to short straws, Nobu is King.  Zuma and Okku have more ambience and scenery – but Nobu has soul, depth, gravitas……..Nobu is Palm Beach……the others, Tampa (maybe Miami).

People have been hearing me rave about my love for Nobu – I inevitably end up eating at this restaurant, whenever I find myself in a city with a local Nobu.  I know the menu cold.  I know I’m going to get perfection, no matter what I order – there is no such thing as a bad choice at Nobu.  Everything is good.  So, here goes.  I hope my words in this entry do the love I feel for this restaurant justice.

So, we sneak out for a cheeky Nobu run last weekend – ordered the usual:

  • Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno
  • Salmon Sashimi with Dried Miso
  • Miso Eggplant
  • Scallop and Foie Gras Vanilla Den Miso
  • Miso Spinach Salad
  • Rock Shrimp Tempura
  • Miso Black Cod
  • Beef Toban Yaki
  • Beef Tenderloin with Dried Miso
  • King Crab Leg with Shisho Salsa

Everything was outstanding – not much of a review to really do.


Beef tenderloin with dried miso – if you like beef carpaccio, and you haven’t tried this Nobu speciality, you must.  The beef is melt in your mouth delicious and has a fantastic fragrance of truffle.  The dried miso on top provides a nice crack/snap contrast the the smooth texture of the beef.  Its melt in your mouth delicious.


This is a classic – Yellowtail jalapeño sashimi.  Nobu uses a lot of Yuzu sauce in its various cold dishes.  What is Yuzu you ask?  Yuzu is a tart Asian citrus fruit –  This is a very simple dish if you break it down.  Beautiful, fresh yellowtail.  Tiny slice of jalapeño pepper.  1 little leaf of cilantro.  Some light, fragrant, sour sauce into which to dip.  Put it all together, and its wow.


First time trying this plate, actually – Salmon sashimi with dried miso.   At first taste, I wasn’t terribly impressed.  Salmon sashimi – fresh – nice.  But then the dried miso hits you.  The powder melts on your tongue – its beautiful.  I may be completely off base, but it tasted earthy, creamy and very rich.  It was a perfect sucker punch, when I was least expecting it.  Aaaah Salmon….POW – here is the kicker.  Very nice.


Seared scallop with seared foie gras – Was good, but not knock my socks off great.   Seared scallops – i like it.  Seared foie gras – i like it.  Put them together with some vanilla glaze – was ok.  Scallop was a little over cooked, I thought – a bit rubbery.  No repeat performance here, for me.


Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce – An oldie but most definitely a goodie.  Plump, meaty shrimp.  Creamy sauce covering the fried morsels of love – slight taste of spice.  If you like PF Changs’ dynamite shrimp – these are those, kicked up a notch.


I love the freshness of the salads at Nobu.  Usually i get the garden greens, because i love the tart dressing so much.  This time, we tried the baby spinach with miso.  It was wonderful.  Looking back – lots of miso was consumed during the evening!


One of my favourite dishes in Dubai.  Do you have a friend or loved one who doesn’t like eggplant?  Get them to eat this – they will be converted.  This is more candy and less vegetable.  The eggplant is covered in a sweet miso paste and then grilled in the over, so the flesh is super tender, moist and caramelised.  It melts in your mouth, and is one of the most delicious flavours I have ever eaten.  No sharing allowed for the Eggplant Miso!


The fish that made Nobu famous.  The Miso Glazed Black Cod.  What is Black Cod?  Its not really cod actually.  It used to be sold as Sablefish – some marketing genius decided to change the name to Black Cod, mark up the price, and here we are today.  The fish is flaky and delicious and has a firm flesh that can be cooked in a variety of ways.  My pet peeve with miso black cod is when the chef leaves it mushy and underdone from inside (read review on Toko for more on this).  Nobu’s is fantastic – look at the caramelisation in the picture below.  It flakes easily with a fork, and a salty/sweet/rich and amazing. The marinate this fish for a number of days, prior to cooking it, so the flavours have made their way through every bite you take – which is quite a treat.  The red/white stalk is actually pickled ginger – perfect for a quick palate cleansing.



Beef Toban Yaki – Be careful of this one when it arrives to your table, as it is served sizzling, and a flaming hot.  Gorgeous rare beef, mushrooms, some greens served up with Sake, Yuzu and Soy.  Simple.  Complex. Delicious.  If your beef is underdone, just hold it on the sizzling plate, and cook it to the temperature of your liking.  Highly recommend this one.


Wow – look at the marling on that piece of tuna!  Delicate rice base – delightfully seasoned.  Tiny smear of wasabi under the fish.  Gorgeous piece of tune.  Art.

IMG_1634Sweet Shrimp Sushi – beautiful


Till next time.


Al Dimyati & Iskandaron Restaurant – Lamb Chops in Karama

So, I have been hearing about this magical place, in the inner depths of Karama, where the most magnificent lamb chops were served up, fresh of the grill.  A wonderland that offered its patrons with the crispiest, lightest, fluffiest little falafels, and the smoothest, creamiest, most luscious hummus.  When asked what the restaurant’s name was – no one remembered.  When asked for directions – people were guarded and vague.  It seemed like people wanted to keep this hidden gem, hidden.  Finally, this week, our friends, the AB’s offered to take us here, along with Mr. and Mrs. Z.  T’was a Tuesday night – 8.30 pm – we hoped traffic would be light – we made our way to Karama.

Ok – so this place, Dimyati, is down the road, across from the Karama Post Office.  Parking is tough, so as you get closer to the restaurant, park in the first spot you see.


This is it.  My first view of lamb chop nirvana.  I was told it was a hole in the wall – it is.  The veterans, Mr. and Mrs. AB had told us that the lamb chops are sold out daily, so they had to be reserved, in advance of our arrival.  Mrs. AB took care of that – 3kg’s were put on hold.  Its a clean, simple place – formica tables, plastic chairs, and a very limited menu.  A variety of kebabs, the lamb chops, falafel, french fries, and sandwiches, with whatever you want inside them.  We had the lamb chops reserved, but other than that, we got individual plates of hummus, falafel and two plates (8 pieces) of ground lamb kebab.  It was a lot of food – much of it got wrapped up to take home.  Total damage was around AED 450 – which is SUPER HIGH for a normal meal at Al Dimyati.  The lamb chops were the bulk of the bill – AED 100 per KG – we had 3.  This place is VERY nominally priced other wise.


Out came a plate of falafel.  Fresh out of the deep fryer.  Honestly, some of the best falafel I have ever had.  Im not a falafel connoisseur, by any means, but I have had my fair share – these were outstanding.  Small, crisp, golden balls – cooked all the way through (there is a school of falafel artistry that insists on leaving the insides soft and a hair underdone – I’m not a fan of this method, as I don’t like the smell of rawness that I swear I get when biting into these.)  From what I have read – the falafel served at Al Dimyati are prepared in the Palestinian style – again, someone who knows the nuances of falafel cookery, please do let me know if I’m off base.  Very light, not oily at all – I wrapped them up inside a tear of fresh pita bread, added some tahini sauce, a few dashes of vinegary Louisiana hot sauce (complete with bald eagle graphics on the sticker) and indulged.  My phone died at this point, hence the lack of pictures on this particular post.  We went through the first plate of felafel very quickly, and ordered a second and then a third.  Oh yeah, the individual servings of hummus were also excellent – creamy, luscious and all those adjectives that I had heard…..all true.  On to the main event.


The lamb chops arrives fresh off the grill.  Something that I have encountered in most people who don’t live in North America or Europe tend to eat their beef/lamb cooked all the way through – with no trace of pink in the middle.  Steaks are preferred medium well/well done and lamb is cooked till its grey on the inside.  These lamb chops arrived cooked to a perfect medium – they were moist, salty and delicious.  It was obvious that the chops had been trimmed of a lot of fat, because there was only trace amounts around the edges – what you really got was beautifully cooked lamb meat, with just the perfect hints of charred fat – something that I feel gives lamb its unique, gamey flavour.   The plate above shows 1 kilo of chops – incase you want an idea of how much you want to order when you visit.   Just to set expectations accurately – these are not heavily spiced, in the typical South Asian style.  This is NOT your typical Pakistani chicken tikka/seekh kabab type shop.  The meat here is seasoned with salt – some would say a little too much salt.  The salt is a perfect backdrop, complementing the meat – you don’t need all those heavy spices – the lamb speaks for it self.


I ordered a couple of plates of the kebabs shown above – we had entirely too much food, as it was, but I saw a table next to us getting them, and I really wanted to try them for myself.  Again, seasoned with salt, the ground lamb was grilled on skewers and immediately brought to our table.  The kebabs arrived steaming hot, to the point where it was difficult to use your fingers to break of chunks.  Delicious – but need to be eaten hot.  As they cooled down, the glistening juices that you can see in the picture started to solidify (fat) a little, which took away from the experience.  

So sum everything up – the food at Al Dimyati needs to be experienced in house.  I’m sure if you got takeout, it wouldn’t be as delicious as eating the chops and kebabs in house.  A word of caution – this is a very basic restaurant.  Plates are few and far between.   It’s not fancy.  BUT – the food is delicious, cheap and plentiful.  Service is courteous, quick and very pleasant.  The bill is extremely reasonable.  A very nice evening out, and a great experience in a part of Dubai that I am less familiar with.   Thanks to the AB’s for introducing us to their secret spot – sorry for blowing the covers right off – now you will have to reserve your chops 3 days in advance!

Till next time.

China Club, Radisson Blu Deira Dubai – You Dim Sum, You Lose Sum

Woke up on a beautiful sunny, cool, Friday morning the other week, and thought to myself – why not take the family out for a cheeky Dim Sum lunch.  A Yum Cha experience, if you will.  When we had first landed in Dubai, back in 2008, my brother and sister in law had taken us to this lovely Chinese Restaurant, in the Radison Blu Hotel, Deira – The China Club.  It was a friday afternoon, the place was packed, was very tough to get a table, and I remembered the food being top notch.  The cherry on the cake was that, seated next to us, were Saif Ali Khan and Karina Kapoor – a meal and a show.

Recalling how full the restaurant was, I was surprised when China Club quickly confirmed my table for three, at 1 pm.   So, we make the trek out to Deira – restaurant looks a little smaller than what I remember, but pleasant enough.  We were seated quickly at our table and our drink orders were taken – I would highly recommend their home made ice tea, which is available flavoured with either Lychee or Lemmon – I took the Lychee option and it was delicious….and refills were free.


For the meal – its really a simple option.  One price gets you unlimited Dim Sum – there is a list on your table, and you can order what you want, and it is brought around.



A decent selection, as you can see above, is decent, and the price is very nominal – sub AED 100 per person.  We pretty much ordered everything, plus we ordered a Peking Duck, a la carte.   The food itself, was hit and miss.  Some things were good (not great) and some were not so great.



Superior Siew Mai with Crab Roe – the chicken filling was dense and provided a nice chew.  Texture wise, it was nice, but not too much going on in the flavour department.  I had to douse my dumpling in some chilli/soy sauce hybrid, which I concocted on the table.



Mince shrimp wrapped in tofu skin – blah, uneventful, forgettable.   Could have dipped the menu into the sauce and had a similar experience.



Steamed Chicken with Mushroom and Ginger Dumpling – this was quite good, actually.  The ginger notes were spicy, and provided a great balance to the subtlety of the mushroom and the chicken.



The above is a selection of the fried dim sum.  With the exception of the shrimp wrapped in the spring roll wrapper, the rest was a bit of a hot mess.  Oily, soggy, cool – not fun at all.  The deep fried seafood wontons (top right) were a disaster – they could have been filled with any paste at all – no taste of seafood whatsoever – thankfully there was a sweet chill sauce that helped mask all the things that were going wrong.  The squid rings….chewy, which is exactly how i DON’T like my calamari.  The shrimp roll thingies (Crispy Fried Prawn in Golden Pocket) were ok – relatively speaking – but then again, the bar on this plate, was set exceptionally low.


Yang Chow Wok Fried Rice – this was absolutely awesome.  One of the best fried rice dishes that I have ever had.  The rice was perfectly wok fried, to the point where there was a little bit of char on some of the grains.  This contributed to the wonderful aroma, and the smoke flavour I got from eating it, was scrumptious.  The one complaint – the serving size was small, to the point of being comical.  However, they were quick to bring out more, when asked.   Definitely the highlight of the meal.



Har Gau Shrimp Dumplings – very nice.  Nice chunky pieces of shrimp for the filling – very nice texture, and silky smooth wrapper.  Enjoyed this one, and had thirds.



LOVE the Steamed BBQ Chicken Buns.  LOVE them.  Sticky, sweet chicken filling inside and airy, fluffy steamed bun.  Rare to find a better combination – dipped in soy and chilli oil, its a magical thing.



The Peking Duck – Please scroll to the bottom.



The Peking Duck – this is where the lunch truly went pear shaped.  This was terribly.  Look at the pictures……now lets think of what makes Peking Duck so special:

  • Shiny, Crispy, Light, Glistening, Caramelised Skin
  • Moist, tender, pink, succulent meat
  • Slightly fatty aroma, that makes you want to scoff it down as soon as its set out in front of you
  • Light pancakes, with fresh cucumber and spring onion, and some sweet, rich hoisin sauce

Now lets look back at the picture.  The skin was anything but shiny, crispy, light, glistening etc.  It was, in fact, dull, limp, soggy, and extremely unappetising.  The duck meat was grey, dry, stringy and tough.  The fat wasn’t melt in your mouth, buttery and complimentary – it was like a cold fat cap – stick to the roof of your mouth, kinda fat.

We put it in the pancakes, slathered on the hoisin, but got nowhere.  We left it, pretty much as it, and continued with the Dim Sum.

It was a nice afternoon – got to hang out with my family on a beautiful day in Dubai.  The food was a mixed bag – but the Peking Duck was a major disappointment.  With the options available now, for dim sum in the city, especially in New Dubai, and the location of this restaurant in Deira in relation to where we live – I doubt  that we will be making a return trip here anytime soon.  I do, however, keep fond memories, as The China Club was the very first Friday Brunch type experiences my family and I had when we first landed in Dubai – we have a lovely picture of my wife and my son, who was then 18 months old, in the hotel lobby.

Till next time.

Toko – Yet Another Black Cod In Town

We visited Toko, the new Japanese restaurant in the recently launched Vida Hotel, in Downtown Dubai recently.  Dubai has its fair share of high end, Japanese fusion restaurant, the likes of Nobu, Zuma and Okku, so I wanted to check out the new kid on the block, and see what set it apart.  My wife and I are very different in the way we rank our restaurants – she weights more towards the ambience.  I put more weight on the food and servicemore.  So, the way I rank the aforementioned restaurants, is as follows:

1.  Nobu

2. Zuma

3. Okku

After visiting Toko, I would put it somewhere in line with Okku.  Food was good – when you are talking about high end Japanese food, it can’t really be bad.  It’s all good – its the slight nuances that set one restaurant apart from the other.  Nobu has the food – its solid, every single time.  The service is on point, and there is no distraction with the loud music and crowd.  Zuma and Okku are more nightclub than restaurants.  Toko is calmer – like Nobu with the style of Zuma.  As for the food….in line with Okku.

I was starving when I visited, and only 1 dish really stood out in my mind, so please excuse the lack of lengthy descriptions – I should have written this immediately after eating here.

Lets start with what was outstanding:

Foie Gras Sushi


Foie Gras Nigri – this was outstanding.  The Foie was perfectly seared, placed on a delicate finger of rice, seasoned lightly, and infused with the fragrance of Truffle.  Amazing.  So good, we ordered an encore round.  Very expensive, however, at AED 50 per piece, but immensely worth it.

The rest of the food, as mentioned above, was good.  Pictures below.  Service was ok – drinks took too long to come, as did the edamame.  Drinks order was off when it did finally arrive.  Probably just teething problems, which won’t stop me from going back.  I hear they now have an Omikase menu, which I am actually looking forward to trying.  I hear its extensive and very moderately priced.  Till next time.

Miso Glazed Black Cod

Miso Glazed Black Cod – Beautifully caramelised and cooked perfectly through.  The flesh was flaky, moist

and delicious.  Very tasty.

miso eggplant

Miso Grilled Eggplant – Nice.  Miso was not as sweet as I, personally, like.  Nobu’s comp is like candy.  This was good, but no candy.


California Rolls, Spicy Tuna Rolls, Soft Shell Crab Spider Roll – Taste was good, but the rolls were wrapped a little loosely, so some fell apart when being lifted with the chopsticks and dipped in the Soy.

Grilled Mushrooms

Obviously, the Robata mushrooms were pretty good!

Seared Sirloin

As was the sirloin – it was served with a lovely, coarse sea salt, which provided a fantastic contrast in texture and a salty bite to a perfectly cook piece of beef.

sticky lamb ribs

Not my favourite – sticky lamb ribs.  They were good, but not my cup of tea.

Yellowtail sashimiYellowtail Sashimi – Nobu would describe it as new style.  Pleasant taste, and a very fresh fragrance.  Good.

Morton’s Steakhouse – Macau


Better late than never – I just haven’t had a spare moment since the start of the year to post some new blog entries, but here goes my first one for 2014!

I think its pretty evident from my past posts that Steak and I have a deep rooted love affair.  One of my favourite places for steak has historically been Morton’s Steakhouse.  I find them consistent to the point of being boring – exactly what i look for, once a restaurant has proven that they can cook something especially well.  Im a purist when it comes to my beef – nothing fancy – no ultra marbled, beer massaged kobe for me.  Im perfectly happy with a moderately aged New York strip steak, cooked medium rare, with a side of something leafy and green, to balance out the fat from the steak.  So, after indulging in countless sessions of roast duck during my trip to Macau, I was ecstatic to find Old Faithful (i.e. Morton’s) sitting just off the gaming floor, in the corner of the gargantuan casino in the Venetian.  I was in Macau for three nights – 2 nights were spent at Morton’s…..eating the exact same thing.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to visit The Venetian, let me take a moment to describe it to you.  Its massive.  There is a replica of Venice’s Grand Canal running through the first floor of the hotel, which is surrounded by high end retail and a very busy food court.  The Canal offers tourists rides on an authentic Gondola, complete with a singing Gondolier.   The roof is painted to resemble a bright blue sky – all in all, tacky, but you kind of expected that.  The hotel is large – VERY LARGE – its easy to get lost on your first few days – this can be a little tricky, especially with the language barrier (assuming you don’t speak Mandarin).  There are TONS of tourists – literally swarms of them, running around everywhere.  The reason why we stayed here is that it was one of the two hotels that we were able to verify, prior to booking our trip, that offered a Craps table in the casino.  Craps happens to be my game, so the hotel I was staying in had to offer this game.  The only other table in town, I believe, is at the Wynn – I wish I would have stayed at the Wynn – much classier scene – but the hotel seems to be perpetually booked, and I was unable to get a room.  So, the Venetian it was.




The meal started, as per tradition, with the restaurant setting on our table a lovely, fresh baked bread, covered with Onion seeds.  This was served with a much too chilled pat of butter, which was difficult to spread.  The bread was warm and soft from the inside, and crusty from the outside – very nice.

Next came the steak presentation.  Scrumptious hunks of beef, served up on a silver platter, yours for the choosing.  Im a simple man – 14oz NY Strip please.  Medium Rare, if its not too much trouble – cool, red centre.  There it is, in all its glory.  Far right, second from the top.


The bread was demolished as we awaited our meals.  And, then, they arrived.  Beautiful, thick slabs of beef.  Creamy mashed potatoes.  Sautéed mushrooms with spinach.  And, of course, the obligatory, thick cut, duck fat chips, fried to a crisp, golden brown.


Need a describe every divine morsel, with pictures being worth a thousand words, and all?  The steak was perfectly done – nicely caramelised on the outside, with well defined grill marks, and a perfectly cool, red centre.  Seasoning – just salt – which ideally let the natural flavours of the beef be amplified and do all the talking.  Just what you want from any true steakhouse.  The sides were sides – good, but not overwhelming.  The tables were calling, so we polished everything off and went off to seek our fortunes (those fortunes were not found, incase you were wondering.)  So good, we went back the next night and ordered a repeat performance – except this time, we got the onion rings too!

Love Morton’s.  Wish they would come to Dubai.

Peking Garden – Hong Kong

I headed out over the UAE National Day long weekend to Hong Kong and Macau with my buddy ZA.  Being a lover of Chinese food (authentic/american/desi style – all is good), I was super psyched to immerse myself into 3 days of roast goose and all the yummy, non spicy, treats these two cities could throw at me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take too many pictures of the food, and therefore can’t blog about the various restaurants – however, I did manage to document my trips to Peking Garden in HK and Morton’s Steakhouse in Macau (I know – really legit Chinese food.)  However – one place I did eat at, where I didn’t feel comfy snapping pictures of what I was eating was China Club, in the old Bank of China building.  It’s a members only kind of place, so if you can find a local to take you there, I would highly recommend it.  The food was stunning, and the artwork priceless.  The view from the terrace, upstairs, is also breathtaking (see below).




On to the food – So our old friends SKH and DH were so kind as to take the afternoon off, so that they could take me to lunch at Peking Garden, in the basement of Alexandra House in Central.  Reservations were for 1 pm and we were seated immediately – I was told that Peking Duck was the specialty of the house, so we had to order that immediately, so that it could be prepared.  There seemed to be a lot of suits in the restaurant, as well as numerous locals – always a good sign.  The restaurant was packed, but the tables were spaced out enough to give diners a sense of privacy.  Since the three of us hadn’t seen each other in a while (B was sorely missed), we ordered quickly and then got down to the catchup.

We ordered:

Peking Duck, Crispy Beef, Kung Pao Chicken, Jumbo Prawn in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce and Prawn Dumplings.  Of course, the obligatory fried rice was ordered.

The table was laid beautifully, as shown below, and came with a small plate of pickled tofu, cucumbers and mushrooms.



DH and I polished off the pickles tout de suite – they were cool, and the texture between the smooth, silky tofu and the crunch cucumber paired perfectly together.  Though pickled, the taste wasn’t aggressively tart – just left a little tingle on your tongue.

Next, the piece de resistance – the BBQ Peking Duck.



WOW!! The perfectly glazed crispy skiing looked like mahogany – so smooth, shiny and inviting.  They took it away and carved it up.

Peking Duck

Plate number 1/2.  Each piece was a perfect balance of luscious, moist, juicy duck meat, topped with duck fat and a layer of crispy, delectable skin.  My mouth is watering so much, that I just ordered some from the local delivery joint for take away!

Peking Duck 2


The duck was served with hoisin sauce, spring onions and pancakes.  The pancakes – no ordinary pancakes – dry, but not powder dry  – waxy dry.  AMAZING.  Wrapped everything up, and took a bite.  Heaven.  The pancakes’ chewy texture worked beautifully with the sweet/salty hoisin, the peppery spring onions and the meaty, fatty duck – the skin was a bonus!  I am at a loss of words – truly the best Peking duck I have had – and this includes that had in Beijing.

Next came:

Crispy Beef


Crispy Beef – This came coated in a sweet,spicy sauce – the beef was super crispy and delicious.  Along with this came freshly baked pocket bread, coated with sesame seeds.   The beef was stuffed into these pockets and the result was delicious.  Very highly recommended.
Sesame Pockets


Stuffed Pockets

The stuffed pockets!


Prawns in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce

OMG – Jumbo prawns in a sweet spicy sauce! GIGANTIC prawn fried and covered in this tangy, sweety, slightly spicy sauce.  These were unreal.  The prawns were perfectly cooked – sweet and tender, yet meaty, if that makes any sense.  The batter on them was VERY light – barely there, but enough to pick up the sauce.  I could have eaten 3 plates by myself.  The sauce was perfect – not thick and goopy, as this kind of sauce can sometimes get – it wasn’t runny either – just somewhere in between.  Excellent.

Prawn Dumplings

These were good – not amazing, because the dumpling wrapper was totally dry, and a little doughy for my liking.  I like the freshly steamed, Shu Mai, style prawn dumplings and there were not that.  That being said, once I got past the wrapper, the filling was delicious – lots of lovely, seasoned prawns.

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao? In Hong Kong?  I know what you are thinking.  This is Mall Chinese food.  That’s what I thought, and it wasn’t my choice.  But I ate the heck out of it.  The chicken pieces were not deep-fried, but wok fried – they were super tender and perfectly cooked.  The sauce was light, spicy and used the Szechuan pepper, so though not overbearingly spicy, it left a lingering, numbing sensation on your tongue.  The peanuts provided a nice crunch, that paired well with the fried rice.  Excellent.


Tan Tan Noodles


Tan Tan Noodles – a peanutty soupy base with noodles – SUPER SPICY.  I couldn’t eat it.  This was ordered by mistake, as our host thought it was something else (Tan Tan noodles at another restaurant aren’t as soupy) – This was my least favourite part of the entire meal.   I wouldn’t order it again.

So, if you find yourself in Hong Kong, you HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO go to Peking Garden.  I would give it two, fat thumbs up and a solid 9/10.  Would have had a 10/10, had it not been for those Tan Tan Noodles!  One of the highlights of my trip.


Izel – Latin Artistry



We visited a new Dubai hotspot, Izel (Conrad Hotel, Dubai), recently – we had heard a lot about the live Colombian band and the South American menu, so we thought we would give it a whirl.  The mighty RM was visiting from Hong Kong, and keeping his love of Salsa dancing in mind, it seemed like the perfect spot.  First impression of Izel…..BIG.  It’s a massive space, split into two areas – the bar area, with a few tables, and a dining area.  I was a little underwhelmed by the layout, with the dining area seeming cafeteria like, but the bar area was slick.  There are a number of South/Central American stone statues (Inca…..I have no clue) placed around the space – not crowded at all, and with the music at a volume that is conducive to conversation.  We were, however, seated in the dining room, smack dab in front of the stage/dance floor.  The band (see below – apologies for the dodgy picture) were excellent, if you are into Latin music (which I am not), though our proximity to the stage/speakers made it almost impossible to hear what the person next to you was saying.



The first thing to be brought to our table was a lovely bread basket – and sitting in the middle of it was the golden nugget of the carbohydrate world – the pão de queijo.  If you haven’t had this, I would strongly recommend you try it – It’s a round ball, slightly crispy on the outside, but wonderfully cheesy, soft and chewy on the inside.  I like it best with some chimichuri sauce ladled onto it, but, alas, none was to be found at Izel.  These little treasure morsels were quickly devoured and a large plate of them was ordered for the table. For those who want to make these at home, the Internet says they are made either of Casava flour or Tapioca flour, instead of all-purpose flour.



Next came the appetizers for the table – a wide variety was ordered to share, and all in all, not really bad.  I’m not crazy about this kind of food, so I would have rather been elsewhere, but, have to admit – overall, it was rather tasty.  I can’t remember the names of all these dishes, so please excuse me.  I’ve been a little lazy with this blog, so I have forgotten some – I’ll try my best to describe what I remember.

Quesadillas De Tinga




This was a baked cheese tart of some kind – using Manchego cheese, if I recall correctly.


Empanadas Nortenas


Empanadas – A samosa like dumpling, stuffed with seasoned ground beef and fried.


Ceviche De Salmon


Salmon Ceviche – very nice, clean flavours.  Bright citrus snap to complement the creamy texture of the Salmon.




Corn fritters – very….corny.


Callos Pacifico


Callos Pacifico – Seared Scallops – this was delicious.  The Scallops were sweet and perfectly cooked – the sear from the pan amplified the texture and delicate flavour of the Scallops.


Ceviche De Chochos


This was a surprise hit – A corn mash baked in corn husks served with a salad of corn and beans.  I love corn, and the hot/cold thing this app had going on was fantastic.  I wish I remember the name of it so I could order it again, if I ever go back.


On to the mains – I, as usual, had the steak.  Bife De Chorizo, which is a fancy way of saying Sirloin.  It was served with Asparagus and charred tomatoes (SPECTACULAR TOMATOES).  It looked really good – but the steak was cold.  I ordered it medium rare, and it was cooked perfectly as seen in picture number 2 below.  The beef was seasoned well, and it had a lovely fat cap – it was just Cold.


Bife De Chorizo

Sirloin - Cut


Friends had the Prawn risotto and my wife had the Mushroom risotto. Both, were decent.

Risotto De Mar

Prawn Risotto

Risotto De Hongos

Mushroom Risotto


All in all – not a bad night out.  Food is passable – ambience is decent.  I would sit in the bar the next time, with a nice cigar, and try to enjoy the music from afar.  I probably wouldn’t suggest it as a go to spot for dinner – but then again, Latin food (other than Tacos) and I don’t really mix.  Entire evening? 6/10