In a month of togetherness, the best places to end your fast are affordable for the whole family. We round up the tastiest iftars in town for under Dh150
The tastiest places in town to end your fast.
Ramada Plaza JBR
Tucked behind TheWalk at Jumeirah Beach Residences, entering the underground lobby of the new Ramada Plaza JBR had something of a private members’ club feel about it, as if I’d discovered a secret passageway only a select few are privy too. This sense of stumbling upon a hidden gem continued in Shores restaurant one floor above, where I was greeted by the iftar spread. What at first sight appeared a modest affair proved to be an Aladdin’s cave of tasty food.
The decor is low key, but the fare packs a punch, bursting with crunchy salads, interesting cheeses, smoked fish and the most outstanding freshly prepared stuffed vine leaves I’ve tried in Dubai. As well as the expected Arabic specialities like hummus, moutabel, shawarmas and shish kebabs, there are also international dishes including French onion soup, fresh Italian pasta cooked to order, and a vat of thickly rich and indulgent Dauphinoise potatoes.
Having a weakness for all things carby and creamy, I guiltily kept going back for more of the potatoes, and was reassured of the authenticity of the dish by a French couple sitting nearby, who tucked into steaming plates of nothing but the stuff.
The whole lamb cooked on rice was tender and perfectly seasoned, the samak harra fish dish was herby and full of flavour, while the cheese sambousek and vegetable spring rolls were crispy, light and delicious.
Although all the dishes on offer were ones I’ve tried many times before, Ramada has its own tasty spin on each and I was impressed time and time again by the layers of flavour in every mouthful, the quality of even the most simple salad and the scope of the chef’s palette.
After rounding everything off with a bite of sticky date cake, I left with a sugar high and the feeling that sometimes less is more – this iftar is low on show but high on taste, and that’s what it should all be about. Details: Shores restaurant, Ramada Plaza JBR, Bahar 7. Dh145 per person including juices. Call 04 439 8888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taj Palace, Deira
A drop of luxury in the heart of Deira, the Taj Palace definitely lived up to my expectations for an authentic Arabic iftar. Immediately impressed by the Middle Eastern interior, I was greeted by a glimpse of an open-plan kitchen and attentive, friendly staff.
Once settled with refreshments, the set-menu banquet began with a stunning mezze of hummus, moutabel and tabbouleh, alongside a mixed lentil dish, halloumi salad and smoked salmon tartare, all delivered to the table. Scooped up with fresh, warm Arabic breads, the dishes were rich in flavour and generous in size.
The mezze in itself was indulgence enough for dinner, but make sure you pace yourself for the delicious platter of grilled meats that follow. A clay pot of steaming rice accompanied the stunning grill selection, along with a side dish of seafood cakes.
Priding themselves on authenticity, the staff at the Taj explain that the Arabic rice is cooked traditionally, as it would have been by Arabic families back in the day. The rustic appearance of the dishes conveys the ambience of a homely environment and, combined with the friendly manner of the staff, you soon feel as if you’re indulging in an authentic local iftar with friends.
To finish off this feast, coffee and dessert were served, which were an absolute must to fit in, so be sure to save some space. The homemade pistachio sambousek served with star-anise syrup was particularly memorable, but alongside this came a delicate rose mahalabiya and almond basbousa, which were irresistable.
The perfect combination of rustic ambience and culinary inspiration mean I’m going to be making a speedy return to the Taj Palace this Ramadan.
Details: Taj Palace, Deira. Dh129 per person including soft drinks. Call 04 211 3078 or log on to www.tajhotels.com.
Holiday Inn, Al Barsha
After three months of morning sickness and fussy first trimester taste buds, I headed to The Gem Garden at the Holiday Inn Al Barsha with an open mind and an overly excited appetite.
Upon arrival in the restaurant, I was impressed by its zen-like atmosphere – the ceilings were swathed in light green fabric, which gave everything an airy feel.
We were given traditional Arabic coffee and dates and then ushered to our seats beside the sumptuous buffet, which offered an overwhelming choice of more than 70 dishes in Indian, Thai, Arabic and Continental cuisines.
But it was the Arabic theme that won out overall – the air was scented with heady bukhoor incense, and Arab songs played softly in the background, along with the relaxing notes of a live flute player.
I wished I could have sampled a bit of everything, but my friend and I had to start somewhere. We began with lentil soup, which was perfectly creamy in texture, before moving on to the hot mezze. We agreed we had found the most delicious fried shrimp dumpling – it was a succulent, blissful treat. The babaganoush was an absolute delight and so was the fresh and tangy fasolia salad.
For our main course, we enjoyed the Arabic mixed grill with its juicy, tasty and tender meat, along with baked aubergine, which was hearty and savoury. By this time we were stuffed, but were persuaded to taste the karouf mahshi – lamb ouzi with rice – which was truly delicious.
We rounded things off with marble cheescake, which instantly won my heart. The attentive service and great food here are sure not to disappoint. Details: The Gem Garden restaurant, Holiday Inn Dubai – Al Barsha. Dh120 per person. Partnering with United Nations for the World Food Program, the restaurant has pledged to feed four hungry children for every iftar. Call 04 323 4333 or email restaurants@ hialbarsha.com
Zaroob My experience at Zaroob’s iftar was not just a feast for my taste buds, it was also a feast for my eyes.
The restaurant’s interior is an eclectic and vivid mix of modern and old, Western and Arabic. Everywhere I looked there were artifacts such as old Coca-Cola bottles and watering cans stored on wooden shelves. Colourful corrugated iron, funky lamps and neon signs were dotted about. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the feel of the place. It’s also conveniently located on Shaikh Zayed Road with parking easy to find so you don’t have to traipse around in the summer heat and humidity.
Zaroob offers a buffet-style iftar and I was able to choose from a variety of traditional Arabic dishes, including tangy and delicously fresh tabbouleh, hummus with the consistency of whipped cream and
other classics such as grilled halloumi (deliciously buttery with a crispy coating), tender and juicy chicken shawarma and tasty kofta.
It was all displayed on the ground floor of the restaurant, which is small but full of atmosphere, although there is further, comfortable seating upstairs as well.
I was kept refreshed by delicious fresh fruit mocktails served in chunky jam jar-style glasses, and finished off at the buffet counter for dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth – the fateer with cream and honey was gorgeous but very filling.
The interesting interior and quirky atmosphere make this a fun and hip iftar for the younger generation, and it’s a reasonable price for a wonderful experience and delicious, fresh-tasting food.
Details: Zaroob, Shaikh Zayed Road. Iftar Dh59 per person. Call 04 327 6060.
Anatolia Turkish Grill
I confess. I used to lump iftars into the category of buffets that are usually big on quantity but less so on quality. How wrong I was. A visit to Anatolia Turkish Grill at Mirdif City Centre dispelled this notion – big time.
The restaurant offered iftar the way I think it should be – served at the table, to eat at your own pace. The menu changes daily and included starters and five courses of your choice.
My Turkish iftar experience began the minute I walked in. The decor was modern and casual, with mixed furniture to suit the mood. There are diner-style areas with plush seats, long tables for groups, and bistro-type coffee tables and chairs for alfresco dining.
A starter of hummus, pitta bread, cheese, dates, olives, green salad and slices of Turkish salami were waiting at the table where my companion and I were seated. I loved the soslu patlican – chunks of fried aubergine in tomato sauce, cooked to just the right texture. The Anatolia-style lentil soup was an extra-creamy delight and I had to remind myself to leave room for the courses to come.
Next came oven-baked goodies of findik lahmacun – mini mincedmeat pies in a thin crust topped with ground meat. I drooled over the findik peynirli pide – soft cheese pies topped with melted cheese.
The grills followed. Our servings included lamb chops, tavuks and kebabs on a bed of onions and shredded cabbage. I liked the way the Turks grill their meat – juicy and tender enough to slice through without the grease. And the crushed pistachio-infused lamb kebab was just awesome.
A plate of biftek was served next – tender Turkish-style slices of beef served with bulgur rice. I also enjoyed the iskender kebap – beef and lamb meat slices cooked in tomato sauce and yogurt.
The desserts followed. The kunefe with cream was too sugary even for my taste but the tel kadayif – shredded filo pastry with pistachio filling – scored with my sweet tooth. The oven-baked rice pudding on a cold clay pot proved a surprising ending to what was already my Ramadan Turkish delight.
Details: Dh98 for adults and Dh46 for children for a six-course iftar. To book call 04 425 91344, email email@example.com or visit www.anatoliaturkishgrill.com.