Fromcheap and cheerful inKaramato the finest dining ofDowntown, the Friday teamtries a range of Indian restaurants with delicious results
Our pick of the best restaurants serving Indian food in Dubai.
‘The flavours exploded when heaped on to soft basmati rice and mopped up with chilli garlic naan’
MINT LEAF OF LONDON, DIFC, DUBAI
The Mint Leaf concept arrived in Dubai from London, in June this year, as we all exhaled: “Not another Indian restaurant?” Sweeping in from the UK capital’sWest End, where it proved a favourite with fine diners and the London FashionWeek set, it promised “innovative” Indian food and stunning views.
Positioned on the 15th floor of Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC, it had the views, but would the cuisine live up to local competition?
On arrival a friendly doorman ushered me into a lift. “Shake off the day and relax,” he said, as the doors closed behind me. Righty ho, I thought, stepping out a few moments later into a lowly lit corridor (more spa than restaurant) to meet two more staff.
“Welcome,” they chirped, as I listened out for the pan pipes.
The restaurant manager Abhijit Gurav then appeared to show me into the lounge. As we walked I took in the modern decor. Modern, in a dark, fashiony way. Like a catwalk show was about to start from one end of the crescent-shaped space at any moment. There’s lots of space, framed with black slate, curved sleek steel and copper panelling engraved with henna inspired designs.
The more androgynous minamilist touches are lifted by milky cream sofas, a bit of beige here and there and curved seating, windows, and light fittings. I particularly wanted a go in one of the circular hanging chairs by the entrance. But the restaurant felt far too grown up and upmarket to have a swing.
“I think you’ll agree the views are outstanding,” Abhijit said, gesturing towards the wrap-around floor-toceiling windows that open up the restaurant on to Shaikh Zayed Road, where my friend apparently had trouble finding parking. “I got lost, then couldn’t park, I’m sorry,” he said, 20 minutes after I arrived.
We enjoyed a refreshing drink before being shown to our window table, walking past open kitchens where chefs cooked up fresh tandoori and naan breads, and weaving through clusters of people enjoying the venue’s newly launched ladies night, Gold. Comfortably sitting in the restaurant section, I browsed the heavy leather-bound menu, peeping over the top occasionally to admire the view.
Our waiter was helpful, making suggestions as we waded through each page (there’s a hefty selection) and we finally chose our starters – Aloo chaat (Dh45), crispy fried baby potatoes with sweet yogurt and tamarind-chutney, (which arrived in a long stemmed glass, fried not stirred), followed by Tandoori jheenga (Dh75), prawns marinated in roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic and served with little dishes of Southern Indian tomato and mustard chutney and Adraki lamb chops (Dh90), tenderly marinated in ginger, yogurt and coriander. The portions aren’t overbearing and allow the flavours to take centre stage.
Ilove paneer and never cook it at home so for mains I veered towards the Kadai paneer (Dh65), cooked with peppers, onions and roasted crushed spices, along with Rara gosht (Dh95) – diced leg of lamb cooked with spiced lamb mince. The flavours exploded when heaped on to steamed basmati rice and mopped up with triangles of fresh chilli and garlic naan. Against the modern surroundings it leaned more towards the classic than contemporary, which was a surprise.
Mint Leaf of London has the ingredients of any top-grade restaurant in this city, but although the food was good it didn’t – unlike the surroundings – have the wow factor.
As India arrived in Dubai via London I can’t help but think that something’s been lost in translation.
‘A rich creamy Indian ice cream, infused with fresh mango – it’s what sinful dreams are made of’
MAHEC, LE MÉRIDIEN DUBAI HOTEL AND CONFERENCE CENTRE
I f ever there was a podium for Indian restaurants that have taken the cuisine into the epicurean stratosphere then Mahec is a medal contender. At this elegant eatery, colour, texture and taste come together to create unmatched culinary harmony on one sparkling white plate.
If the sceptic in you is questioning how Indian food can be pretty to look at, then this is one place that will turn any assumptions on their head.
Tucked in a corner of the sprawling Le Méridien Dubai Hotel and Conference Centre, the restaurant has earned a reputation for pushing the envelope as far as experimenting with technique and ingredients is concerned and also with presentation.
No massive bowls of unidentifiable curry or overly charred kebabs here. Instead, expect the work of a chef whose master creations should be framed and placed under a spotlight in a museum. No, really!
To start with, we ordered pumpkin and duck soup (Dh42). Now it might not seem very authentic, but with clever use of cinnamon powder it feels right at home on this menu. The delicate taste of the spice powder ensured that the sweetness of the pumpkin did not play killjoy in the bowl, especially when teamed with smoky duck. Similarly, the Rajma aur anjeer kebab (Dh36), which is simply red kidney beans and fig patties, had a hint of roasted cumin and garam masala powders that didn’t just give the preparation an Indian twist but added a distinct layer of flavour that was unforgettable.
At this point, convinced of the chef’s talent, my companion and I were struck by the fact that Mahec doesn’t look like your typical Indian restaurant – all dated imitation silks and paisley prints. Instead, the subtle gold paint on the walls, deep purple upholstery and furniture in warm hues create an ambience that is almost home-like cosy, yet elegant.
It looks like the chef and the interior designer were in agreement when they teamed up to create this place, I thought to myself.
Going back to the menu to ponder over what we wanted next, we decided on Chilli lamb masala (Dh78) and Goan prawn coconut curry (Dh105). The former is ‘seriously hot’, the menu warns, as the foundation is extremely pungent Rajasthani red chillies. No problem, we presumed, as we considered our high threshold for chillies.
However, the moment we greedily dunked our crispy hot Tandoori roti (Dh12) into the infamous gravy, our threshold was well and truly raised to the roof. Thankfully, we had the mild, silky smooth coconut sauce of the prawn that came to our rescue.
Both the dishes were so varied in taste yet so redolent with flavour, that it was easy to consider them a widely flung tribute to the diversity of Indian cuisine.
After giving our taste buds some cooling time (and alright, mopping our brows), we decided to share a plate of Mango kulfi (Dh32) for dessert. A rich creamy Indian ice cream, infused with fresh mango purée, it is what sinful dreams are made of. And as I closed my eyes and (ever so elegantly), slurped down mouthful after mouthful I said to myself, “superlatives be damned, I’m in gastronomic heaven”.
SHISABA RESTAURANT, SHARJAH
he moment I was invited to try Shisaba, the fine dining Indian restaurant at Al Qasimia, in Sharjah, my first thought was how I would tackle the daunting traffic to get there.
To avoid rush hour I cleverly opted for a Saturday lunch, although I was apprehensive I might still have to spend at least an hour on the road. Thankfully the trip from Qusais to Al Qasimia took less than 15 minutes. Feeling smug, my smile grew wider when I saw a sign saying ‘Valet Parking available’. Wow, no epic search for parking either.
We stepped into the expansive 11,000 sq ft restaurant to be greeted with a high ceiling and sparkling chandelier. A large fountain at the centre of the dining area and artificial trees provided an outdoorsy feel, well complemented by a couple of large swings positioned on either side of the grand staircase that led to the large family dining area on the first floor.
Neatly sectioned gazebo-like areas offer guests the option to enjoy a meal in privacy. “We also have a 12-seat private dining area on the first floor,” said Geeta Halve, the restaurant’s very pleasant co-owner, who led us to our table.
The menu was one of the most extensive I’d perused in a long time. From Indian and Chinese cuisine to Malay, Thai and even Indonesian dishes, it boasted unending variety.
Preferring to go with the restaurant’s specialities that were highlighted in the menu, we opted for Chilli milli prawns (Dh50) and a platter of grills for starters. The medium-sized prawns came coated with a zingy, spicy sauce that brought the taste buds alive and wanting more. The grills were delicious, while the juicy chicken and mutton kebabs were mouthwateringly appetising. The best were the Tilbare kebabs (Dh25) – deep-fried patties of ground spinach with a heart of cheese coated with sesame seeds.
Flummoxed by the range of dishes on the menu, we sought the chef’s help to decide on the main courses. He suggested Butter chicken (Dh35), then Mutton handi (Dh35), and Paneer butter masala (Dh35).
I have a weakness for biryani, so I gently asked him to include a Hyderabadi dum mutton biryani (Dh30). “Sure,” he said and excused himself to the kitchen.
Service was efficient and in the time it took us to look around the restaurant, the first main had arrived and the Mutton handi and the Paneer masala were just perfect.
However, the pièce de résistance was the biryani. The rice and the chunks of well-marinated mutton were cooked to perfection, and the moment the dough-covered pot was popped, the aroma of the spices sent my taste buds into overdrive – it was one of the tastiest mutton biryanis I’d ever had. Neither too spicy, nor too mild, it had just the right zing and I polished off half the pot!
I would have loved to taste the restaurant’s signature Gajar ka halwa – a dessert of grated carrots cooked in sweetened milk – but unfortunately they’d run out of it that day.
Before settling for date rolls with ice cream, I had another small serving of the Mutton biryani – it was just too good to leave behind and worth the hassle of any traffic jam. I’m definitely planning to return this weekend.
The decor is all modern curves and hints of henna
BEST FOR THE VIEWS
Browse the menu in the stylish lounge
The restaurant has an elegant yet cosy ambience
THE BEST FOR HOT HOT
SPICE Nibble on dried fruits to get you started
The Hyderabadi dum mutton biryani is a must-try dish BEST FOR BIRYANI
Juicy chicken and mutton grills are the perfect starter