Restau­rant reviews

From­cheap and cheer­ful in­Karam­ato the finest din­ing ofDown­town, the Fri­day teamtries a range of In­dian restau­rants with de­li­cious re­sults

Friday - - Contents -

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’


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’


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”.



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


Browse the menu in the stylish lounge

The restau­rant has an el­e­gant yet cosy am­bi­ence


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

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