Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Al Mallah, Dubai
Authentic Eastern atmosphere in glitzy Dubai!
The media tends to paint a distorted picture of Dubai. People who have never been seem to think it is some glitzy, overpriced playground full of expensive hotels, faceless chain restaurants and tourist tack. These people have either a) never been outside Europe and read the papers too much or b) have been to Dubai once as a package tourist and never strayed from the concrete jungle that is The Palm. I compare it to going to Manchester and only seeing the Printworks, or Edinburgh and not straying from Leith, you get my drift. What I'm saying is that it's great to explore, to go to the older, more developed parts of the city where 'normal' people and not just celebs live.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a severe lack of Emirati cuisine here but fear not, Arabic food is still in abundance with the city's numerous Lebanese restaurants!
Following on from my previous review, I was starting to become addicted to Lebanese food and needed to see what else was on offer in the world of Tabbouleh and co. I found myself on the bustling Al Dhiyafa Road which is slowly finding a place in my heart and becoming a firm must-see on my culinary itinerary. Like Manchester's (in)famous Curry Mile, restaurants compete cheek by jowl for custom, a colourful melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Thankfully, there is no hard sell like its Mancunian brother so the atmosphere is somewhat more relaxed. Like a moth to a lightbulb, I found myself drawn to Al Mallah which apparently is one of the original restaurants on the street. You cannot miss this culinary gem with its green fluorescent lighting, rotating chickens and delicious smells of spice wafting your way. As I sat at its outdoor seating area, the whole atmosphere of the place brought back memories of childhood trips to Turkey, where I gorged on lamb kebabs (I ate meat then!) and supped freshly squeezed orange juice, the throngs of people, the buzz of the traffic and the faint background 'Arabesque' music adding to the ambience.
The menu is worth a read before one automatically defaults to the standard chicken kebab or falafel shawarma. Sure, these Lebanese standards are available, but so are many other treats. Why not create a meze for yourself like I did? I ordered the spicy potatoes and a huge bowl of Mutabal and some labneh (of course), which when combined with the basket of pittas, fresh vegetables and pickle tray is more than enough to satisfy me. The Mutabal was rich and velvety, the pickles fresh, the salad crisp. In addition, I got my greens from a gigantic bowl of Tabouleh (pictured). My only minor complaint was that the spicy potatoes were a tad greasy and tasted more like chips, not what I was expecting. Nonetheless, they were lovely! My meat eating acquaintances filled their faces on shish tawuk, apparently 'the freshest chicken in this street or possibly in Dubai' according to them.
The best part of the Al Mallah experience comes at dessert time. They have an extensive list of fresh juice dessert drinks which are possibly the cheapest on the street. They come in 4 sizes from small to XL; I went for the Medium which was gigantic! The drinks have unusual names, some after celebrities- Charles and Diana feature on the list, along with footballers from the past like Maradona and Pele. I wonder when this list was last updated and when the Camilla or Beckham will be on the menu! I chose the Tahiti drink, which was a fresh strawberry juice mixed with banana, pineapple, strawberry and pear pieces topped with vanilla ice cream. Decadent yet healthy at the same time, I will definitely be working my way through this drinks menu!
The night drew to a close and as we were bade goodnight by the friendly staff, I was already Facebooking my friends to tell them all about the legendary Tahiti experience. Al Mallah, you have the Midas touch.