Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Rawabina, Garhoud, Dubai
The traffic in Satwa can be a nightmare, especially when coming from the other side of the creek, and can be enough to put off a hardened Sidra addict from making the journey. On Friday, the Dubai Marathon took place, meaning that Jumeira Rd and its surroundings were blocked off and gridlock ensued. When I was an air hostess, we were trained to always make alternative arrangements in case of emergency; an example of this being diverting to Abu Dhabi airport if Dubai was closed. I have brought my trolley dolly training into the foodie forum and put this into practice with restaurants, finding alternate destinations in Garhoud as opposed to Jumeirah! As much as I love Sidra, it isn't the most convenient to get to, so the hunt was on for more Lebanese cuisine on the Deira side of the creek. In actual fact, my original plan was to head for the alternate destination La Mia Favola for a steaming plate of Arrabiata, but as they are now closed on a Friday, it was time for a go-around as they say in aviation-speak. Garhoud has a multitude of Lebanese and other Eastern Mediterranean restaurants specialising in the usual suspects Shish Tawuk and Falafel, plus a multitude of sticky, baklava-esque desserts. I rolled up at Rawabina, an opulent take on the Tavuk and Falafel cheap and cheerful snack bar.
At first glance, Rawabina looks as if it's going to be expensive and more Palm than Satwa- velvet rope outside like an exclusive club, gold finish on the furnishings and decor, sweeping opulent staircase and pristine uniformed staff. Appearances can be deceptive and in actual fact, the menu was roughly the same price as Sidra and Al Mallah. After the rubbish service at Central Perk, the staff here were a breath of fresh air- polite, welcoming and acknowledging their customers' requests. Along with the usual Lebanese staples one is accustomed to in Dubai, Rawabina goes the extra mile and asserts its identity as a Jordanian establishment which incorporates the delicacies of its neighbouring countries like Palestine, Syria and of course, Lebanon. Dips garnished with pomegranate seeds, succulent kebabs sprinkled with parsley, desserts dripping in syrup, this was Levantine food at its best. In order to get a good comparison with Sidra and co, I opted for my 2 staple dishes, the Spicy Coriander Potatoes and a Falafel Shawarma. Service wasn't as speedy as its Satwa brothers, but it made for a nice, chilled Friday afternoon extended lunch, meaning I didn't feel rushed out.
The obligatory salad and pickle platter arrived first, which for the main part was crisp, however the tomatoes still had dirt of some description on and the olives were extremely bitter. The potatoes were indeed spicy, but like so many other Lebanese eateries, it fell down due to the fact that the potatoes were more like small, English style 'Chippy chips', greasy and burnt to a crisp. Sidra is still the undefeated champion of Spicy Coriander Potatoes. The Falafel Shawarma was the real star of the show. Instead of being tightly wrapped in paper like most places, it was huge as far as shawarmas go, bursting with flavour and for the finishing touch, appeared to have been toasted in a George Foreman type grill. Full marks for the best cheap-eats presentation here. My carnivorous colleague's Shish Tawuk measured up, the chicken apparently rivalling that of Al Mallah. It didn't go unnoticed though that there was no extra bread served with the meal apart from that on the base of the Tawuk and the one encasing my falafel, but maybe they just don't want to be wasteful like some establishments.
I had to test the potency of the coffee here too as I spotted a proper machine behind the counter, not one of your Nescafe and a kettle jobs. My Americano was of desired potency, but I wasn't keen on the type of coffee used. It tasted more like Turkish coffee as it had more than a hint of cardamon in. While Turkish coffee is meant to be spiced, it didn't quite work with Americano.
Overall, despite a few hiccups, I was impressed with Rawabina, but if I go back, I'll make the effort to get out of my potato and falafel comfort zone and try some of the Jordanian dishes.