Thursday, 9 February 2012
Al-Safadi, Sheikh Zayed Rd, Dubai
Vindaloo HQ has been busy again, a whirlwind of excitement as I've been househunting! I need a permanent place to call my home as I intend on staying here for the long haul, so have been exploring the city in search of my perfect pad. I must say, nothing has matched up to my lovely home back in Manchester and my eyes have been blinded by the awful avocado bathroom suites in properties that estate agents have the audacity to call des res! Housing disasters aside, this quest for the perfect home may not have been that fruitful, but along the way, it's helped reveal a whole host of eateries in parts of the city I'd never ventured in before! I had always dismissed the SZR as a tourist trap full of the usual chain suspects- the sight of N*ndo's and St*rbucks deterring me from exploring further. Never judge a book by its cover though, as in actual fact, tourists are outnumbered by businessmen and suchlike in the area, meaning the faceless international chains are also outnumbered by independent eateries and local chains. A wealth of cute coffee shops and authentic eateries were waiting to be uncovered by Vindaloo Queen.
Al Safadi is nestled between the Dusit Thani hotel and the Financial Centre Metro station and offers the usual Lebanese dishes that one becomes accustomed to in Dubai. It is a small local chain that has retained a sense of individuality that chains like Zaatar W Zeit has sacrificed for a more Nando-istic approach. With cosy seating both inside and out, the outside seating being centred around a water feature, customers can while away the hours over a shisha, grab a quick shawarma or make the day of it with a monster meze. Unlike most Lebanese eateries in the city, Al-Safadi serves a double whammy of bread, giving both the pre-packaged pittas and oven baked ones.
The meal began in the usual Dubai-Lebanese way with a pickle tray and unprepared salad, the freshest I have experienced as yet. I could actually eat the olives without wincing at their bitterness, the pickled radish sweeter and crunchier than usual. I was overjoyed to see a pristine clean salad as standards seem to be slipping recently, even at some of my fave eateries on Al Dhiyafa Rd. If the standard of food keeps up for the rest of the lunch, I think we'll have a new Lebanese restaurant king on our hands to topple the undisputed champion Sidra...
In order to make a fair comparison, I ordered my usual spicy potatoes and instead of a falafel shawarma, I was in the mood for halloumi so went for a halloumi sandwich. The sandwich was served on a 'sub' type bread instead of the usual pitta but nonetheless was tasty, the fluffy bread complementing the rubbery halloumi garnished with rocket and spinach. Time to try the potatoes, they did have some pretty big shoes to fill if they can compete with Sidra... Amazing. These potatoes have what it takes to topple Sidra from its throne of the spiciest potato provider in Dubai. Spicy yet not overpowering with just the right amount of coriander, cut into perfect bite-size chunks and not mere chippings like those of Beirut, sautéed but not soaked in fat, these spuds were perfection on a plate. My carnivorous researcher gave his Shish Taouk full marks too, giving it extra points for presentation as it was served with exactly half tabouleh, half chips and not 99% chips and a couple of salad leaves. Definitely the top location for a Lebanese feast in the city centre.