A request. Please take a look at the accompanying photograph: would you believe I shot this in the hot, arid desert? Such a fabulous relief to be amongst lush tropical gardens and trees in this concrete skyscrapered Dubai! It gets even more exciting because here in the cosmopolitan, diverse Dubai, not only does this multi-talented, brilliant Executive chef share his recipe of my most favorite dessert, the Crepes Suzette but many an invaluable multi-cuisine cooking tip too. Here he is, flambéing the pancake dessert by drizzling the Grand Marnier liquor down the orange rind and swapping many an interesting culinary story too.
While researching for my latest book, I dined at Roberto’s, the contemporary Italian restaurant in Dubai.
The elaborate menu is set by the brilliant Executive Chef Andrea Mugavero.
Roberto’s houses three refreshing concepts under one roof: the elegant main dining room, Il Ristorante, the buzzing lounge, Il Salotto, and an open air terrace, La Terrazza. Combined, these three areas create a unique sense of belonging appropriate for all occations.
I dine at the wondeful, La Petite Maison, where we trip out on the worlds best French toast and Burrata. This restaurant has been rated amongst the World’s 100 best restaurants. Local produce, notably artichokes, courgettes, lemons, olives, tomatoes, peppers and girolles are used generously with sea food, meat and fresh pasta to produce a style that’s light and healthy at La Petite Maison.
Over the top and over the moon in Dubai? How do I define it? Let me count the ways… Okay so Ive dined in the worlds highest restaurant (At.mosphere) in the worlds tallest building (Burj Khalifa). Tripped out on sushi at the glamorous Zeta while the worlds largest choreographed fountains danced and sang. Dined at the glamorous Pierchic which floats like a jewel in the sea. But here in the accompanying photograph Ive captured the over the top spirit of glitzy, edgy, flamboyant Dubai: Tall, gutsy, glamorous chef Silvena Rowe reigns over the hearts, palates and imagination of Dubai with her trio of Omnia restaurants. The newest one shimmers with it’s three storeyed see through mirrored kitchen and conjures modern magic with Emirati fare. Having eaten an amazing meal in Omnia we invited Silvena to get a taste of what our 26 year old Indian chef Himanshu Saini was creating with modernist Indian fare in Tresind (which has also been the talk of the town) Dubai’s leading brand builders Rita Karanjia Mehta and Leela Dhar updated me with invaluable insights into dazzling Dubai. Ofcourse, as I continue research on the definitive guide to Dubai, Ive been eating at many an amazing surprise …from the fine dining Govindas (without onion and garlic) to Wolfgang’s Puck’s cutting edge steak house where the chef creates vegan fare too. Dubai does dazzle.
Here’s a feast to beat all feasts. It pampers all my senses…there is light, sound, dance, music and ofcourse food. As though all this were not enough there is also the worlds tallest building and the worlds biggest choreographed fountain to keep me company. If the accompanying photograph had a video and sound track, heres what you’d see and hear… glittering and shimmering fountains leaping and swirling and twirling into the evening sky as different colored lights bathe and sway with them. These fountains dance to music and Whitney Houston’s husky ”I’ll always love you” echoes sensuously as the fountains sway to it’s melody. And as though blessing it all and taking the ringside seat like a benevolent all-caring Pasha is the worlds tallest building, The Burj Khalifa which shimmers glamorously. And right here while feasting on this spectacle I am feasting on the freshest of fare created by the brilliant Executive chef Alain Gobeil . All this is the glamorous Zeta Restaurant where the heart of Dubai seems to throb in all it’s glory. In many different ways.
I’m excited! I call it “to have your dazzle and eat it too”. Not only do I dine in the most exquisite symbol of Dubai but also come away with it’s treasured recipes for you. “Qbara” is the name of this sexily glamorous restaurant. “Qbara” the word is “Arabic” back to front. Qbara itself is Arabic dining inside-out. And so it is acknowledged to be “the Dubai experience”. It distills Arabic flair, glamorizes it and modernizes it too.
Here, the glamorously sprawling space seduces all the senses. Dramatically lit, with a brilliant interplay of light and shadow, it shimmers with a humongous and beautiful chandelier (of what seems to be large pearls). Beautiful hostesses lead you into a dimly lit, two leveled large dining area. As does the surrealistic wall with it’s mesmerizing 3D sound and light effect.From the upper level, guests can look down on the restaurant in all its glory.
The food dazzles: dish after dish had visual and gustatory starbursts.The magic comes on thick and fast…compressed, refreshing sweet watermelon off set by the salty luscious shanklish cheese. The delightful falafel salad, followed by mellow, fragrant fish and rice, succulent, robust lamb. Delicate, raw Yellowtail and char-grilled spicy quail pieces, wrapped in vine leaves. The list goes on and on. My gracious hosts Alia Bin Hendi and Anass Allouch explain many an Arabic term and I feast on the conversation as I do on the fabulous food. Camels milk icecream in erotic embrace with crushed baklava delights. The piece de resistance? sensational honey and vanilla panacotta, topped with yards of sweet gossamer Iranian candyfloss pashmak.
Creating this magic is the extraordinarily gifted Colin Clague. Born in the Isle of man, Chef Clague has worked with icons like Anton Mosimann and Sir Terence Conran, Clague has not only worked and travelled the world but also spearheaded the pre-opening teams of the prestigious Burj Al Arab in Dubai, and executive chef of award-winning Japanese izakaya restaurants – Zuma in London and Dubai.
Coincidentally I have eaten at all the restaurants he worked in, including Pollen in Singapore. And each time Ive been delighted. Achieving such resounding flavors and texture takes serious skill and effort and Chef Colin Clague displays both.His dishes dazzle as does Qbara and I have many atreasured recipe from him. Should you need any please email firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh and I’ ll be happy to share them with you
What you are holding in your hands is an open invitation to join me at a uniquely spectacular banquet. If you take a look at the accompanying photographs Ive shot, you may begin to get an idea of whats in store. Ofcourse, its just a whiff, a tiny flavor. It begins with the amazing breakfast safari in the magnificent desert and a platter of Bedouin breakfast. It ends with an elegant, authentic Thai meal in a Palace, with the worlds tallest singing and dancing fountains regaling us. In between I not only dine in world class restaurants. Meet world-renowned chefs (our very own Sanjeev Kapoor is here too) but also taste the food of a myriad restaurants in the “Beach canteen”, watch cooking classes, eat at the “Ripe market” in the park. The Dubai food festival not only serves up a flavor of the world but also the homegrown authentic, exoti Emirati ones. And I relish each one!
BREAKFAST IN THE DESERT
Its exhilerating to speed over rolling sanddunes. Nothing can match the vivid blue skies and cool desert Februrary sunshine as we head towards the Bedouin camp. Here not only do I bask in the sun as I sip on the Arabic coffee (heady with cardamom and saffron,) but also chat with the chief of the Bedouins (looking majestic in his crisp white headgear). A bumpy roller coaster ride on a camel and my appetite is kickstarted. The wholesome Bedouin breakfast (please see photo) of wheat noodles (balaleet) with a whisper of sweetness, the airy light pancakes and “rotis” with zattaar nourish and energise. I couldve stayed on for hours but it’s time to drive on and watch wild animals in the conservation camp
PALACE OF PLEASURE
From the wilds of the desert to a luxuriously pampered dinner in the shimmering majestic, Arabian-inspired Palce hotel in Old Town, right near Dubai Mall. This Palace hotel sprawls langourously around the placid lake. And it is in this lake that twinkling, dancing, singing fountains leap and piroutte in the sky. They provide an amazing backdrop to our dinner at Thiptara, the authentic Thai restaurant. It is here that Chef Chaiwat conjures sweet, spicy magic. In between tripping out on Thai dimsum, succulent Chicken satay and fragrant velvetty curries we converse with renowned chef Yousuf Khumayes from Saudi Arabia. He is here for the food festival and has not only been inaugurating but also sharing his views on healthy cooking at many a Food festival event. Explaining the exciting details of the Food festival (which is on till end of February) the dynamic director, Debora Greenwood elaborates on how this is a treat for foodies,
Through it all, I not only fall in love with this charming, Arabesque hotel which the dapper Fabrice Dufry helms but also nibble on the masterful Thai fare from which lemongrass, galanagal,
Makrut and other Thai herbs leap and delight. Much like the fountains around us.
MIDDLE EASTERN FUSION
It’s a delight to meet the young, and down to earth, renowned chef Yousef Khumayes who has been cooking since the age of four. Since then he’s certainly left a track of awards and accomplishments in his wake as an adult! Originally from Jeddah, (his mother is Irish) Chef Khumayes also has international exposure (having honed his skills in leading hotels and restaurants around the world) he has evolved a wide variety of culinary styles and techniques that he often blends in what he dubs ’Middle-Eastern Fusion’, something that is evident in his delicious, exciting, and surprising dishes. He continues to blaze trails in‘Top Chef’ creating winning dishes and winning hearts too.
He shares with us one of his favorite yummy recipes
Scallops and quinoa salad:-
8 ounces dry sea scallops/
4 teaspoons light soy sauce/4 tablespoons canola oil/
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic / 3 cups water /1 teaspoon salt /1 cup sliced snow peas. /1/3 cup rice vinegar/ 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil /1 cup sliced scallions / 1/3cup finely diced red peppers / 1/2 A red chilli finely chopped /1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
Toss scallops with 2 teaspoons light soy sauce in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Place a large, pan on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil and quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, until the quinoa begins to colour, 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until the water is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to the side, covered, for 8 minutes. Stir in snow peas, cover and leave for 7 minutes more.
Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons canola oil, with 2 teaspoon light soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil. Add the quinoa and snow peas, scallions and bell pepper, mix to combine.
Remove the scallops from the marinade and dry. Heat a big pan on high till it’s really hot. Add the rest of the canola oil and cook the scallops, turning once, until golden brown, about 3minutes each side. Toss the scallops into the quinoa salad. Serve with coriander and a squeeze of fresh lime juice and enjoy.
Talk of meaningful coincidences! I have a blind date with the Michelin starred Atul Kochhar, from London who sent me a direct tweet to say he wants to meet up in Mumbai. I invite him to TRP. Two days later I go to Dubai for their fab food festival. This time I am invited by the dynamic and hospitable Mana Al Suwaidi and guess where to? To Michelin starred Atul Kochhar’s restaurant in Dubai.High ceilinged handsome Rang Mahal where this highly acclaimed chef weaves his Indian magic. As one of the celebrity chefs at the Dubai Food festival he also wows Dubai with his cooking demonstrations. He distils the world on our plate while still retaining authentic Indian flavors. Its wonderful how the Dubai Festival makes many a celebrity chef accessible to all, meeting chefs, watching them cook and getting a taste of their creations too…therein lies the festival magic!
Khulja sim sim! And Alladin’s magic cave with it’s amazing treasures is slowly opening up. My kind of treasures…edible ones! It’s the stuff dreams are made of. Other than eating on a flying carpet I am doing it all. Breakfasting (on Balaleet) in the desert in the bracing cool of the early morning. Gliding on the creek, while dining on a sumptuous gourmet meal. Tripping out on the beach (theres yoga, games too) and nibbling on the fare of eleven restaurants, there are foodtrucks, there is eating in the lush green park too. And as though all this is not enough there is the helicopter mystery dining which takes you from helipad to helipad of hotels as you eat your way. This happens annually, only in this month of February in the Dubai Food festival. Ofcourse, the world class restaurants (many helmed by Michelin starred chefs) continue to enthrall in this truly cosmopolitan city which offers over 200 cuisines, suitable to all pockets and palates. Last night I had the most authentic of Thai cuisines (while being regaled by the worlds tallest dancing and singing fountains) in the old world charm of the Palace hotel. Over dinner I hungrily feasted on gourmet details about Dubai shared by the knowledgable Debora Greenwood and Anass Allouch. The young and brilliant Saudi Arabian Chef Yousuf Khumais observations on healthy eating peppered our fabulous meal. And what an amazing lunch with Alia Bin Hendi at the truly world class Tasha’s café: still cant get over the extravagant Eaton Messy dessert. My regrets? Still not able to buy an Abaya, meet the king’s son who was lunching at Tashas (when I was) and fly on a magic carpet. You cant have everything can you?
P.S. A million thanks for all your Dubai recommendations on mail, twitter and instagram. Please keep them coming.