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 email@example.com, 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.
“Smiling BKK” thats the name of the Dubai restaurant, recommended by my blind dates. Mona Lisa (with a moustache) graces this Thai eatery, ( the owner looks like Mona Lisa, we are informed). While the young luxury inventory controller Mohit Bidchandani is holding a gun (given by the waiter to call him) PR consultant Vaishali Chatterjee, trend spotter, dancer is smiling with the menu. As is Tech & digital enthusiast, travel pundit Aneesha Hingorani (thanks @petpujaris). We love the small, vibrant tucked away eatery with it’s Thai curries and fish cakes. Watch this space for more hidden secrets which my blind dates help me sniff out. Be my foodie date Instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh
I write from Paradise. There’s no other word that describes the feeling of being amid lush green nature in the heart of throbbing, cacophonic Manhattan. And even more tempting in the “Big apple” is the gourmet picnic fare that seduces with it’s masterful flavors and tastes. Each dish unerringly made by the brilliant and exceptionally gifted chef Ashfer Biju.
I love picnics and ever since my childhood have gone on one at the drop of a hat. But this is my most spectacular and memorable picnic ever. Interestingly, picnics have been a part of history and art and literature too. Did you know that in 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France? This was to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. Even here, in the United States, the 4 July celebrate American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday. The energy and abundance of nature infuses itself into the food and whoa! What amazing chemistry takes place. And when there is a maestro orchestrating the goodies in the picnic basket then even more magic happens.
BIJUS BEJEWELLED BREAKFAST
Kudos to Ashfer Biju, this young Indian chef who has captivated the highly sophisticated tastebuds of New Yorkers. Ofcourse, he has gourmet genes: his father had a highly popular restaurant in Hyderabad still runs a super restaurant in Malaysia and chef Biju started cooking in his teens.
Not only did this young Executive chef start off by wining the National Level Young Chef’s Competition, in Mauritius but has continued to be showered by accolades and awards. Nationally and internationally. Having worked in many a Leading Hotel of the world he now heads up the iconic Pierre hotel. Here elegant history and glamor tango with modern high-tech luxury. Not only has it played host to royalty and state heads but many a Hollywood star like Elizabeth Taylor have made it their home for several years. It is here in their cutting edge TwoE that he has introduced many an amazing flavor palatte. Two e goes classic, Classic reinterpreted and many such spectacular dishes blitz the tastebuds here. And chef Michael Mignano’s dessert menu also dazzles, with it’s sorbet samplers and more. Interestingly, Pierre also offers Mediterranean vegetable-based dishes, Indian vegetarian, vegan Halal, gluten-free and Kosher meals too.
Through the various menus this brilliant young chef’s passion for traveling and exploring different ethnic cultures, cuisines and people shines through.
His interest in Ayurveda and Medicinal Cooking keeps him evolving amazing recipes too.
Chef Biju has an impressive roster of international work, from Kreo-Asian Food Promotion at Hotel Palace, Luzern to
training at “Claridges Hotel”
“Mosimann’s Club” London.
Chef Biju’s culinary training is rooted in the French and Basque regions. Interestingly, The Pierre has a huge and impressive culinary history. It opened in 1930 serving food in the classic French style, initiated by celebrated Master Chef Escoffier who developed the original menus. That tradition continues. And Chef Biju brings to the table amazing and dazzling flavors and textures. Our picninc basket too overflows with tasty magic…I request for the recipe of the superb buttermilk pancakes and end with the wish “Ma your life be a picnic always”.
Silver Dollar Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 25 tiny pancakes (the size of silver dollars)
2 cups refined flour sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 ea large eggs yolks & whites separated
2 tbl sp powdered sugar
2 tsp melted butter
¼ tsp icing sugar for garnish
10 ea strawberries for garnish
1 cup maple syrup as accompaniment
1 cup chocolate chips optional
1 cup blue berries optional
Method of preparation:
- Pre-heat a griddle or a non stick pan to medium high heat, lightly smear with oil (or use pan spray) and wipe off completely. There should not be any residual oil on the pan, but for a light coating
- Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a mixing bowl
- Mix egg yolks and buttermilk together in a separate bowl
- Prepare a soft meringue by beating egg whites and adding sugar gradually
- Combine all three mixtures in a large mixing bowl ensuring the mixture is homogeneous using a spatula or a paddle, Do not over mix
- Add melted butter to the batter
- Pour the batter on to pre-heated griddle (approximately a table spoon full for each pancake)
- To prepare chocolate chip or blueberry pancake, gently place some toppings on to wet pancake top at this stage
- Once the pancake starts to bubble on top, turn and cook the other side for about a minute
- Remove the pancakes from the pan, dust with icing sugar, Serve hot with maple syrup and strawberries
A nine-hour dinner that pampered all my senses, teased my intellect and blew my mind. I was seduced by the Australian gastronomic experience.
Recently, Australia “invited the world to dinner” and declared that for this path-breaking occasion, three of its top chefs would be cooking together. I confess, initially, I was skeptical, but sure, I was flattered and thrilled to be invited as one of the 80 (only 80) “global food influencers” by Australia. I was going to be in fabulous company…superstar chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Alice Waters, Matt Preston, Maggie Beer, writers like AA Gill and many others. It was not a dinner, but an epic that is best explained
Chapter 1: A 15-MILE-LONG DINNER
We begin ‘the’ day on a sunny, windswept pier in Hobart, Tasmania, with the finest and fleshiest oysters pulled fresh from the ocean, complemented by House of Arras sparkling wines and a live orchestra. We are then ushered onto speedboats, zipping through bracing icy winds to a picturesque rocky island dotted by fire pits and pink flowers.
CHAPTER 2: ON AN ISLAND
We are now on the island, at Ben Shewry’s restaurant, Attica, coddled in the warmth of soft blankets, as we devour the freshest of seafood being grilled by Australia’s greatest chefs—Neil Perry, Ben Shewry and Peter Gilmore.
Amidst fire pits and indigenous storytellers, the three head chefs of Restaurant Australia treat the guests to the first of many creative courses—King George whiting in paperbark and grilled baby corn with forest anise from Ben Shewry; Peter Gilmore’s charcoal-grilled West Australian marron with wasabi butter and roasted wallaby tail broth; wood-roast Tasmanian lobster with kombu butter and charcoal-grilled Tasmanian abalone with liver, sake and mirin dressing by Neil Perry. They were all complemented by outstanding Australian vintage sparkling bruts.
CHAPTER 3: DINING IN THE MUSEUM
We then sail across in a huge boat to the iconic Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and fireworks light up the sky as we climb up the fortress. MONA, which sprawls across eight acres, is also home to a winery, brewery, restaurants, luxury accommodation and much more.
Here, the main courses are served on a gargantuan snake-shaped table. We are seduced by amazing flavours and textures of the freshest produce (be it beef, seafood or kangaroo). At MONA, the three chefs blurred the lines of cooking and art, each presenting a unique course
served with six matching Australian wines. Ben Shewry presented salted South Australian red kangaroo and bunya bunya; Peter Gilmore prepared a dish of smoked and confit pig jowl, black lipped abalone, koji, fermented grains, shitake and seaweed; Neil Perry served grilled sirloin, braised cheek, oxtail and tea- smoked oyster red curry.
CHAPTER 4: ROVING SWEET AND STICKY CELEBRATION
After non-stop eating, as we walk down to a lower floor of the museum for the dessert course, we see bird nests on mock trees, each with sweet white eggs. Here Ben Shewry sits behind his ice-cream cart and serves us dollops of seduction—his famous Blue Wren eggs. Peter Gilmore serves fresh lychee, vanilla, rose, coconut prune, salted caramel, jersey cream; while Neil Perry’s date tart mango, pandan and coconut thrills us. We also sample the first raw milk blue cheese to be produced in Australia, King Saul by South Australian cheese makers, Udder delights. The experience was rounded off with a decadent cheese board, which is produced by Bruny Island Cheese Company and Holy Goat.
A dinner that spanned nine hours, sure it was epic!
My idea of Columbus-fun? Straight from JFK (after a 24 hour journey) to a foodie blind date in Manhattan. All thanks to twitter and instagram. We meet at the moderately priced,Cookshop (10th Ave) and enjoy their robust and delicious meatballs, fish and chips fare (plenty for veggies) as we do the sensational desserts. It’s a treat to meet each one :“Mihir never sleeps Pathare”, user experience designer and home chef, Renate Aller, well-known artist, Elaine Goldman, art collector and Phiroza Kothavala hotelier extraordinaire. The exceptionally gifted Chef Ashfer Biju of the iconic Pierre is the only one who Ive met before. We have a super-rollicking time, eating, tweeting, eating. Please instagram, tweet (@rashmiudaysingh) and mail (Rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com) your Value for money NYC recommendations … so that in the land of Columbus I can continue to discover and feel like Columbus too!
I write from cacophonic Christmassy shimmering, glittering and shivering London. Am here for three days and Indians dazzle. It’s not about Indians in Indian restaurants,
its far more exciting than that. I have an exuberantly flavored meal at the two year old Peruvian “Coya” (Zagat rated it the worlds best restaurant) and guess what? It is not only owned by Indians, the Waney brothers but even the chef is Sanjay Dwivedi. Making waves with it’s luxurious elegance is Rosewood London the first new truly grand hotel to have opened after 25 years. It has already got cult status as a quintessential London destination. And just by chance I bump into the mega-Octane Radha Arora, the President of the group who is on a flying visit to London. His vision and genius is powering this dynamic, exciting group (which amongst other iconic properties also has the fabled Carlyle in NYC). Here, the creatively grounded Chef Palash Mitra, master of spice, deftly delivers authentic, simple Indian food. I savor every morsel, send you wishes for a delicious Christmas and New year! Lets raise a toast to our India!