Be a star at Lucky Voice!

View my food journey on Zomato!

It’s not that I can’t sing. I’ve done it for most of my life and my ability does transcend genres, artists and even languages.  It’s just that my friends and family have not been too receptive to my unique talent. So, the idea of a karaoke brunch didn’t really excite me too much or it had not done so until I experienced  the Lucky Voice brunch over the weekend.

Not knowing what to expect, I walked into a huge room with neon lights covering most of the ceiling and quirky pieces like a random bath tub strategically strewn about. There was a DJ booth that looked like an old school tape stereo and also Christmas decorations all around. The moment I saw the tub, I knew I was in the right place. All that singing that I’ve been doing for all these years has usually been in the vicinity of a bath tub.

Not just the décor but the whole concept itself was unlike any karaoke bar or any brunch for that matter. They didn’t just throw you to the mercy of the DJ nor did we have to endure 3 hours of painful singing by people who had no job doing such things. There was a whole talent show on stage and the participants were the guests themselves! Yes, every table had nominated some guests to perform a karaoke battle style dance off. Spread over several rounds, with knockouts based on applause this was by far the most entertaining thing I have ever done at a Brunch!

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Sharing some Holiday Cheer with Chef Rob from Intersect by Lexus

At the end of the brunch, we were granted free access to one of the private rooms that came with a karaoke machine just so we could shamelessly torture our friends without being embarrassed in public. Don’t get me wrong, a few of us can sing remember? Fortunately, nobody really gave a hoot about who could or could not. The bottom line is that everybody was doing it and nobody seemed to care. If that was not a fabulous moment, I don’t what was. Think of it like the after party before the after party.

Oh yes and they did have food as well. I saw some tacos and wings floating around on a platter somewhere. The cranberry juice, company and the talent show took up most of my time though. I remember singing the few words of lose yourself that I knew while holding a lint roller like a mic.

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy

 …………………………………….already, mom’s spaghetti

Which incidentally was the song that the winner of the dance off performed on. Oh, and I also had a beef slider but lets just say that I would be going back only for the karaoke and all that fun!

Lucky Voice - Grand Millennium Dubai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nom Nom Asia

As far as restaurants go, I have always rooted for the little guy. Imagine trying to position yourself between the fancy big players and the cafeteria types which can  survive despite selling hot meals for as low as  AED 15. Your prices have got to be lower than the giant food factories but you have also got to try and do something better than them. You need to be more creative, offer new variations and most important of all – have a killer PR strategy.

In my quest for offbeat hidden gems, I ended up at Nom Nom Asia in Barsha. I didn’t just end up there by chance. A sign they had posted outside both their Karama and Barsha restaurants  went viral on social media some time ago. Basically, if you are hungry, unemployed and looking for a job in Dubai, Nom Nom Asia has got you covered. No, they will not let you do the dishes but they will offer you a free combo lunch meal to keep you fueled for the search. How cool is that?

I am sure that many hungry job seekers must have used this to their advantage but I just can’t stop admiring the PR element of this initiative. When designing a CSR campaign, companies try to come up with something good and meaningful that will impact society in a positive way, but they also try to find causes that will get them the most mileage. As far as PR strategies go, this was just brilliant.

INow that I had driven for thirty minutes to get there and they had my undivided attention, it was time to venture inside and see if the food could live up to the PR strategy.  The interior was casual and understated, just the way one would expect a neighborhood joint to be.

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The menu had both a Chinese and Thai section with plenty of variety but I do have a bad habit of ordering the chicken with cashew nut at every Asian restaurant I go to. We did order some Schezwan chicken to go with it. I was pleasantly surprised to see the brown rice option which we ordered as well but to start it all off, we requested some chicken Dim Sum.

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The food was ok but the service was top class. Our waiter was attentive yet not intrusive and he got the order right. I heard they have a Thai chef but the flavour had definitely been dialed down perhaps to please their European clientele. None of the other reviews I have read mention this so it may just have been a one-off thing. The chicken Dim Sum though, were perfectly pungent. I could have easily closed my eyes and imagined being on the streets of Hong Kong.

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Chicken with cashew nut and Nom Nom Asia

I’m not sure if it was because we were taking pictures of our food or if I looked like someone in need of a free dessert but we were offered a free sticky rice with mango after our meal. We most gratefully and graciously accepted of course, because that is what you do when you get offered a free dessert! We were in Thailand this August and this particular dish was at par with the best mango sticky rice we have had there or anywhere else ever before. I think the little tub of coconut cream that accompanied the dessert played a big role in that.

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Mango Sticky rice at Nom Nom Asia

So, our trip to Nom Nom Asia did end on a high note and we would love to return again for the sticky rice. Also, I have a feeling that the Karama branch might be a better option though because most of the customers there wouldn’t mind a little chilli with heir cashew nuts!

Nom Nom Asia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hakeem’s Kababji Grill.

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same.

There’s a green one and a pink one

And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

Malvina Reynolds.

In the whole cookie cutter scheme of things, how different is your neighborhood Lebanese grill from mine? Does your local curry house serve soft, piping hot, puffed up nans just like mine? It probably does. I bet your Lebanese joint could sprinkle some pine nuts on your Hummus Beiruti if you asked them to, or they probably already do because that’s how it is supposed to be right?

Sure, things could always go wrong. Your meat could end up being a bit more charred than you would have liked or there might be a bit more lemon in your Tabbouleh then you would have wanted but at the end of the day, authentic Lebanese food will always be more or less similar in name, taste and presentation. The same goes for authentic Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Korean, or what have you.

So how do we really know if any one restaurant is better than the other? Well, the décor and the location may play a role but eventually it all boils down to one thing. ‘Service’ is the one factor that may break or make your overall experience. If the quality of service is exceptional, the food (as long as it is acceptable) won’t even matter that much. One day, while looking for a hidden gem waiting to be discovered in the streets of Dubai Marina, I came across such a restaurant.

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Kababji restaurant in the Marina is situated at a quiet corner of the promenade. The view is not extraordinary as far as Marina restaurants go but you can catch a glimpse of yachts cruising on the water albeit from a distance.  The menu was your standard Lebanese fare; grilled meats, salads and several variations of hummus. One thing that did stand out though was the effort to offer a healthy twist to many of the regular items on the list.

There was a Quinoa Tabbouleh which seemed like an interesting take on the popular Lebanese salad. The grilled veal fillet light and the Kebab light promised to be less than 400 calories each and seemed to be geared towards those who can’t survive without their meats but want to be heart healthy as well. I tried the Kebab light and since it was made of extra lean meat, I found it to be a bit dry (the fat in the meat keeps the kabab moist and juicy). The grilled chicken we ordered was grilled to perfection. Tender and moist on the inside and perfectly charred on the outside.

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The food however, as I mentioned before, was secondary. The one thing that has ensured I return to this restaurant was the service. We went at a time when there was just one waiter inside. Hakeem (our waiter) saw us from inside the glass door and rushed outside to help us carry D’s stroller down the steps. He was never intrusive but always attentive. We just had to look up towards him once and there he would be, right next to us awaiting our next request.

I ordered a coffee and cancelled it after 5 minutes because I changed my mind. He agreed with a smile and went back to pass the message to the kitchen. Baby D was not in a particularly good mood and for some reason kept throwing her French fries on the floor while shouting “potato, potato” at the top of her voice. Hakeem pretended as if nothing was wrong while we discussed our order.

Noticing that I had ordered the Spicy version of the Kabab light, Hakeem asked if we would like some fresh chilli paste to go with our order. Once we started eating, he asked us once if the meal was alright or if we needed anything else and then left us in peace to enjoy the meal. D of course had other plans but that is beside the point.

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It is quite amazing how one person can transform your entire dining out experience. This could have been a bad day to eat out but thanks to Hakeem, it was anything just.

Kababji Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato