L’eto Cafe. The modest giant.

I remember being pulled into L’eto Café by the captivating display of tarts and cakes, not once but two times as I walked past the store at Mall of the Emirates. Not to eat anything, no. I am supposed to be on a perpetual diet you see. No tarts, cakes or any other sinful indulgence for me, thank you. I am a man of abstinence.
Like all other mortals however, I have my weak moments. Moments when the dormant wild beast within overpowers the voice of reason. There are times when middle aged logic and self-control lose out to reckless curiosity and desire. Usually those moments kick in before dinnertime every day. It just so happened, that the two times I was enticed into L’eto Café was on days that I had already had dinner. So, the reason I had not defied all reasoning to dive head first into a L’eto fig and cardamom tart yet, was all down to timing. I was just at the right place at the wrong time.
This time was different though. I casually slipped in the name while discussing a venue for Iftar that was not a buffet. ‘They do have lots of salads and healthy options’ I said, while forgetting to mention that they also had the most alluring cake display, this side of the Champs-Élysées. Like always, my powerful power of persuasion worked and L’eto Café was the destination of choice that evening.
We chose the City Walk location. It had a patio that looked out into the walking street that had all the performers and little food carts. We decided to sit inside though. The well-lit dining area and luxurious white furnishings were dotted with colorful flowers. This was such an instagrammable place and we didn’t even make it to the cake display yet.
The hostesses were super sweet. Besides being quick and efficient in seating us, they did one thing that will ensure a repeat visit to this place. They offered to take baby D off of our hands. “Do you need a baby sitter?” asked one of them. Before we could process that question, D almost jumped out of her pram and into her arms as we watched in amazement. That didn’t last very long but the fact that it happened, even for a minute, was just so surreal.
Due to my extrasensory perception, we were delighted to see that they did actually have a vast selection of salads. Now, we could eat healthy right before annihilating our vows. Who needs restraint when you can have cake instead? Thanks to the salads, there would be zero percent guilt and hundred percent satisfaction.
We ordered a salad trio which allowed us to pick 3 salads from the display. We went for the Harissa Aubergines & Black Beluga Lentil salad, Honey Roasted Pumpkin & Crispy Kale salad and the Caramelized Beetroot, Dates & Goat Cheese salad. I think the names are self-explanatory but let me just add that the Aubergine & Lentil salad was dotted with cherry tomatoes and seasoned with fresh mint, parsley and coriander. The Pumpkin and Kale salad had bulgar wheat, dried cranberries and feta cheese while the beetroot, dates and goat cheese salad was completed by adding baby spinach, green beans, radicchio and almonds. Need I say more?

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We ordered one of the best looking open faced burgers I had seen in a long time. The ‘California Burger’ was basically some avocado slices over a thick beef patty placed on a bed of greens resting on a toasted bun. The other half of the bun was layered with tomato salsa which had pomegranate seeds mixed into it. It was like a Sicilian love affair in Tehran, or LA – depending on what side went into your mouth first. We were not in any of those cities though. We were in the only city that could be all of those places and more; a city that is a melting pot of cultures with a distinct identity of its own. We were in Dubai and this was the definitive Dubai Burger. I suggest they rename this burger as such but while the folks at L’eto think about that, I am going to go ahead and add this to my ‘Best 11 Burgers in Dubai’ list.

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California Burger at L’eto Cafe

The next dish we ordered was the Chicken Teriyaki. Clearly, the description in the menu was unable to do justice to this dish. It said that the dish included roasted sweet potatoes and oyster mushrooms as sides. What it did not mention was that Oyster mushrooms grow in larger flat caps similar to shiitake. As they grow larger, the flavor intensifies and they become tougher and meatier. The caps of these particular mushrooms must have been quiet large because I could have sworn I was chewing on Thai beef. The roasted sweet potatoes were roasted to the point where they had become slightly less sweet and a little crispy. The crispy sweet potatoes complimented the meaty texture of the mushrooms. Together, with the fragrant teriyaki chicken they created a mélange of flavours that I can still savour, as I write this review.

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Teriyaki Chicken at L’eto Cafe

L’eto is famous for its cakes and pastries but we were so stuffed that we decided to leave the coffee and cake for another day. My priority at that point was to wiggle out of my chair. I was positive I had grown a little bigger than before. I wasn’t entirely sure if I could walk by myself and I think I almost requested for a wheel barrow. My perpetual diet was still on though…once again, I had managed to stay away from the sugar!

L'ETO Caffe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

License to BLOG!

If I have ever influenced you to eat at a new restaurant or to savor a particular dish created by a chef you may not have heard of before, please know that I am truly very, very sorry. I have tried my best to be on the right side of the law for most of my life. Yes, it is true that in my juvenile days I may have ended up driving a car on nights that I should have taken a cab but please know that I am way past all of that and I have no intention of ever breaking the law again.

It is not just the repercussion of breaking the law that makes me want to be a good citizen, it is the law itself that encourages me to respect it and abide by it. I know for example that speeding can get me killed and there are laws in place to prevent that from happening hence I respect those laws. I also know that if I want to sell goods or service to others, I would need to work within the parameters of the law to do that. I understand that by doing so, I would also be protected by the same legal framework because it would encourage fair competition while keeping me safe from thieves, cheaters and scam artists.

So once again, please allow me to apologize. I apologize for ever having saved you from a terrible night out. I apologize for helping you plan your weekend or ever leading you on to fantasize about the best biryani in Dubai. I apologize for every Instagram post that encouraged you to get out of your comfort zone and try new things and if you live out of the UAE, I apologize for showing you how much fun we have down here.

Blogging without a license is going to be a crime punishable by a fine very soon. This license can be obtained by spending 30000 AED. I love to write, I love to eat and I love to share honest reviews of restaurants that I eat out at but I don’t love any of this, that much. Less than 2% of my Instagram posts have been paid for by sponsors. Less than 5% have been made covering restaurants where I did not pay for a meal. The remaining 93% of my posts have been paid for by me. So this is not a money making venture at all. I run my website because I love to blog. Instagram and Zomato are just two different ways of promoting my website. This website does not sell anything to anyone. The only thing available on that site are honest, tongue in cheek reviews of restaurants I have eaten out at.

I have been banned by some PR agencies because they could not deal with my honest opinions about the restaurants they represented. Others have taken my feedback in a positive way and have gone back and made changes based on that feedback. I am not the Mother Teressa of bloggers but I honestly feel that my blog has helped both consumers and restaurants. The only thing I ever got out of it was the satisfaction of sharing my experience with others in a meaningful way.

So I do not think I should need to pay for a license for doing that. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe that blogging, like all other sectors needs to be regulated. I also believe that all bloggers should register with the relevant authorities. I also know for a fact that there are many bloggers who make a lot of money in the UAE. Those are the ones that should be paying for a license. Not puny little food bloggers who thrive on the satisfaction derived from comparing shawarmas in Dubai. There are lifestyle and beauty bloggers who make a ton of money and I don’t think they would have any problem spending 30000AED on a license. Not me though. I would rather enjoy all my meals by myself than pay for the privilege of taking a picture of my sandwich and posting it on Instagram.

I believe there will be lots of other micro influencers like me who would be forced to shut their blogs down. Their combined followers may run into hundreds of thousands. Not only will this move deprive these followers of the information and entertainment they crave while leaving them at the mercy of huge trans global publishing houses but will also kill creativity at the source. The hashtag #visitdubai will not be pushed out into the world with the same fervour as it once was.

There may be a way around it. Let everyone register for free. Bring everyone into the fold. Let all bloggers share all information on a centralized online website with full transparency. Everything from money made or spent on each post, blog and video upload along with name of the client, name of photographer, DOP, writer etc should be known to the authorities . At the end of the month, charge a percentage to those who are making money and let the rest operate and grow their blogs without fear of breaking the law. Make them feel that the law is there to help them and not to punish them. Think of it like a taxation system for bloggers. Everyone would be in the net but only those who are actually making money will pay for the privilege of having a license to blog.

My voice may get drowned out in all the views on this subject but if it does get to the right people, I know they will listen because I believe they have the same intentions as the rest of us. Please help me spread this so it may reach out to them. Till then, bye for good I guess. 😦

Tribes – Almost African.

The best restaurants are those which can teleport you to a faraway land. The sights and sounds of this place should captivate you and make you feel like the star of your own reality show or like royalty, if you would rather have it that way.  This land that I speak of should be able to make you forget your work assignments, mortgage payments and traffic fines.

“Where would you like to be seated Sir? Would you like to see the drinks menu? Please take your time and I will be back when you are ready.” I was starting to feel a bit like a King myself, as I admired the tribal décor while these well-rehearsed lines rolled off my server’s tongue.

Since this was La La Land and we were all playing our part, I decided to be the King my server thought I was and decided to order the most ridiculous thing on the menu. The beef short ribs probably required the least amount of creativity from the chef and were probably the 2nd most boring thing on the menu (the first being my partner’s chosen dish). I still went ahead and ordered a full rack because it appealed to my extravagant Royal side. Also, I thought it may be an interesting choice at the time because I still remembered the Spicy Ethiopian beef I had enjoyed a couple of years back. These ribs however, were not spicy. They weren’t Ethiopian either. I don’t know where they were from. The restaurant had painted the entire menu with one gigantic African brush without specifying the country of origin. It was like going in to one of those restaurants serving ‘Asian’ cuisine and expecting to see everything from Sushi to fried crickets on the menu. Anyway, these ribs were tender and well cooked but the extra sweet sauce they were smothered with kept confusing me. This was such a British thing to do.  This restaurant was African on the outside but deep inside it was just another restaurant that had tweaked its menu according to it’s clientele.

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Beef Short Ribs at TRIBES

My partner ordered the Madagascar chicken. I thought it was a better choice than mine because we got to at know which African country the chicken had flown in from. I changed my mind when I saw it. The menu described it as a pepper and palm sugar spiced, roasted half chicken. It looked and tasted like one of those grilled chickens you can buy at Spinneys for 15 DHS. Except this one was only half a chicken and it was for 100 DHS. I am not a fan of sweet meats but was secretly relieved that the palm sugar mentioned in the description would give this otherwise boring looking bird some flavour. Couldn’t really taste it though. Maybe my senses were so overwhelmed by the sugar sauce on my ribs that I just couldn’t taste anything else. Maybe they had added all the sugar meant for the chicken to the ribs, I am not entirely sure. All I can say is that it tasted like roast chicken. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Madagascar chicken at TRIBES

This restaurant has a rating of above 4 on both Trip Advisor and Zomato so obviously, we just ordered the wrong things. I have to be honest, how other people feel about a place cannot determine what I feel about it. I would love to go back though, to give it another chance and order the right dishes. The environment, service and the entertainment were all top class (I did feel like a King, remember). The waiters would break into a song and dance routine every 15 minutes or so. One dude would pound the djembe (African percussion instrument) while several others would sing and dance with shakers in hand. The place had a great fun vibe to it. Sadly though, the food was not even close to what we had expected.

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African percussion instruments at TRIBES

Tribes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato