The Emirati Fusion restaurant

Remember the time when I couldn’t recommend a good Emirati restaurant to a friend from abroad because I simply had never been to one. It was embarrassing, yes. Thus started my quest for an authentic Emirati restaurant which could be added to my list of 10 things to do in Dubai. That is when I discovered Milas at the Dubai Mall.

Milas is now shifting to a new location within Dubai Mall. It will now offer it’s guests unparalleled views of the Burj Khalifa from its large al-Fresco dining area and will feature a brand new Emirati- fusion menu. To coincide with this change, they are also rebranding the restaurant. They are giving away a VIP number 05X-6500000 to anyone who guesses the name of the restaurant. All you have to do is go to www.milas.cc/vip and fill out your details along with the new name. (They have dropped a hint to make to get your creative juices flowing and that is: I am what I see in the mirror.)

I was lucky enough to be invited to preview the new menu before the official launch and absolutely loved the new fusion concept. The service of course was top notch as expected and I was seated in a heartbeat and  handed an Ipad mini to browse the new digital menu. One of the advantages of this was that all the dishes looked better on an HD screen than they would probably have looked on a printed menu. The flip side was that I had a harder time making a choice.

I liked everything that I tried but would like to share some of my favorites with you. If you want to know what camel meat tastes like, you should order the camel sliders. The texture of the meat was like beef but a lot leaner, hence a little dry. It’s a good thing the sliders were smothered with date sauce and mustard so the dryness got balanced out. The jalapeños complimented the sauces and there was a medley of sweet, tangy and hot flavours in every bite.

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Camel burgers at Milas

The winning  dishes of the night were the Jumping Tempura and the Musical Shawarma. I liked the names so much that I had decided I would love them even before they had arrived. Thank God they lived up to the expectation or it would have been such a disappointment The jumping tempura was  exactly as it said on the tin; A dish of fried shrimp and calamari coated with flavoured tempura and covered in a mayonnaise chili sauce that would shock and awe your tastebuds. No, it wasn’t unbearably hot. It is just that one would not expect a prawn tempura to have chili added to it. Also, the heat was camouflaged by the creamy mayonnaise. It takes a couple of seconds for it to register and when it does, you jump out of your seat a little. Hence the name.

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Jumping Tempura at Milas

The Musical shawarma is probably named as such because of all the various notes present in the dish. A soft Emirati bread was stuffed with marinated and sautéed beef, onions, parsley, sesame sauce and (get ready for this), fried kunafa. Now when was the last time you had kunafa in your shawarma? Probably never because we all know it as a dessert right? It turns out that kunafa is actually not sweet at all. A sugar syrup is added in order for it to be consumed as a dessert. Without the syrup, fried kunafa is actually the best thing that has happened to shawarmas since someone invented the large rotating column of meat.

The competition closes at the end of the month and the restaurant opens soon after.  You still have some  days left to try and win the VIP number but if that is not your thing, don’t worry about it. Soon you will be able to enjoy Emirati food with a twist and enjoy the Burj laser show at the same time. Do share what your favorites are once you visit and I would love to go back and try anything I have missed out and share my experience of that too.

Fit for a king, the ‘Friday Feast brunch’

No one venue can claim the coveted spot of ‘Dubai’s number one brunch’ any more. They would have to settle for either best open air brunch, best seaside brunch, best party brunch, best afternoon party brunch, best foodie brunch, best seafood brunch, best family brunch, best screaming toddlers brunch or best sparkling evening brunch etc.

Feast - Sheraton Grand Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Celebratory weekend banquets which are popularly known as Friday Brunches have become an integral part of life in Dubai. These feasts become  even more popular during the short winter season. So much so that an element of  specialization has crept in amongst Dubai’s brunches.

No one venue can claim the coveted spot of ‘Dubai’s number one brunch’ any more. They would have to settle for either best open air brunch, best seaside brunch, best party brunch, best afternoon party brunch, best foodie brunch, best seafood brunch, best family brunch, best screaming toddlers brunch or best  sparkling evening brunch etc.

The most important category among all of these spectacular themes is the ‘Feel Good brunch’. All brunches are supposed to make you feel good, that’s the whole idea right? You forget about your credit card payment, your evil boss, your nosy neighbor or whatever it is that you need to escape from for a couple of hours and then you brunch. But can one brunch really make you feel better than the other? I believe it can and I also have the winner in mind.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the winner of the ‘Eat Sleep Travel Repeat’ award in the ‘Feel Good brunch’ category for 2019 is the Friday Feast brunch at the Grand Sheraton Dubai.

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A restaurant is like a large industrial machine  that needs to work with the precision of a Swiss watch. Every single moving part needs to be perfectly aligned in order to deliver the experience that differentiates the leaders from the followers. This synergy becomes yet more vital during a banquet or a feast because all your guests expect consistent and efficient service coupled with personal attention. Throw 7 live cooking stations into the mix and it becomes  beguiling to the point where you have as much interest in watching the place run as you do in the food. It is a bit like a live musical where one instrument out of sync could make the whole show come down. Everyone may be performing at the their peak but one person out of line would stand out like a stain on a crisp white sheet.

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I had asked to be seated near the window and it took the hostess half a second to find my name on the list and escort us towards our table. The area was awash with natural light that was flooding in through the expansive windows. It was just like brunching al fresco but within the controlled serenity of a tastefully decorated dining hall. The 7 live cooking stations were placed within a central island which was accessible from all four sides. The dessert station was strategically placed near the exit so we didn’t really make it all the way there before almost bursting at the seams. For that thoughtful gesture, I say thank you to the Feast management. I may not have been able to taste all the fantastic food, had I seen the homemade ice cream, mud cake, brownies and chocolate sculptures earlier.

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There was something for everyone at this brunch. There was an elaborate selection of cheeses and breads. There were oysters, mussels and sushi if you preferred. The kids play area had a chocolate fountain that was adjusted for height so no adult intervention was required. There was a live band that encouraged guests to sing along, thus contributing to the family friendly vibe. There was a mixology lab where you could learn to make a Mojito or perhaps create your own cocktail. The service was top notch and the staff were at hand to talk about any dish that you wanted to know more about. While watching the roast duck being carved, I jokingly asked the chef if they had any goose liver products and within two minutes, a generous helping of the luxurious French delicacy – Fois Gras, appeared at our table. There was too much food there to talk about every dish individually but I highly recommend the Prime Rib, 12 spiced cured salmon and my discovery of the day, the Tamarind and Pomegranate chicken which was absolutely brilliant.

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I guess you may be starting to understand why this brunch made me feel so good. I probably feel good at the end of all brunches but this brunch had something more. It ticked every single box. There was nothing left to be desired. We walked out with huge smiles on our faces. The kind of smiles guests leaving a King’s banquet would probably have had. I could not have thought of a better name for this brunch myself. It truly was a Friday Feast.

El Sur Tapas brunch

GUEST REVIEW

We met up at El Sur at the Westin Mina Seyahi for a Spanish brunch. El Sur, meaning “The South”  is beautifully overlooking the garden and the ocean and you really get that southern vibe that we northern people love. With a backdrop of palmtrees and blue ocean you get a tapas brunch which is a set menu of selected small dishes, a chioce of seefood or chicken paella and dessert.

Have you ever heard of TAPAS? Who hasn’t right? Nobody ever thinks of Spanish food without tapas, but what are they really?

Traditionally they are small dishes served hot or cold and made to eat with your hands while you sip on a glass of wine. It can be as easy as a piece of bread smeared with tomatoes, a bunch of olives, fried potatoes, a slice of cheese or slices of spanish cured ham or small fried peppers.

At El Sur you get it all served up on a board and in small dishes for you to sample and share. The most important thing about tapas is to eat a bunch of different dishes, socialise and drink your wine. I think the concept includes a lot of talk too because in the mediterranean countries you just don’t eat in silence. If you want your dinner party to be lively and fun and full of conversation the best way to do it is to put a big plate of small dishes, cold cuts and finger food in front of the guests and you are done. The concept is easy and practised all over the world, but the mediterranean people have made an artform out of it, tapas, meze and anti pasti beeing the famous ones.

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Papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) are originally from the Canary Islands. They are basically small or medium sized potatoes boiled in very salty water and left to boil until the skin is all wrinkly and salty. They are said to be boiled in seawater originally because both fresh water and salt were scarce, so if you can imagine how salty seawater is then you know how salty your boiling water should be. They are served with a red sauce called mojo rojo and a green sauce called mojo verde. The red sauce is made from red peppers and the green is made from green peppers.  The best way to eat them is to dip (dunk) your potatoe in the sauce and take big bites and enjoy. Or you can serve the potates and sauce with meat (mojo rojo) or fish (mojo verde). I think that this must be the origin of chips and dip for sure. Salty potatoes and something to dip it in!

One of the tapas you will always find in Spain is Croquetas, that is a ball of dough with ham or cheese that is deep fried. It’s origin is actually in France, but the Spanish have really taken it over. It is a savory simple little treat and everyone loves it. Almost like a tater tot. They should be small, savory and really crispy, but at El Sur they were huge balls and surprisingly sweet. It was so sweet that it didn’t fit in with the rest, but if you like sweet fritters then you’re good of course.

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At El Sur you get a choice of paella with chicken or seafood. Paella is simply described as rice cooked with vegetables, meat and saffron. The word paella is thought to come from the word used for ”pan”, that is the pan that it is cooked in. Paella can be cooked with chicken, seafood or a mix of it. It was the arabic Moors that introduced rice to Spain and the custom of eating rice as a family meal with vegetables and/or meat. But then the Spanish developed that into the paella many centruries later by adding saffron, rabbit, duck, snails and all kinds of seafood. Just as any Arabic or Iranian person knows, the best bit of rice is always the burnt crispy bit at the bottom. A really good paella should have a nice crispy crust of rice with saffron on the bottom of the pan, which means the paella has been  properly cooked in the pan that it is served in. At El Sur they kind of forgot that, there was no crust at the bottom I am sad to say.

If you want to experience a bit of Spain you can go to El Sur and try their dishes. The setting on the terrace is excellent for that medditerrainean vibe and the sangria is cold and easy to sip on hot days. Sangria is also a genious invention from Spain by the way. If you take wine that is not good to drink as it is, mix it with fruit, sugar, orange juice, water and ice, you will get a really nice summer drink. A drink that goes well with your tapas or just on it’s own and gives you the key to open the conversation.

I had a great time at El Sur. It was ofcourse due to the great company, the sunshine and the location but I have had better paella in Dubai. I still recommend that you go there because of the gorgeous view, Croquetas, wrinkly potatoes and free flowing sangria!

El Sur - The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato