The Selfish Bull @ Bluewaters Island

Bluewaters Island is not just Dubai’s latest waterfront destination, it is also the quirkiest and the most futuristic. No, I do  not say that because of the giant Ferris wheel that is based on this island. I know that ‘Ain Dubai’ is a bit of a marvel due its sheer size but it is actually the huge UFO like steel installations that give the Island this  futuristic feel.

Of the four restaurants that have so far opened up on the island, one stands out because of it’s fun concept and bold branding. It would be safe to say that ‘The Selfish Bull’ is the quintessential Bluewaters Island restaurant. Yes, it is fun to feast on fresh seafood but it is the ability to do the unthinkable which makes dining at The Selfish Bull such an absolute delight.

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Lobster and Ribs with a view at Bluewaters Island

Imagine ordering half a lobster because that is what you do when you are in the middle of the sea but also receiving a rack of ribs with your order. Sounds preposterous right? Apparently, it is not. Not only can your lobster come with a side of spare ribs but you can also order it with some juicy lamb chops. If that doesn’t work, there is always the option of a T bone with jumbo shrimps or maybe even a tenderloin steak with some scallops. You could also choose a live mud crab from the display tanks and have it cooked with a zesty black pepper sauce. Everything is possible at the Selfish Bull.

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Strawberry Margarita at the Selfish Bull

If you want to take it easy, there is the lobster bisque which is a creamy lobster soup cooked with celery, carrots and chives or the Tom Yum, which is a classic Thai spicy soup with shrimps, squid, mushrooms and lemon grass. My favorite was the French Onion Soup which was served in a bread bowl, topped with croutons and cheese.

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Onion Soup at the Selfish Bull

One of the things that new restaurants struggle with is consistency in service. It takes a while for the service staff to get comfortable in their new roles. The service at the Selfish Bull was impeccable. From seating to order placement and communication to billing; everything was handled with perfection. There was always someone at hand if we needed assistance but the staff were never intrusive. They left us to finish our meal at a leisurely pace, as we soaked in the beautiful view from the terrace. All we had to do to get their attention was to glance in their direction and nod. It was such a pleasure to dine there and congratulations to the restaurant on covering all bases.​

The Selfish Bull Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Classy dining for regular folk @ Jamie’s Pizzeria

I don’t really do Michelin stars any more. It was a phase and it was good while it lasted but it is all over now. No celebrity chefs either, thank you very much. I am happiest when dining out on the streets or comparing one shawarma to the other (though I do sneak in a cheeky brunch whenever I can!) So, when asked to review Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria, I wasn’t really sure why!   

As we walked into the restaurant, I began to understand why they may have asked me to review it. This was a far cry from the fancy, Michelin starred, award winning, celebrity chef restaurant I was expecting. It had a classy roadside diner feel; the kind of place that would take your jacket, ask you how you were doing and seat you at your preferred table while still serving breakfast, chicken wings and pizza. This was a wonderful world of contrasts and I was already very excited.   

We ordered the Mushroom Fritti, Chilli Chicken wings, Chicken Ala Diavola Pizza and Lemon Herb Chicken. The Mushroom Fritti was basically a mushroom tempura (if there is such a thing) and was my least favourite dish of the day. Every other dish was good enough for me to go back to this place to have just that.  

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Fahad from Pakistan has been tossing pizzas at Jamie Oliver’s for a year and a half

The free range Chilli Chicken Wings were supposed to be sticky after being tossed in what was called a spicy freak sauce so I asked if I could have the sauce on the side and use it as a dip. I did not expect them to agree because that would essentially change the whole concept and they would have no control over the amount of sauce and flavour doused on to the wings. To my surprise, they agreed. Such is the effect of a customer centric attitude that you are willing to take risks and bend the rules a little bit. It was a gamble that definitely paid off. One thought going through my mind as I dipped the little drumsticks into the spicy freak sauce was that the only way to explain how unbelievably addictive it was, is to bring my foodie friends back to this place.  

Freaky chicken wings at Jamie Oliver’s

I was intrigued, yet apprehensive of the Lemon Herbed Chicken. I don’t know why but for some reason I feared it may have been under cooked. I think it had something to do with a similar sounding dish which I had tried to eat a week prior to that day in Baku. To my relief, this chicken was neither under cooked and rubbery nor had it been cooked to oblivion and was succulent and tender with a lemon flavoured layer of skin on top. The first thing I did when I got back home was to google the recipe. No, I wasn’t trying to save myself a trip back to the restaurant. I was just curious on how a dish with such basic ingredients could taste so good.

Lemon Chicken at Jamie Oliver’s

It turns out, all you need to create the most awesome chicken dish were a few fresh basil leaves, a couple of rosemary sprigs, some garlic, your choice of veggies and a large lemon. It is what you do with these ingredients that magically transforms this into a signature Jamie Oliver dish. Don’t google it yet. Go and try the real thing first; just so you know what it is supposed to taste like.  

Chicken Ala Diavola at Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria

Last but not least, the Chicken Ala Diavola Pizza because this was after all a pizzeria, right? I was pleased to be offered a choice between whole grain and sourdough. Jamie is the poster boy healthy eating in the UK so it had to be so. I opted for the whole grain option of course because it would help to ease my elevated guilt after consuming 300 grams of animal fat smothered onto a carbohydrate base. I did not expect it be as good as a normal pizza because let’s face it, who wants a whole wheat pizza, right? Me, that’s who. After this day, I am not sure if I want to go back to a normal pizza base. The whole wheat dough lent a unique, earthy flavour to the pizza while carrying half the calories of a sourdough base. It complimented the chilli and the mint and yoghurt sauce to create a wonderful fusion between East and West. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start copying this on the streets of Naples soon; or Lahore, depending on who gets a taste of it first.  

Strawberry cheesecake at Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria
Jamie's Pizzeria by Jamie Oliver Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Legend of Teatro

Teatro- Towers Rotana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My nephew was born in the same year that Teatro first opened its doors to public. How could I ever forget that year? It was 2001 and I had freshly graduated. A young, broke meteorologist with my heart on my sleeve. Dubai was changing and so was I.

Shaikh Zayed road was the way into the future. It was a symbol of the new Dubai that was rising out of the desert. Nobody would be able to set foot on JBR for another 6 years. There was no JLT, no Business Bay and certainly no Burj Khalifa. When you said Downtown Dubai, people thought of the Fish Roundabout or Souq Naif in Deira. If you wanted to make a great impression whether on a date or a business meeting, you called ahead to book a table with a view at Teatro.

My nephew is a bit of a legend in his own right. He is the only 18-year-old who does not want to drive or own a car because it is not good for the planet. He is also the only kid I know who got into Stanford on a scholarship. We have all come a long way since then. It is amazing to witness how people evolve over time. It is also amazing to see how a business can evolve but still retain its core essence. Teatro has tweaked its menu many times over the years but remained consistent in the delivery of quality and service excellence that its customers have grown used to.

It was my absolute pleasure to get an opportunity to return to Teatro after so many years. As I walked in to the restaurant, I felt a rush of nostalgia and perhaps even a couple of déjà vu moments as the hostess walked us to our table. Expansive glass windows with views of Shaikh Zayed Road, old pictures of Hollywood stars, dark wooden tables, opulent plush seating and dimmed mood lighting – it was all still there. Teatro has managed to stand its ground when all around have given into the minimalist movement. You can hardly find any more chandeliers or a warm intimate ambience in Dubai restaurants anymore.

Teatro is a licensed multi-cuisine restaurant and truly has something to offer for everyone. It is well known for its sushi selection and for its Italian dishes. I have many favorites but I do not want to steer anyone towards a particular kind of cuisine. So, I am going to limit my recommendation to one starter and one main course; which are the Wasabi Tempura and the Lamb Shank.

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Wasabi Tempura at Teatro

The first is a platter of six, tempura battered jumbo shrimps which have a hint of wasabi seasoning. The batter gives a slightly sweet crunchy coating and the wasabi provides the soft prawns with a subtle fiery kick.

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Kashmiri Lamb Shank at Teatro 

I love a good lamb shank and have never shied away from the opportunity to order one; whenever possible. I have tasted a traditional lamb shank stew. I have had a braised lamb shank Ragu and a lamb shank with herbed mashed potatoes but Teatro is probably the only place in Dubai where you can taste a Kashmiri lamb shank. Falling of the bone, tender meat which is slowly braised with a blend of ginger, garlic, onion, fresh tomato and aromatic Kashmiri spices. This has got to be the best way to combine Eastern Cuisine with Western cooking methods and it is reason enough for me to go back to Teatro soon.

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.

Theatre of food @ Sugar Factory

It was February of this year when I went for the Mad Hatter’s birthday party at Sugar Factory. Read about it here. Guess what? The year has not yet ended and yours truly has been signed up as a brand ambassador for the Sugar Factory. Considering the fact that this place is a regular hangout for celebs like Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Britney Spears, Drake, Nicole Scherzinger, Kim Kardashian and Eva Longoria – this my friends is a pretty cool thing, even if I do say so myself  :p .

Sugar Factory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A peri good meal @ Galitos

Galito's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On one ordinary day of the year 1996, residents of Mpumalanga City in South Africa paired for the first time, the fiery hot sauces of a new eatery with the most succulent chicken they had ever tasted. Thus, began the journey of Galitos, a brand that soon expanded not just to other countries in Africa but ended up operating 150 restaurants in 15 countries all over the world.

For those who don’t like hot spicy food, maybe they should go grab a salad or something but if like me you do like to dial up the chili, please read on. Galitos’ signature chicken is flame grilled and brush basted to achieve that perfect tenderness but that is not all that they serve. One South African dish that I always wanted to try was the Borewors. These are traditional farmer’s sausages that are a staple at every working-class South African table. Traditionally, they are made from a blend of pork, lamb and beef which is why I never thought I would be able to try them but luckily, Galitos make their borewors from freshly ground beef. These sausages are hand made in store and the labour of love was evident in every bite. They serve a chicken version called Zulu sausages as well but if you don’t like beef or lamb, don’t bother because the sausage casings are usually made of sheep intestines. They also make artificial casings now but even those are made from cellulose found in animal hides so you would still be able to taste the animal. It may be a bit much for most people but I don’t mind it at all.

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Borewors at Galitos

If you like to play it safe however, I would like to recommend the newly launched mini bold burgers. These cute little sliders come in four variations. Each type comes with a different kind of Galitos signature sauce and I especially liked the baked chicken and pulled chicken.

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Chicken Tacos at Galitos

Other notable mentions are the chicken tacos and perishrooms. Besides the soft tortilla and the fact that they were super spicy, the tacos had little similarity with their Mexican cousins. The chicken was shredded of course but all the flavour and taste came from the special Galitos sauce that it was marinated in. The mushrooms were grilled with tomato and onion cubes before being doused with a generous helping of herb and lemon peri peri sauce. It was served with an unexpectedly flavorsome garlic bread which complemented the velvet like perishroom texture.

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Perishrooms at Galitos

Last but not least, my favourite dish of the evening was the Prawn Espedata. Espedata is the Portuguese term used for the technique of cooking meat on skewers. Often, bell peppers and onions are added between the pieces of meat. They can also be prepared with squid, fish or even shrimps. What made the Galitos prawn espedata so special are the signature sauces. Let me warn you though, if you ask for hot and spicy, you better really mean it because Galitos definition of spicy is way more serious than what you could ever imagine. I believe I have mentioned in a previous article that I love super spicy squid, crabs and prawns so this was so much fun for me. Every time I have had seafood that is this hot, it has been cooked with some form of curry; either Goan, Sri Lankan or Thai. I have never had grilled seafood in my life that was this spicy. I enjoyed myself so much that there were tears of happiness rolling down my cheeks or it may have been my natural reaction to the hottest sauce in the world, I am not entirely sure. Whatever it was, I know I am definitely going to do it again and again and again.

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Prawn Espedata at Galitos

Friday Brunch @ Fusion

Fusion - Ghaya Grand Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

With so many brunches around town every Friday, it is getting increasingly difficult to choose one that stands out unless something new and absolutely unheard of is going down in terms of the theme or the food. One thing that makes it easier to make a choice is the value proposition.

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Dim Sum at the Ghaya Grand hotel Friday brunch

With the Fusion restaurant’s Friday brunch at the relatively new Ghaya Grand hotel it becomes easy to make a choice because at 149 AED per head, it is an absolute steal; especially if you take into account all the variety they have to offer. At this price, I would have been happy to settle for one or two different types of cuisine but this place had pretty much everything covered. There was an Italian counter with a live cooking station, an Arabic counter with a full lamb roast, an Indian counter, Dim Sum, a variety of seafood including a lavish sushi selection, and even a selection of Thai dishes.

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Sushi selection at the Ghaya Grand hotel Friday brunch

I have had fish in garlic butter sauce before but the Garlic, Butter and Honey Salmon was unlike anything I had tried before. The subtle honey flavour gave my palate something completely new to work with. It was salty of course but also just a little bit sweet. That, paired along with the unmistakable salmon flavour and rich butter sauce was enough to make me return for seconds.

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Salmon in garlic, honey and butter at the Ghaya Grand hotel Friday brunch

I also loved the spicy, Crab in Thai green curry. I know Thai food is supposed to be hot but I don’t remember it ever being this spicy, even in Thailand! It may not work for everyone but I just couldn’t have enough of it. I remember having spicy crabs in Colombo some years ago and thinking that ‘this is the only way to eat crab’ at the time. There is something about hot chili that goes down so well with the soft and tender crab meat. I had to stop myself to from going for seconds otherwise I may have missed out on all the other wonderful food that was on display.

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Crab in Thai green curry at Ghaya Grand hotel

One trend that has caught on so well in Dubai is the ‘make your own pasta’ option that is available at many restaurants and brunches across the city. I think this is great because it gives you control over how you want your pasta to be. Unless it is a signature dish or a special creation by the chef, I am all about transferring control back to the customer. I call it eating out 2.0. This is where you decide the ingredients for your dish and if it doesn’t turn out the way you had expected, you have nobody else to blame but yourself. Chef Raheem at the live pasta station at Fusion ensured that we did not completely burn the boat. He was available on site and gently nudged us in the right direction if we appeared to be lost or got too carried away!

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Make your own noodles at the Ghaya Grand Hotel Friday Brunch

The best thing is that all these options come at an unbelievable price. In my opinion, this truly is the best value brunch in Dubai.

The House of Pancakes

When a restaurant has the word ‘pancake’ as part of its name, you walk in with the pre-conceived notion that pancakes are their speciality and whatever else you eat there on that day, your meal has to finish off with a pancake and some syrup.

Pancake House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

When a restaurant has the word ‘pancake’ as part of its name, you walk in with the pre-conceived notion that pancakes are their speciality and whatever else you eat there on that day, your meal has to finish off with a pancake and some syrup. The folks at Pancake House do expect most customers to order pancakes as well, just not necessarily at the end of their meals. 

To ensure that the pancake is not flattened under the shadow of better-known dishes, the very first section of the Pancake House menu lists variations of the item that made it famous when it first opened its doors to public in the 1970s. Naturally, if the first thing you see on the menu are pictures of glorious, fluffy pancakes, it is hard to go further without ordering at least one. Besides, this restaurant has been serving customers much before I was born, so if they want my meal to start off with a pancake, that is precisely how it would happen! 

I was advised to order the caramel, banana and walnut pancake and I have now decided that henceforth, all my meals should start off with a pancake! The crunch from the walnuts complemented the soft bananas and fluffy pancakes in a way that can only be described after you have experienced so many delicious textures in one bite. I realised that the pancake is not really a dessert item as I had previously believed. It has been a source of sustenance since the middle ages and could be eaten as a comfort food, celebratory dish, breakfast item, dessert or an appetiser! 

Another thing that I learnt on that day was that a Salisbury Steak is not a steak. It is a sheep in wolves clothing. A more appropriate description would be ‘meatloaf’ that is shaped like a steak. It is also served like a steak and is supposed to be eaten like a steak but it is not a steak. It is basically a dish made from a blend of ground beef and other ingredients, which is formed into oval shaped ‘steaks’ and served with brown sauce and rice. I am not sure how I felt about that but you should have seen the look on my face as I put a piece of this steak into my mouth after cutting it with a table knife.  

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Salisbury Steak at the Pancake House

If you like seafood, I would like to suggest the Tagliatelle Seafood Gambero. This was another dish that was enhanced by so many contrasting textures in each bite. This fettuccine shaped pasta was tossed marinara style, in a tangy tomato herb sauce. The cream dory, mussel and shrimp provided additional flavor and texture to this unique seafood dish.  

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Tagliatelle Seafood Gambero at Pancake House

 

Before I sign off, let me tell you what my favourite part of the menu at Pancake House was. It was a drink called ‘Ube Milkshake’. The ube is a type of yam or sweet potato which is a vivid violet to bright lavender in color. I am not sure how it tastes on its own but when combined with milk in a blender to form a shake, it becomes the sort of beverage for which you may be willing to drive down all the way to Abu Dhabi.

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Chili chicken fingers with Ube Milkshake in the background