Absolute Barbecues

This was not a steaming pot of broth on an electric flame or a few pieces of sizzling meat on a gas grill. This was a fully functional, desi kabab grill, complete with skewers and red hot coal right in the middle of our table.

I have been to a Mongolian barbecue in London where you can cook your food yourself (under supervision of course). I have heard of Japanese restaurants where you can cook your food literally on your table and I believe the Chinese Hot Pot is basically the same concept as well. Nothing however could have prepared me for what I experienced at Absolute Barbecues.

This was not a steaming pot of broth on an electric flame or a few pieces of sizzling meat on a gas grill. This was a fully functional, desi kabab grill, complete with skewers and red hot coal right in the middle of our table. They didn’t just plop the burning grill in front of us. It was placed in a groove so that only the top of the grill was visible above the table. The bottom of the grill was aesthetically concealed below the ceramic table.

Ok, so the razzmatazz and wizardry of the kabab grill was impressive but I wanted to see if the food was really as good as I had heard it was. I was told to get started at the ‘wish grill’ (a stir fry counter with a variety of meats on offer) while my tikkas and kebabs were being done. I requested for rabbit stir fry at the wish grill. Think of it like a softer version of chicken. A bit too soft for my liking so I decided to wait for my kebabs.

The rest of the food was very good but I would like to mention the barbecued pineapple and watermelon before I get to the real highlight of the evening. The watermelon was lightly seasoned with salt and the pineapple was seasoned with cinnamon, cayenne pepper and a drizzle of honey. The cayenne started at all off with a fiery kick while the caramelised honey and cinnamon followed by complimenting the tart sweetness of the fruit. This was an experience that I don’t have words to describe. All I can say is that everyone should try the grilled pineapple whenever they can.

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Grilled Pineapple at ABs

The food as I mentioned earlier was very good but the reason we had such an awesome time was because of the way we were treated by the stars of the evening, Chef Bhumi and our waiter Wahab. One of our party was allergic to cow’s milk so we asked Wahab if there was any yogurt in the marination. Before we could say Absolute Barbecues, Wahab had gone to the kitchen and was back with Chef Bhumi who without us asking agreed to prepare a special marination without yoghurt. All this happened pretty fast and was followed up by Chef Bhumi living up to his promise so we all ended up enjoying our meal without the fear of having an allergic reaction.

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Grilled watermelon at ABs

Our waiter Wahab ensured that he made eye contact every time we looked up and he kept the meats coming at the same pace as we kept going. At the end of the meal, he refused to accept a tip because apparently its against their policies. In order to provide everyone with the same standards of service, the waiters at Asolute Barbeques do not accept tips.

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Cake pops at ABs

I might not have agreed with the policy but I did respect it and I could see that it was working. Maybe the policy should be adopted industry wide. I’m not sure if it would work everywhere. I really don’t know and thankfully there was the dessert counter to take my mind off such serious issues.

AB's Absolute Barbecues 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