Dishes with a dash of fun

Each of our tastebuds consists of up to 100 gustatory receptor cells that send the chemical information about the food we eat to the gustatory cortex in the brain.

Dishes with a dash of fun

Sudha Pillai

Each of our tastebuds consists of up to 100 gustatory receptor cells that send the chemical information about the food we eat to the gustatory cortex in the brain. While we are chewing on the chow, the tangible scenes that unfold before us help create memories associated with food. Here’s a shortlist of ‘food-experiences’ you can squeeze in between your shopping, business meetings or sight-seeing in Dubai to create long-lasting food memories.

Hamour on platter

Hamour, a grouper fish, is considered the “national fish” of Dubai. The orange-spotted hamour is popular in the land of Lamborghinis. One can have hamour anywhere in Dubai, but it is the grilled-to-perfection at the Wafi Gourmet restaurant inside the Dubai Mall that makes the fish memorable. On a table, deliciously cluttered with tabule, fatoush, mutapal and lamb kibbe, the hamour lounging in a lemony sauce occupies prime spot. However, what hoists this hamour-experience is the spectacular show that unfolds a few feet away. While dining alfresco here, you can watch the renowned Dubai Fountains — the piece de resistance of the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake in Downtown Dubai. This is the world’s largest choreographed fountain.

Ouzi as staple

Just like how every Indian state has its version of dal, every Arab nation has its own Ouzi, a traditional dish. To get a taste of it in Dubai, head to The Palm, a human-made island. At the tip of the island stands the Atlantis, a colourful fairyland that is home to 65,000 marine animals and numerous top-notch restaurants, including the Ayamna Lebanese restaurant. The Lebanese Ouzi is a large ball of baked stuffed pastry filled with rice, minced lamb, chicken, pistachios, pine nuts and spices. Enjoy it to lilting Arabic music and dance. 

A social brunch

Care for a slice of England in Dubai? Get the taste of an award-winning brunch at Caravan where 12 live food stations are modelled after London’s major tube stations — from Piccadilly  Circus to Bricklane to Leicester Square and so on. You embark on a culinary journey of the various districts enroute the London tube. From the spices of Banglatown, Brixton, and Little Beirut, to the vibrant stalls of Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Borough Market. Of course, a tour of London would not be complete without a nod to Britain’s favourite pub classics and puddings, and Mr Whippy ice cream. And once you are satiated you can always take an Instagram-worthy picture at the traditional red telephone booth. Alternatively, you can experience one of the best high teas, worthy of the Queen at the Lobby Lounge. Sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries, jams and creams, biscuits and shortbreads along with an array of English tea and other infusions. You can indulge in a selection of elegant sandwiches including foie gras croque-monsieur along with an assortment of eclairs, cheesecake and tarts. But you would be missing something if you skip the rose jam or the cranberry scones with Devonshire clotted cream and lemon curd. It’s a refined affair.

Welcome to hell!

Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen (HK) started as a television show and then came the restaurant. The first HK is in Vegas. And the second is in Dubai. This 260-cover restaurant is situated in Blue Waters, a man-made island, which is a shopper’s paradise and a foodie’s delight. At night, Blue Waters transforms into something from a Chinese fantasy drama — mysterious and dazzling. HK is designed to give its guest a feeling of being in a television studio. It’s large and spacious with a blue and red open kitchen in the middle. There are pitchforks, symbolic of HK, everywhere from the chandeliers to the toothpicks. The menu is British. The pan-seared scallops, tuna tartare, burrata salad and braised short ribs are all worth making a trip to HK. However, one comes to HK to taste Gordon Ramsey’s signature dishes, including the saffron, courgette and black truffle risotto and the famous sticky toffee pudding. They are so good that even a hardcore Ramsay-hater might turncoat.

A taste of Italy

Not long ago, Jumeirah was a village populated by Emirati fishermen and pearl divers. It was dotted with 50 palm leaf huts. Today, it is known as the Beverly Hills of the Middle East.  It has the most expensive and luxurious hotels and resorts in the world and attractions like the Jumeirah Mosque, Jumeirah Beach Park, Madinat Souk and Wild Wadi Water Park. In the midst of all this sits the Rock Fish restaurant where you can taste the specially chef-crafted creamy and delicious lobster risotto (see pic) while enjoying a view of the Arabian Gulf. Eating a meal where would also mean watching spectacular sunsets, daredevils indulging in water sports or sky diving and an up-close view of the Burj Al Arab, built to resemble the sails of a ship. The roasted langoustine or warm rockfish salad of crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs and condiments, the Crudo platter of freshly cut raw and marinated slivers of salmon, scallops, yellow fin tuna or the salt-crusted sea bass are all worthy of writing back home. And so is the Rockfish Bicycle of freshly grilled local fish. Like a memorable postscript is the vintage gin trolley which the barman rolls down to you. He will make you a beverage to suit your mood, but before that he will ask: “What’s your mood like today? Fruity or cheeky?” The latter wins over the former.

Finger foods 

At 1,500 feet and more, food isn’t just about taste. Eating finger foods and sipping mocktails while watching the sunset from the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is the closest you can get to the feeling of eating while sky diving without jumping off a plane! Now, Burj Khalifa Sky is fittingly Dubai’s most iconic destination. From this world’s tallest observatory, you can see how the desert has been transformed into a land of skyscrapers. On Level 125, there’s a spacious deck to enjoy the stunning 360 degree view of the city. This also houses Dubai — A Falcon’s Eye View that lets you explore the city from a unique perspective. One can also opt for the high tea experience at The Atmosphere on the 123rd floor. It holds the Guinness World Record for the highest restaurant in the world at 1,447 feet.

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