Meat Co., Madinat

photo 1-2Sitting on the deck at Meat Co. at The Madinat, in the shadow of the Burj at sunset I was not completely unaware of the ridiculous amount of food pleasure that was about to happen to me. Meat Co. is well-known in South Africa, the UK and the UAE and has won several awards. So I had the opposite of a sense of foreboding. An expectation of a delectable profusion of rich flavours, tastes and textures.

Right. enough of that sort of lofty writing – it doesn’t mean anything, except to word-nerds and the very worst of the food bloggers, so enthused by their own pomposity no one knows what they are really writing about.

Firstly, when you eat at the Madinat branch of the Meat Co. make sure you go at dusk, and reserve a table on the deck, on the water’s edge. It’s a prime viewing spot for the vivid light show put on by the Burj Al Arab.

There are fresh homemade breads with French butter, and a properly delicious range of appetizers to get your tastebuds warmed up, and I could write volumes on all of these, from the soft, tangy calamari to the crisp, crunchy vegetables – but that would distract me from talking about the main course.

The highly-marbled Wagyu steak is an emotional investment in a very private, very introspective exploration of self-indulgence. When that first smooth, tender and rich slice of beef hits your tongue, your world – your universe – suddenly shrinks to the tastes and textures that caress, intrigue and seduce you. It is emotional, as I said – there is no shame in weeping quietly into your napkin at the sheer beauty of this taste experience. You cry all you want to! Cry for all the years you waited before you tried this luxurious dish. Cry for the fact you cannot eat it every day. Cry for the miracle of sensual perfection that it is. Your tears can only add to the joy of Wagyu. Your tears mean that finally, your life has meaning, and Wagyu.

There are, of course, sublime desserts to round off this epicurean epiphany, but reverence dictates I leave you with just one word:

Wagyu.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Pinkberry Frozen Yoghurt

Pinkberry Frozen Yoghurt

photo 1-4Sweet baby Jesus! Look, if you are in anyway sensitive to sugar, or your family has a propensity to contract diabetes, just stay away from Dubai.

At every turn there are new cakes, confectionery, candy and frozen dessert stores. It’s relentless. Remember when you were a kid, and you just wished that all you could eat, forever, was cake and ice cream? Yes? Well, Dubai makes that a very, very real possibility!

Pinkberry is a chain of frozen yoghurt stores dotted around the various malls here – and you simply HAVE to have one. Your life is quite incomplete without having tried one of their fruit flavours.

I was quite taken with the coconut yoghurt, topped with fresh kiwi fruit, and the new strawberry flavour brought memories flooding back of childhood parties where I would always pick out the strawberry Sugus candy from the sweet bowls and go eat them in a deserted corner, locked in a world of private, sugary delight.

But none of these compare to the sweet, tangy taste of the pomegranate frozen yoghurt. With fresh pomegranate – just in case you were afraid you wouldn’t get enough pomegranate.

I have no idea how I am going to survive back home without a regular supply of this. I really don’t.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Ribs and Rumps UAE

Ribs and Rumps UAE

ribs and rump uaeThis one is ALL South African! By far the the most effusively friendly and welcoming team of any of the eateries I have been to can be found at Ribs and Rump in the Dubai Mall.

We popped in after our trip to the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, so it was only fitting that I eat a tower of meat, right? It’s called the Impi Spear, and is almost as sensational as that spear painting of Zuma, that made headlines a couple of years ago.

This spear is cubes of the softest, juiciest rump and sirloin I have tasted in a looooong time – neatly skewered, marinated and served on a hanging stand. Quite impressive as it is served! I had mine with a spicy Mexican sauce, which is like the old fashioned South African monkey gland sauce, but with a serious set of balls and bite.

A real treat was when my nieces failed to finish the fries with their steaks, and dumped them all on my plate. I did the responsible thing, and smothered the pile of salty, crispy fries in the remaining spicy Mexican sauce, and added what was left of their cheese and creamy garlic sauces – oomph! It’s QUITE possible I made loud grunting noises of DEEP food appreciation, totally embarrassing my teenaged nieces at the same time. C’est la vie!

A regular feature on most restaurant menus in Dubai is the cold lemon and mint juice, and each eatery has their own particular twist in its preparation. Some pull it off well, and some don’t – according to your personal taste, obviously. The Ribs and Rump version is a sweet, refreshing mix of lemon, mint and lemonade – of all the versions I’ve tried (not many, but enough to form a definite bias) this one is my absolute fav, and required my drinking three glasses to establish quite firmly this fact. Yum! Do it. Seriously.

When you’re at Ribs and Rump, remember to take a look at the back of the menu – they obviously have a good sense of humour when it comes to how patrons ask for their meat to be cooked. The menu provides all the basic levels of ‘done-ness’, from ‘Blue’ through to ‘Well done’, along with a short description, which lets those of you who eat your meat medium well or well done know that in the chef’s opinion, you need your head read. Still, destroyed as they consider well done meat to be, they endeavour to provide it just as you like it!

Ribs and Rump deserves several return visits. It was definitely a highlight of my food adventure in Dubai.

Ribs and Rump

Dubai Mall, above the ice-skating rink

© Dave Luis 2014. All rights Reserved.

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare & Co.

photo 2-3In between her hectic school runs and running the household, my sister likes to have coffee, with friends. In six years in Dubai, she’s really gotten to know where to go for a good caffè latte – so it was I discovered Shakespeare & Co.

We visited two branches and the coffee shops are exceedingly ‘pretty’ – lots of effort has gone into prettifying the walls, ceilings, drapes, tables and chairs – it’s a very girly-girl sort of place. The Cape Quarter queers will *simply* DIE from prettiness overload. Seriously. All pink sponge-painted walls, distressed wood picture frames and intricate artwork litter the shops. All very pretty.

Caffè lattes duly ordered, we went to examine the confectionery display – everything is made fresh and wholly deserving of the title of ‘food porn’, displayed as it is row upon row of sweet, devilish temptation.

Being me, I had to have the bright orange chocolate gâteau – it was nice, but not as nice as the Paris-Brest my niece had. It’s essentially a fancy, light pastry doughnut, filled with whipped cream. I was rather upset at having not made the right choice, and had to console myself in a fresh pink lemonade. You know, proper-like.

On a later visit to the Dubai Marina branch, I tried the Mille Feuille – a vanilla custard slice, with thin layers of light pastry, dusted with snow sugar.  It’s the sort of thing that brings on the foodie sigh of happiness, contentment and wellbeing. A second slice is never a bad thing!

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

 

Bentley French Bistro

Bentley French Bistro

Bentley Pic 1Take a drive down Sheikh Zayed Road for about 140 kilometres from the Burj Khalifa, into Abu Dhabi, and onto Al Maryah island.

Here you’ll find The Galleria – an exquisite mall offering the world’s most  exclusive fashion and jewellery brands, like Prada, Gucci and Bulgari; and five star dining experiences like the world famous Zuma (no relation to SA’s JZ, and probably not as pricey as Nkandla, either!)

The mall is so upmarket, there’s not even a visible parking lot – you access this spread of luxury via the imposing glass lobby after having handed the keys to your car to the valet parking attendant.

The Galleria also sports an Armani Café – so yeah, there’s that!

On the ground level, opening onto the Arabian Gulf, is the relatively new Bentley French Bistro, where we had our next taste adventure.

The hospitality team at Bentley all look like they stepped out of a fashion magazine – gorgeous women and striking men bearing swarthy stubble are almost as delectable as the menu itself.

Bentley is one of the few eateries where alcohol is served, by the way. Obviously this has no meaning to a teetotaller like me, so I asked for the most popular mocktail. I was brought a flaming red concoction called the ‘Magic Wood’ – and Bentley’s host told me that thanks to Instagram, patrons arrive at Bentley asking for barman Luca’s famous Magic Wood. A promising start…

We decided to try a whole lot of different dishes, to sample as much of the menu as possible. A tray of lavish entrées arrived and I wondered about the possibility of eating myself to death, like that character in ‘Seven’…

Rich foie gras in a sweet cucumber glaze – soft, buttery and a little tart. I had to close my eyes so as not to be distracted from the subtle, sultry flavours and smooth richness. Ephemeral. That’s a good word to describe these. Yes. Definitely ephemeral. Gads, I do sound pretentious but this isn’t a tub of cheap chicken livers; this is a select duck liver, carefully prepared with the best ingredients, freshly prepared. A stupendously decadent entrée, by anyone’s standards! It was really good – though I don’t think the richness is to everyone’s taste – this is definitely an acquired taste, and I am pretty amped to have acquired it, thank you very much!

Next up, was a burrata, served on lentils. Burrata is a ball of mozzarella cheese, wrapped around a mixture of cream and mozzarella. The combination is a creamy, soft cheese amplified in both creaminess and the sensation on your tongue as it slowly melts. According to my host, the lentils on this particular dish give the burrata  a firmness that is essential to enhancing the flavours. I am not a huge fan of lentils and seeds and such, so I experimented, for the experience of it, and decided on the whole that burrata is fine just as it is. In fact, in my opinion, if you wanted to add some texture, a good old fashioned saltine would be preferable. I’m a savage, I know.

Also on the table was a ‘riceless’ risotto – a light but creamy potato and mushroom dish, and a grilled vegetable stack. I’m also pretty ‘meh’ about vegetables – since I grew up and left home tears ago, my mission is to never eat another miserable, bitter boiled-to-death vegetable again, but Bentley’s grilled veggies topped with baked feta were pretty decent, I must say. There was a warm prawn salad, too – but at this point I had to stop eating and take a breather – how the hell was I going to fit in the main course?

Ah, never mind – I am made of sterner stuff, and not one to quit in the face of a good meal – so off we went!

I ordered the beef short rib served on beans – because I am a huge fan of ribs, despite the sticky mess I become and my wholly indecent manner of eating decent ribs. The sweet meat fell off the bone – that’s not a metaphor – it was so soft that a gentle tug with my fork brought the meat beef clean away from the bones, and I could happily munch away without flinging basting everywhere. The beef short ribs were a real treat – and nowhere near as fatty as pork or lamb ribs normally are.

photo 4-2Also on the menu was roast rabbit – it looked good, but my inner child yelled out about eating Bugs Bunny, so I lied and said I was full, rather than try any (because SOME days the food adventurer in me is a bit of a wimp!)

A less adventurous foodie at the table ordered a burger and chips – and the meal that was delivered to the table was a far cry from the fast-food rubbish we tend to apply to our busy lives. It was a towering work of pure beef art on a fresh, home-baked bun! (Can you tell I was a little jealous?)

The real winner for me, though, was side order of fries that came with the burger and the rib eye steak someone else ate – because (*cue the M&S voice over artist) – these are not just ordinary fries; these are thin-sliced, uncoated, top grade fries, sprinkled with truffle oil (yes! I know!) and topped with fresh parmesan – it’s like someone is making sweet, sweet love to your face! These are the kind of carbs fitness freaks have wet dreams about at night – they are UNBELIEVABLY good.

It’s quite reasonable to consider the 140km trip from Dubai *just* to order a plate of these fries – they are <insert a seemingly endless list of superlatives here>!

By now, I’d passed any sense of being sensible about my eating for the day. What the hell – everything else had been so good – so why deny myself the pleasures of dessert? “Life’s too short! Eat dessert first!” I’ve often heard people say – perhaps I should have done that at Bentley?

Because despite the entrées and mains being top class and amazing, and all that – the desserts were next level!

Sweet, tangy lemon meringue in a glass jar! Fresh, lightly crisped meringue, too – not the usual 4-day old squishy mess you get served up in coffee shops with poor stock management! Really good stuff…but…the absolute winner of the day was the walnut and white chocolate mousse, served in a chocolate cup, and topped with thick white vanilla ice cream. The THINGS this did to my mouth are not printable on a blog where children might stumble upon it. Food so rich and decadently creamy should come with an ‘xxx’ rating. Without a doubt.

So, Bentley made be a fair distance away, but really, 140km is nothing, when you’ve already flown halfway around the world to experience the wonders of the UAE. It’s worth it because the whole Galleria experience is so over-the-top and exclusive – you won’t see so many exclusive brands gathered in one place anywhere else in the world, I’m pretty sure.  You have to go to Bentley because truffle oil and parmesan fries and walnut and white chocolate mousse exist, and can be found there, and it would be travesty if you lived your whole life without trying these.

Bentley French Bistro

The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Menchie’s

photo-10To fully comprehend Menchie’s on Jumeirah Beach, simply think of your traditional ice cream shop on the beach, and then amplify its frozen delights a millionfold; multiply by the number of all the flavours you can possibly imagine, and top it off with – well – a wall of sweet, sweet toppings, ranging from fresh pomegranate to jelly beans and my personal weakness – hot peanut butter sauce!

The shop is self-service – patrons fill paper cups with their personal idea of frozen heaven, and line up to weigh the results.  Naturally my concoction started with a hot, fresh waffle cone, and then all sense of sanity left me, and I ended up with a glacé cherry-laced, pomegranate seed-laden, peanut butter sauce-drizzled face-fest of note – that was almost the size of my head!

It’s a diabetic death knell, but by GOD, you’ll depart this Earth with the frozen, happy rictus of someone who’s last meal was better than his best shag!

WARNING: If, like me, you are not a slow eater, there is a serious amount of brain-freeze attached to this one, but the head rush that follows is worthy of the best MDMA peaks of the ’90s club scene. Strewsgod!

Menchie’s 

The Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.