Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dubai!


Rooftop View from Hilton Dubai Creek


Never mind the fifteen (plus) hour flight; it was totally worth it. Dubai, in and of itself, should be considered the eighth wonder of the world. It's a burrito of sorts. Every topping imaginable: big city vibes, desert safaris, beach life, authentic cultural flare and new world innovations. There's no way this place was lacking in the food department. 


DAY 1

What do you do when you land in a time zone ten hours different than yours and you're wide awake? Eat, of course. Just behind my first hotel, located in Deira along the creek side, was a restaurant that was still bright and busy despite the quiet, night-stricken streets. Grand Abu Shakra--This must be like their "Waffle House" I immediately thought walking through the packed parking lot. Later, I'd find I was right. I spotted many more locations and they were always open, no matter the time. "Lord, please let them have chicken!", I prayed on the way inside. 

Menu from Grand Abu Shakra

My prayers were answered. They had chicken (or fowl as they referred to it) and everything else imaginable. The menu was so diverse that we decided to live on the wild side and, with the help of the order clerk, chose a lamb sandwich. It came with a side of Mukalal, or pickled vegetables, commonly served with Lebanese and Arabic food. Very similar to our Giardiniera. Not bad for a nearly-midnight snack. So far, so good!

Lamb sandwich, Grand Abu Shakra

DAY 2

After visiting the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) the morning of day two, we headed over to the highly recommended gold and spice souks. It was definitely a sight to behold. We'd decided the gold souk was nothing short of a big scam early on in the venture, but the spice souk was something to behold. It went on and on with bends of fresh spices and rooms of busy hagglers. I chose a guy that wasn't occupied and filled my bags, talking him down more than fifty percent of his asking price as I had learned to do from my pre-trip research. I felt proud of myself. Now I just have to figure out what the heck to do with whole dried lemon.

Display at the Spice Souks

Spices I purchased (12 o'clock; clockwise): Saffron Pistachios, Turmeric, Curry, Allspice, Dried Whole Limons, Whole Nutmeg, Cardamen, Dried Roses, Vanilla Bean (hidden)

Let's just say it was an experience that worked up an appetite. Deep into the winding alleyways we happened upon a local eatery, name unknown. Entree photos displayed outside like an American Chinese restaurant lured us inside. We'll just order what looked like a chicken kabob to be safe. Not! The waiter just kept saying, "Only chicken sauce!" Oooookay. After going to have a look at the chef through the windows, we just went for it.  


Entree Display

Chef

Creations for the day
Win again! It was served with savory rice and a fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumber, onion and limes. Later, we'd learn those items were additional. But who cared, 'cause "Chicken (in) Sauce" was where it was! It was marvelous. The chicken was rough chopped and simmered in fragrant spices to perfection. It even packed a spicy punch, so the salad was a great accompaniment. We cleaned our plates and waddled out of there to check-out the traditional Abra rides along the creek.

Chicken-Sauce

A day of overly-packed tourist attractions, taxi rides, jet lag and a much needed nap left us feeling accomplished. Up next, a taste of the night life. We picked some club claiming to have a hip-hop vibe. "Be here by 10:30pm", claimed the club manager over the phone. Of course the club was not yet open when we arrived and we were directed to a club that was open on the backside of the Fairmont Hotel, Cavalli Club. Yes, THE Cavalli. The dresscode required heels which we were not wearing, so the only way in was to order dinner. Some how we'd forgotten to eat, so yes please!


Cavilli Club interior

Talk about Fancy-Schmancy! This place was decked to the nines with interior designs that no photo could possibly capture... right down to the custom, gold plated Cavalli flatware and massive crystal chandeliers. Excusez-moi! Prices lived-up to the atmosphere, but it's all about the experience, right? Right. And it sure upped the ante when they brought out a complimentary Pea Gazpacho Shooter pre-meal and custom porcelain cloches (googled that one!) covering the main courses.


Porcelain Cloche at Cavalli

Because we planned to partake in a few libations, we went with pasta dishes. Seafood fregola for me and lamb risotto for her. Don't think I didn't realize how amazing the lamb risotto sounded. But I consider ordering the same thing a cardinal sin when you're dining with someone close to you. Translation: What's mine's is yours and whats your is mine's! Luckily, I did not regret my decision. The fregola (short chopped pasta) was cooked textbook al dente with a luscious creamy sauce. Chunks of scallops, octopus, calamari (squid) and shrimp were so abundant that I reluctantly had to leave some behind. Coming up for air from my creamy goodness, I tasted the risotto. Mmm-mmm. Definitely the best I've ever had. It melted in my mouth and the lamb was perfectly medium rare, as it should be. I could've eaten 10 pounds of it. But I didn't since we were being forced to order dessert (two course dining policy).


Fregola con frutti di mare, Cavalli Club
(Fegola with mix seafood)

Risotto al timo, agnello e salsa al mirto, Cavalli Club
(Thyme risotto with lamb fillet and Mirto sauce)

Well, if I must...Crepes Suzette Flambe table-side it is! I want the whole shebang. The crepes were fluffy and tasty, but we were too full to enjoy them. Or perhaps neither of us were fans of the orange flavor. Nevertheless I was very pleased with the Cavalli experience and I totally see why this guy was alllll over Dubai--from Cavalli vodka to Cavalli Caffe (2 Fs) to Cavalli, Cavalli Junior and Cavalli Gym stores. Clearly he is THE man. Hats off!

Flambe in Progress

Day 3

A really late night, led to a really early morning. As in up at 6:30 to be chaffered to our desert tour over an hour away. After sand dunning, sand surfing and riding camels with a side of jet lag there was no way we were venturing too far from our hotel before the epic nap that was about to ensue. So we just walked right behind the hotel to a restaurant we recalled passing by a few times, Samaya.  

Samaya

Sleepy was an understatement so we ordered to go, as to be as close to the bed as possible at last bite. Chicken Shawarma for her and, one of my favorite entrees to order, Chicken Curry for me. While the shawarma was promising, the curry was on point! We gobbled it down. I was pretty stuffed mid-way through but I just couldn't stop my self. It felt wrong to leave any in that bowl. So I didn't. I order curry at practically any restaurant-- Chinese, Jamaican, Asian Fusion, Seafood, wherever--and this definitely will go down as one of the best.


Chicken Shawarma & Chicken Curry, Samaya

A three hour nap and one mid-day very loud public prayer call later, we decided to continue our adventure. As far as malls go, theirs cover it all. We'd already been to The Dubai Mall since it is attached to the Burj Khalifa but we hadn't experienced the world's largest water show. So after heading to the marina, riding a ferry and walking around The Marina Mall we headed back to The Dubai Mall. Someone had recommended we try Nando's, a Portuguese chicken spot, and there was one in the mall so we sat down to rest our weary feet and waited on our order. And waited. And waited. I'm almost positive they went to fetch the cockerel from Portugal. Oh, but when it came in all of it's charred goodness...a whole chicken smothered in Hot Pere-Peri sauce (even though we thought we ordered half herbed lemon). I had chosen hot because I love spicy food and usually hot doesn't really mean spicy in America. Tuh, the Portuguese mean what they say. Our lips were on fire and there was nothing the corn on the cob, potato wedges, rice or mini can of Fanta could do to save us. Nando's is a go, but next time I'll order Medium ("Hits the spot without scolding your tonsils") rather than Hot ("Highly combustible- proceed with caution"). <= Their words, not mine's.


Nando's Peri Peri Chicken

Afterwards, our quest to visit a few stores we hadn't had a chance to on our previous visit lead us past Bateel, described as "a delicious world of deluxe chocolates, delectable dates, superb pastries and a vast selection of gourmet foods and gifts".  I did a double take as we passed by because I'd never seen quite the display. I knew it was a thing around these parts, but this put it into to true perspective and I had to have a photo. According to the counter clerk, we also had to have a taste and he handed us each a sample. One pistachio stuffed and one almond stuffed fig. I'll admit I didn't want it, but my lips were still a little tingly and I'm a advocate of trying new things so I took it and scurried away. We both nibbled at the gooey but crunchy pieces before finding the nearest trashcan. There! We'd had stuffed dried fruit. Next!


Dried Figs, Dates and Apricots at Bateel

Stuffed Dried Fruit, Bateel

DAY 4/5

The plan was to take a private taxi over to Abu Dhabi mostly to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in all of its supposed glory. But if I'm being honest, I was more excited to go to Abu Dhabi to confirm rather or not it was everything Sex and the City 2 had made it seem. Let's just say I'm pretty sure Sex and the City 2 was NOT filmed in Abu Dhabi. There were buildings, nothing like in Dubai, and attractions here and there, but mostly dust. Surely a fine city, but most definitely anticlimactic. My disappointment quickly faded away when we pulled up to our resort, The St. Regis, Abu Dhabi. I can still hear the choir sing from what seemed like the gates of heaven opening, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh". This place was magnificent! I've visited all but 12 United States and a myriad of other places and I'm going to go ahead and say this is the BEST hotel stay I have ever experienced.

St. Regis, Abu Dhabi

After taking in the the Grand Mosque, we were due for a little relaxation. We had tired ourselves out with adventure. We were greeted in our room by a beautiful decadent fruit tray. Plums, pears, kiwi, oranges, apples, clementine, persimmons, cherries, bananas and what I'd later find out were mangosteens and horned melons (Thanks mom!). Perfect snacks for the rest of the evening.


In-room Fruit Tray

Soaking up the beach until sundown, the energy to find food escaped us and a nap turned into sleep. Still not adjusted 4 days later, we woke up at 4 am starving! Fruit snacks were no longer cutting it. No fear, room service was 24 hours. It was fast and fancy.

Room Service

And it was good! A mile high stacked chicken club and crispy fries. Listen! Toasted fresh bread, crisp lettuce and veggies, juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon, chargrilled chicken breast and slivers of ham. Good thing we had shared. This would hold me down until official breakfast for sure. And I couldn't wait if this was their version of a nighttime snack.

Chicken Club Sandwich

Breakfast was free of charge at all three of our hotels (Thank you consultant life hotel status), but the others where nothing to write home about. The St. Regis however laid out the red carpet. The Terrace on the Corniche, their all day dining, morphed into a mega buffet for breakfast. They had me a curried goat, but that didn't stop me from partaking in the fresh squeezed juices, egg station, potato hash, grilled veggies, turkey bacon and copious amounts of croissants and Nutella. It just didn't seem fair we were leaving paradise so soon.

Breakfast Buffet, St. Regis Abu Dhabi

DAY 5

We were back in Dubai, taking our daily trip to Starbucks. Coffee and, on the flip side, melatonin had become a part of our daily regimen. At least we could still take advantage of the beach at our next hotel's beachside Bliss Lounge. We took the opportunity to relax more and have something familiar, chicken wings. Ten didn't seem like enough, so we ended up with 20. A good chuckle was in order when they showed up. They got the job done.


Bliss Beachside Cafe, Sheraton Jemriah Beach

Chicken Wangs!

We explored The Walk at Jemeirah Beach and experienced Dubai Canvas, a 3D art festival along the beach. It felt good to roam without an agenda. We ended up at our best mall yet, The Mall of Emirates, and managed to avoid dinner yet again. We found ourselves with repeat late night hunger pangs. Perhaps we were growing homesick because we ended up at KFC eating more chicken. More good chicken, nonetheless.

DAY 6

Last full day! And we planned to go out with a bang, starting with an awesome helicopter tour over Dubai with aerial views of the skyline, Burj Khalifa, Burj Arab, The Palm, Atlantis, the marina and world islands. Friday is sacred to Muslims. Everyone is off of work and post-Mosque Friday brunch is a tradition shared by all. We wanted in! So after the ride, we headed over to Jemeirah Beach Hotel to 360. The location right underneath the Burj Arab was breathtaking. We had been attempting to get near that place our entire trip and there we were.  

Friday Brunch at 360, overlooking Burj Arab

The Champagne brunch was inexplicable. But I'll try! First, a smorgasbord of seafood appetizers--fried calamari, sushi, maki, lobster tails, mussels, clams, shrimp and scallop skewers and plates of various seafood salads. Holy Moly, take me now! But wait, there's food firing from the kitchen as well. A choice of Hot and Sour Soup followed by a Dim Sum medley was blowing me overboard. The main course of Crispy Asian Salmon, Peanut Chicken Satay and Lamb Shank in a cajun sauce just sealed the deal. I was happy the DJ was belting out soulful tunes because nothing pairs better with great cuisine than good music. A surprise custardy goodness with home-made ice cream, beam me up! 360 was everything. Dubai had out done itself.


Part of the Buffet at 360 Friday Brunch

From-The-Kitchen menu at 360 Friday Brunch


Dim Sum, 360


Main Course, 360


Surprise Dessert, 360

Unlimited champagne brunch turned into rooftop day party, turned into to evening night cap! It's safe to say we enjoyed ourselves. One AppleMint Hookah and one delicious cream frosting covered surprise chocolate cake later, our trip seemed to have the perfect ending.

Post-Brunch Sparkling wine on 360 Rooftop

Second Surprise Desert, 360

DAY 7

We still had plenty of time before our flight day 7. We checked out the Dubai Miracle Gardens and explored the Walk at Jemeirah Beach some more. It seemed like a good idea to have a good meal before the 17 hour flight since you never know what your going to get with those airplane meals. We settled on a place I had gawked over on our last walk, curry of course! House of Curry to be exact.  

House of Curry, Jemeirah Beach Walk- Dubai

In Arabic

This area of the world does cuisine right. India is no exception. And House of Curry represents well. The vegetable Pakora was some of the best I've ever had and the Chicken Tikka Masala was a perfect blend of cashew and curry tomato sauce. But the tandoori lamb chops were to die for! It was if Dubai was saying, "Wait! I'm not done yet!" And I was more than happy to listen.

Pakora, House of Curry

Chicken Tikka Masala & Tandoori Lamp Chops

DAY 7/8

Bring it on 17 hour plane ride. Ahhh, plane food. I'll have the chicken and mashed potatoes, she'll have the shrimp and rice. Hold the sides, run the vodka. At least we wouldn't starve. My only thanks to the waffles with cherry compote was their indication that were almost finally home. 

Chicken & Gravy w/ Mashed Potatoes, Delta Economy Comfort

Coconut Shrimp and Rice, Delta Economy Comfort

Waffles with Cherry Compote, Delta Economy Comfort

Alas I bid goodbye. An experience I shall forever hold close to my heart. Thanks for the adventure Dubai. As expected, your culinary melting pot did not disappoint. I greatly appreciate it.
Til next time!





























































3 comments:

  1. This is great Tiffany! Thank you for sharing your travels and love for fantastic food! I'm looking forward to more blogs from you! -Michelle L. DuVall (Classmate of Carver Magnet & Central High)

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  2. Tiffany, I felt like I was right there with you! I would have gained 20 pounds from that trip! Looking forward to future posts. I'll be sure to pass this along to Aunt Janell because she loves to eat!

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  3. Tiff, I really enjoyed reading about your vacation. The food was looking so delicious! My mouth was watering, lol. Please continue to blog about your vacations and delicious foods! I really enjoyed your blog!

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