Strand: M A N D I RESTAURANTS

We take a look at some of the most interesting foodie trends in town.

Mandi is the traditional cuisine of the Arabian peninsula, where, for generations, the one-pot dish of meat and rice was slow-cooked underground, with a combination of spices. The dish, typically eaten shared from an oversized platter, is seeing something of a resurgence in restaurant circles, being recreated in different avatars, whether it’s as a food court outlet, or in a five star hotel — opening up the cuisine to the uninitiated. According to F a y e z All Nusari, owner of Mandilicious, «there are around 200 Mandi type restaurants in Dubai, which is a lot more than a few years back, when there were no more than 20. As a dish, it’s not very complicated, but it has to be done in a certain way.» Here we take a look at three different Mandi eateries that have opened up in Dubai recently, each offering a unique, modern take on this traditional dining experience.

Mandilicious

Being the first restaurant to serve Mandi in a food court setting in the UAE, we were glad to discover this eatery is as good as your friendly neighbourhood Mandi restaurant. The meat is slow-cooked at the main kitchen in All Q u o z for four to six hours before being served at the mall outlet, with basmati rice, soup, salad and a soft drink. The tablet menus with photos of dishes are quite useful for novices, and if you prefer take-away, you can get a combo meal in a nifty box with compartments for each dish. The highlights are the Meat Mandi; Chicken M a d h b i, dish of smoky, juicy chicken; and Camel Mugalgal, a delicacy of chunks of young camel meat, we loved the yoghurt with cucumber as a side, as well as the fact that there are a few options for vegetarians too, such as Thareed, a grilled v e g dish, with more outlets due to open soon, Mandilicious is doing a great job of bringing this traditional cuisine into the fast food-driven mainstream.

All M a s h r a b i a

One of the best kept secrets when it comes to Arabic restaurants in Dubai, this recently opened Mandi outlet is housed on the first level of the business-у Millenium Plaza Hotel on Shaikh reyed Road. Formerly a Mediterranean restaurant, the space still retains a fresh, light, airy feel with parquet flooring, whitewashed walls and splashes of blue. Somehow, this doesn’t seem at odds with the menu which also includes Lebanese-style k i b b e h and other starters and salads. The Mandi is cooked in a purpose-built oven, which gives it as authentic a flavour as possible — the lamb is tender and succulent, and the rice, subtly infused with spices, wash it down with a fresh mint lemonade, and finish your meal with the Camel milk m o u h l a b i a, a beautifully presented, rose water-fragrance dessert. The service at the restaurant leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s still worth visiting if you’re looking for a traditional meal in a modern restaurant setting — and no, you don’t have to eat from the same plate as your companion, the food is served in individual portions.

Located on Jumeirah Beach Road, the restaurant, popular with those in the know, offers a relaxed, and refreshingly different Arabic dining experience, with cosy alcoves, hanging lanterns, buckets of spices that make a beautiful display just by the entrance, and hot tan door ovens in the background, a touch of tradition is maintained. The food is authentic with a modern flair, and highlights the cuisine from Yemen and Saudi Arabia specifically. Try the J a r j e e r salad — similar to fattoush but with a Tahiti and yoghurt dressing, before moving on to the main event. The main course menu includes Mandi of course, as well as larger sharing dishes like the Meat platter which features grilled chicken (m a d h b i) and lamb cooked in a Mandi oven, lamb chops, and three kinds of rice — a yellow rice cooked with Mandi meat, white rice, and a tomato rice. Seafood lovers can also try the Say Ida — rice cooked in fish broth — with a platter of seafood, in keeping with the ‘modern’ theme, the mains aren’t served in the regular Mandi style, but as separate platters. For desserts, don’t miss the traditional sweets such as Bint all s a h a n — a flaky Yemeni honey pie topped with black sesame seeds — and a divine date cheesecake made with camel milk.

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