Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Paul's Cafe, Mall of the Emirates

In a nutshell: rather squashed location but great menu selection and fabulous fresh food.


I really am on a roll of eating out at great restaurants just now! Long may it last...Today I had lunch at Paul's Cafe in Mall of the Emirates and the salad I had could not have been more different to the uninteresting Saladicious one I endured a few weeks ago. Paul's is a French cafe that originates from France itself, so the menu items, breads and pastries are all authentically French. I've previously reviewed the Dubai Airport Terminal 3 branch of Paul's but that one doesn't offer the full range that you'll find at the Mall or in any of their other outlets around Dubai. The only downside of the MoE branch compared to, for example, the Mercato Mall one is that the MoE cafe is located right next to an escalator and so all the tables are squashed into a very tight space - shame they can't move to a better and bigger location because it is always jam-packed.

Paul's offers a range of salads, sandwiches, quiches, savoury crepes and some grills (i.e. salmon). Initially I opted for the crab salad (the menu stated it was fresh crab, not crabsticks which are actually fish and wheat) but then I saw the 'salade panachee' which included avocado, palm hearts, artichoke hearts, asparagus, sweetcorn, mushrooms, tomatoes and mixed lettuce - what a variety! For an additional charge you could add either chicken or prawns to the salad so I went for the prawns to ensure my protein was there. A basket of fresh bread (onion rolls, olive white bread and plain brown bread) was delivered to the table and I couldn't resist having a couple of small slices...yummy. The salad then arrived and this was beautifully presented and included everything it was meant to. It wasn't drowned in dressing but the lettuce had been tossed in a delicious French dressing and that was enough to give a mouth-watering flavour to every bite. Who said salad was boring? Certainly not if you're having one at this venue.

Prices are fairly standard with a salad averaging AED 50 but the additional prawns cost an extra AED 19 which I thought was quite expensive for 7 small prawns. Still, you get what you pay for and when I left here I felt my money had been very well spent. Next time I'll maybe aim for the Mercato one though just so that I can have a bit of room and personal space while I eat.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fantastic Baby Corn & Chicken Soup

I've been trying a swathe of new recipes from a book a friend gave me a while ago, Homestyle Asian (Murdoch Books). Everything I've made has been nice but the one dish so far that has stood out as fantastic is the baby corn & chicken soup. It is kind of like a Thai-style sweetcorn & chicken chowder so it is full of flavour and has a great bite to it. The photo is scanned from the book since the photo of my soup didn't look half as good! However, the taste is absolutely delicious and I highly recommend you try it - don't worry, it's very easy to make.

150g whole baby corn (or a tin of baby corn) - cut lengthways in half or quarters depending on size
1 tablespoon oil
2 lemongrass stems - white part only, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
6 spring onions - chopped
1 red chilli - finely chopped (I didn't put this in and just put a half teaspoon of chilli sauce)
1 litre chicken stock (I used vegetable stock and put a bit more than 1 litre since the soup seemed a bit too thick - see how you feel and add more if necessary)
375ml (1 can) of coconut milk
250g boneless, skinless chicken breast - cut into small dice
135g (1 can) creamed corn
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely snipped chives to garnish
1 red chilli to garnish - thinly sliced

This makes enough for 6 people at least.

1. Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking.
2. Heat the oil and cook the lemongrass, ginger, spring onion and chilli for 1 minute - stir continuously.
3. Add the stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil - do not cover or the coconut milk will curdle.
4. Add the chicken, creamed corn and baby corn and simmer for 8 minutes. NOTE: if you're using tinned baby corn then add it for the last 2 mintues only.
5. Add the soy sauce, season well and serve garnished with the chilli and chives.
6. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: PF Chang, Mirdiff City Centre

In a nutshell: great food, service and price!

I had heard great things about the new Mall of the Emirates branch of PF Chang and when Simon and I came upon it in Mirdiff City Centre we decided it would be worth a taste. We were not disappointed! I liked the decor of dark wood, Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, walls painted with scenes of Chinese life and large stone statues - from a life-size horse at the door to an emperor and his hencemen inside. The restaurant is very big and it was almost full, which we rightly took to be a good sign.

We were seated by a friendly hostess and our waiter came to take our drink order immediately. During the meal, Simon had almost finished his rice and the waiter came to ask if he'd like more...very observant and attentive. We were surprised to see an American manager but PF Chang is an American chain and they clearly decided that brand expertise was required to successfully launch the brand here - good strategy. The staff have all clearly been well trained although I found it strange that the manager didn't talk to any guests at all. We also saw the chef come out of the kitchen - a Western woman who we presumed must have also come over from the US.

The menu is extensive, but not so huge as to be overwhelming. I was thrilled to see that they offer BROWN RICE (no additional charge) - finally a restaurant that realises the health benefits of wholegrain rice. As the restaurant is in a mall, there's no pork but you can find everything else including chicken, duck (no duck pancakes though), beef, lamb, fish and various seafood. We started our meal with steamed shrimp dumplings, just to share as we had been warned by my parents that the portions are very generous. Really delicious, although sharing was a good idea since I couldn't have managed an entire plate of them alone. The accompanying ginger soy sauce gave that little extra kick to the tastebuds.

Not wanting to go for a commonplace option, I ordered chicken in ginger with broccoli. Simon went for sweet & sour chicken...not very adventurous and he didn't like it as much as my dish. There was nothing wrong with the sweet & sour, but once he tried mine he realised that he could have had a much more interesting meal. My chicken in ginger was fantastic, the ginger added great flavour without being too strong, the sauce was definitely freshly made (not like my Chop Chop experience) and the broccoli was cooked al dente so I felt that I had eaten a really healthy meal. If you have a starter then I would recommend sharing a main course; we had shared our starter but still couldn't manage to finish both mains.

There was no way we could even consider a dessert, especially as their cakes are suitable for 4 people to share! A cheap way to have dessert anyway. To help people choose their dessert, they've made replicas out of plastic and when you order dessert they bring you over a tray showing what they all look like. I'd never seen that before but thought it was a great idea and less wasteful than having real examples laid out. Maybe next time I'll avoid the starter and save some room for dessert. For the entire meal, including drinks, we spent just AED 150 and we left feeling that our money had been very well spent.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Haru Robatayaki, Green Community

In a nutshell: great Japanese food in a casual setting with reasonable prices.

Haru Robatayaki has 2 restaurants in Dubai; one in Green Community and one in Rimal, JBR. The Green Community one is just a few minutes walk from my apartment and I probably eat there (or order home delivery) at least once a month. I love it! So why have I only given it a 4/5? Sadly the restaurants around the Green Community lake have not been built with proper ventilation so if you go to Haru's on a busy night when the teppanyaki grill is in full swing then you will leave smelling of oil and food. Not very pleasant. With temperatures falling, eating outside is now an option but the small lake outside does sometimes smell a little less than fresh. Through no fault of Haru's I therefore can't give the restaurant itself 5/5 although the food is definitely right up there and hopefully the JBR branch has the right ventilation so that one could be a full 5/5.

I went there for lunch with a friend and we were able to sit inside with no issues since there was no teppanyaki cooking going on. As the name suggests, Haru's key offering is robatayaki (grilled over an open flame - kind of like a BBQ) but they also have teppanyaki (stir-fried on a hot plate), teriyaki (grilled in sweet soy sauce), tempura (deep fried in a light crispy batter) and sushi. You can choose to sit around the teppanyaki grill, at a regular table or outside. At lunchtime, they also offer a selection of Bento boxes and that is what we both went for since for AED 50 you get miso soup to start and then your box with (in my case) grilled salmon, rice (choice of fried, steamed or noodles instead of rice), stir fried vegetables and fruit for dessert. In addition to that, we were given a free amuse-bouche of a tiny tuna burger on top of a cabbage salad (the amuse-bouche changes every day and I've never had the same thing twice). It was all delicious but I made the mistake of also ordering edamame (steamed soya beans) and I was so full by the end of the meal that I almost had to be rolled out!

If you don't go for a bento box then the dishes are almost tapas-style so you can order a selection, although 2 per person would be more than enough for most of us. The best squid I have ever eaten has been at Haru's as they somehow manage to cook it in a way that does not leave it chewy and tough - how do they make it so tender? Another favourite of mine is the chicken wrapped around asparagus spears...yum yum yum. The beauty is that by ordering the small plates you can try all the different cooking styles by ordering a robatayaki dish, tempura dish, teppanyaki dish etc. Each plate costs around AED 20-25 and if you had a starter then you could easily manage with just one dish plus vegetables and rice, making a very reasonable meal out.

The staff are all very friendly although I think they must get a bit bored since it appears that most of Haru's business is home delivery (it seems to be the same situation with all the restaurants around the lake). It would be even better if Haru's was licensed and you could enjoy some sake with your dinner but unfortunately none of the lake-side restaurants are licensed. Rumours abound since the intention was clearly for them to be licensed when they were built - there was initially a Fibber's pub here but it closed down (funny that!) and there's a Mexican restaurant with a (virgin) marguerita bar. The area would be buzzing if the licensing issue could be sorted out, but instead it's all a bit of a ghost town.

One point to note is that the Green Community branch phone isn't currently working so if you want to order home delivery, call the mobile 055 981 6266.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dairy-free Chocolate Dates

Chocolate dates have got to be one of the most delicious treats there is (I don't like plain dates, only when they're covered in chocolate). Sadly most of the commercially produced chocolate dates have powdered milk or butterfat added to the chocolate - even the dark chocolate ones. As I was pondering the problem at the supermarket the other day, my husband nonchalantly asked why I didn't just make my own. Why hadn't I thought of that? The perfect solution...and so easy.

The dates I bought still had their stones in so I had to cut them open to remove them - breaking a tooth on a stone wasn't the unforgettable experience I was aiming for! It was easy to do, but buying ready-stoned dates would make an easy process even easier. I then placed an unsalted cashew nut in each date - any nuts can be used but putting a different nut in each date would actually make it more interesting come the devouring time so I'll get a variety of my favourite nuts in for the next time. 70% dark Lindt chocolate has no butterfat in it and isn't too dark to be bitter, I melted a row of chocolate squares in a glass bowl over boiling water and once it was fully melted I rolled the dates (just 5 of them in case the results weren't very good) in the chocolate and put on some greaseproof paper to set in the fridge. Ten minutes and they were done!

The important taste test came later when my family came for dinner. "Hmmm, almost Bateel," my brother announced as he munched away. Success! [For non-Dubai residents, Bateel produces very expensive luxury chocolate dates]. Not only does this mean I can eat my favourite sweet indulgence, but I'll save a fortune since even a box of non-Bateel chocolate dates are around Dhs 50 ($14) and they are an extremely health snack.

Benefits of dates:
They contain magnesium (needed for bone development and energy metabolism), iron (needed to produce red blood cells), potassium (needed to maintain muscle contractions - including the heart) as well as multiple other vitamins and minerals.

Benefits of nuts:
They are a great protein source and contain healthy fat (see my article on Fats to understand why it is essential to include healthy fat in your diet), vitamins and minerals. Every nut has its own individual health benefits - another reason to use a variety of nuts to stuff the dates with.

Benefits of dark chocolate:
Yes, dark chocolate (65% cocoa content or higher) is good for you! It can help to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol because it contains high levels of flavonoids which act as antioxidants to protect the body from free radicals (dangerous molecules produced as part of the digestive process which have been shown to cause aging and contribute to chronic illnesses). White and milk chocolate do not have these benefits as the cocoa content is too low.

Dates, nuts and dark chocolate are of course high in sugar and/or fat so it's not a good idea to eat too many, but 1 or 2 a day as part of a balanced diet will give you all the benefits you need. Plus it's a healthy way to satisfy any sugar craving. What more could you ask for?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: More Cafe, Dubai Gold & Diamond Park

In a nutshell: extensive menu but mixed food quality.

More Cafe has expanded considerably over the past few years, from 1 cafe in Garhoud they must now have at least 6 scattered around Dubai. There is a similar layout to each one with a cavernous open interior and a warehouse-type feel created by open ceilings exposing the A/C vents and ducts. I've only ever eaten breakfast there or met friends for a coffee - they serve delicious homemade caramel biscuits when you order a hot drink - and since Simon and I were at the Gold & Diamond Park we decided to try that branch for lunch.

The menu is huge and covers foods from all parts of the globe. I do sometimes wonder how restaurants keep such a wide range of food items fresh, but More is such a busy restaurant (we were there on a Tuesday and it was far from empty) that I suppose they have the necessary turnover of diners. I opted for the grilled salmon with salad and french fries whilst Simon went for the butter chicken. The butter chicken was one of the best he has ever had: not too rich, a nice kick but not too spicy and it included sultanas and cashew nuts. Sadly, my experience was not quite so good.

The tomato sauce on my salmon was very sweet and seemed to be just tomato puree - I scraped it off to get to the fish. The salad was OK but was just a bowl of lettuce and on one of my chips I found what looked suspiciously like a hair. I put the chip to the side and told myself it was just some fluff from a jacket or something. Still, I checked every single chip after that! The salmon itself was tender and cooked through, but the disappointing 'sauce' and the questionable chip pretty much put me off the whole meal. The breakfasts I've had there have been excellent and Simon's meal was fantastic so I clearly just chose badly (10 pages of options and I chose the 1 substandard thing!) so I will go back - once the memory of this experience has subsided.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Saladicious, Jumeirah

In a nutshell: Friendly staff, bright colourful decor but disappointing salads.

As the name suggests, Saladicious offers a long list of different salads - plus homemade soups, sandwiches and main courses such as grilled salmon. Sadly the 'delicious' part that the name eludes to remains elusive. I would expect that a restaurant that is focussed on salads would provide Dubai's most amazing variety and choice of them. Unfortunately, Saladicious does not deliver and if a great salad is what you're looking for then I would recommend going to either Zest in the Ibn Battuta food court where you will find a fabulous salad selection which allows you to select exactly what you want in your salad and what dressing or to Paul's Cafe where there is a truly delicious range of mixed salads.

I ordered a crispy prawn salad with mixed lettuce, mango and wakame (a type of seaweed). It was only when I left and was thinking about this article that I realised there had been no wakame in the salad at all! I didn't count how many slithers of mango I had, but I would estimate there were maybe 6 small slices and the rest of the salad was just lettuce. In France I will happily eat a bowl of lettuce because the dressing they put on it is so tasty (no matter where you eat) but there was no dressing at all on mine. This is partly my fault because I had asked for the dressing to be on the side since it was a chilli dressing and I told the waiter I was concerned it would be too hot for me. What I would have done in his position would have been to bring my guest a bit of the dressing to try and if the guest didn't like it then I would have suggested an alternative. But that's just me. The prawns were extremely generous - 2 skewers of jumbo prawns - and they were succulent and fresh. If only the salad had matched up to them.

The other meals around the table were equally mundane. My Mum had a chicken liver salad and although she said the liver was nice (I took her word for it since you couldn't pay me to eat liver!), it was also served on a big bowl of lettuce with no other salad items and barely any dressing. One of the other's in our party had a salad nicoise which had the requisite tuna, beans, potatoes, tomatoes etc. but each item was placed in a small pile and there was no dressing - it looked completely unappetising. One of the nicest salad nicoise I've had has been at Paul's where there was, yes, a divine dressing on it and it was all tossed together with the tuna broken over the top so that it not only looked good but tasted great. I think Saladicious could learn a few things about how to make salads by visiting them.

Apart from the disappointing food, the decor of the restaurant is bright and airy and for a cup of coffee and a pastry it would be a nice place to sit and have a chat with friends. If you want to check it out for yourself then you'll find it behind The One on Jumeirah Beach Road, if you turn towards the carpark of The One but continue straight down the road you will see it on the left side underneath an apartment building. You've been warned though...don't bother with the salads!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Noodle House, DIFC

In a nutshell: Speedy service, tasty food and well-priced.

Noodle House has developed into quite a franchise for Jumeirah Group, although I have found mixed results across the restaurants. I've always enjoyed eating at the Emirates Towers branch but for some reason the Madinat Jumeirah one has tended to disappoint. Not having eaten at any Noodle House for a year or more and having a hankering for duck pancakes, my friend Louissa and I decided to give the one in Dubai International Financial Centre a go. DIFC has a great variety of restaurants both in the underground shopping boulevard next to the visitor car park and up one level on the ground floor under the offices. Noodle House is in the underground part but, similar to in the shopping malls, they have created 'inside' seating (next to the open kitchen which can apparently get very noisy) and 'outside' seating. There are a small number of tables and chairs but long tables with benches where you'll be sat with people you don't necessarily know is the main seating arrangement.

I was surprised that it wasn't very busy since I remember being turned away at Emirates Towers on numerous occasions because they had no more space. Turns out we had just been lucky to get there early and by 1pm the place was jammed. Top tip: arrive by 12:30 to have your choice of where to sit. We were able to sit at a table for 2 with nice comfortable chairs rather than a hard wooden bench. The menu is presented as a notepad where you tick the items that you want and this is then handed straight to the kitchen. We started with Japanese beans (steamed soya beans) although I asked for them to be sprinkled with salt instead of the pepper mentioned in the menu. Simple and healthy.

The duck in my crispy duck pancakes was not very crispy so I cut the soft fat off the meat before rolling up the pancakes. Part of the whole appeal of this dish is the crispy skin and the fact that it is not fatty so it was a shame but apart from that they were tasty and just what I was craving. Louissa's Singapore Noodles were really good but she had asked for extra spice and it wasn't particularly spicy. The meal didn't elicit any 'wows' but it was still very flavoursome and I would go back if I was in the area again. At Dhs 45 for the duck and Dhs 52 for the noodles, it does offer very good value and the speed of service means that you can actually sit and enjoy your food in your 1 hour lunch break.
P.S. I just went onto the Noodle House website to add the link above and found that if you sign up then you can avail of special offers. This month's offer is a voucher for a free main course when you buy 2 other mains. Not a bad deal so I'm likely to be going back before my voucher expires at the end of next month!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

UAE Restaurant Review: Al Hamra Marina & Yacht Club

In a nutshell: well-presented food with great views but staff still need a bit of training

The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is home to Al Hamra Marina & Yacht Club which is part of the mushrooming Al Hamra development of hotel, golf club and luxury villas and apartments. It is quite a drive to get to RAK and I personally find the Emirate very industrial and unattractive, however, after turning off the main road and reaching the Yacht Club we were able to breath easier looking out at the azure waters of the marina, gorgeous boats moored up, the hotel beach over on the opposite side and the attractively designed residences all around the inlet (it's not quite big enough to be called a bay). We would have loved to sit outside on the large terrace but temperatures have still not come down enough for al fresco lunchtime dining, sitting inside didn't impede our view though as the windows are floor to ceiling. Recently taken over by new management (actually my Dad's company Henderson International), there are still a few teething issues in terms of training - as is to be expected - but the meal we had was excellent with some very originally presented dishes.

The menu was varied with the usual variety of salads, soups, grills and seafood but there were a few things you don't see at many places, including a Reuben sandwich - it wouldn't be my choice but my Dad really enjoyed it. I went for the Al Hamra salad with coconut chicken goujons and was pleased to find that the salad was not 90% lettuce as is so often the case and also that the chicken had a garnish of grapefruit - something a little different. I had hoped the chicken would be simply coated in dessicated coconut but it was coconut and breadcrumbs; I'm not supposed to be eating bread since I'm intolerant to wheat and yeast but you have to cheat sometimes and it was worth it! The chicken was actually under the appetisers section but was far too big for a starter - I couldn't even finish it as a main course. Simon's steak came with a healthy mix of vegetables but his medium-well done request was forgotten and his sauce slowly turned pink as he cut into the steak - luckily he can eat rare meat, I would have had to send it back. The dish that gave us the biggest 'wow' moment was my Mum's french fries! Served in a bowl lined with a crispy Arabic bread we thought it was a fantastic idea and it looked really impressive. Not only that, but the ketchup was served in a half pepper that had been carefully cut in a jagged pattern - if you look carefully you will see the other half of it on Simon's plate.

The staff were all friendly but lacked a bit of confidence and forethought, which will hopefully come with more training and experience. My Mum's fruit salad should have some with cottage cheese but when she asked where this was she was informed that they didn't have any - not really an issue but as soon as the kitchen got her order they should have informed her there was no cottage cheese incase she wanted to choose something else. The supervisor asked us if we'd enjoyed our meal when he was clearing our plates; if we hadn't enjoyed it then asking at that point would have been a bit late. Just small things that I'm sure will be ironed out in time. The price was fantastic with the steak costing just Dhs 85 and the sandwiches and salads at around the Dhs 30-35 mark. After our lunch we went upstairs to look at the upstairs bar and terrace which are open in the evening, I could imagine lying up there on a rattan sofa with a nice drink watching the sunset...bliss.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Outback Steakhouse, Dubai Festival City

In a nutshell: Pseudo-Australian diner-style restaurant with mediocre food and service

Festival City is not a mall I go to very often but when I do it always leaves me with a sense of frustration. I like an easy to navigate shopping centre, which is a category DFC doesn't fall into since the area with all the restaurants is split up so that you can't walk along one corridor and see everything that's on offer - the restaurants seem to encompass the corridor so you need to go outside the mall and enter another set of doors for each section. Very strange and annoying when you are hungry and just want to sit down. I almost gave up and plumped down in Japengo, but for the sake of Bon Appetit! I wanted to try somewhere new.

The Outback Steakhouse is just down from the fast food court and apart from the name and decor of digeredoos and pictures of Australia, it is basically the same as a Chilis (not a good thing in my opinion). In terms of cost that means it is very reasonable - Dhs 72 for a steak including 2 sides and a sauce - but in terms of quality of meal I suppose the old adage 'you get what you pay for' holds true. We were initially impressed with the menu due to the prices, plus there were some original items such as an appetiser of spinach & artichoke dip, fried coconut prawns and a whole fried onion split out like a huge flower. However, numerous dishes included Monterey Jack Cheese which is extremely American and there was a New York cheesecake but I wasn't unduly worried.

The cranberry juice was a cheap, sickly-sweet one that I could barely drink (I really believe restaurants should only sell Ocean Spray) and Simon's Berry Freeze was a mixture of packeted juices - no comparison to the fresh juices of Japengo. Our shared starter of grilled prawns came on a bed of roasted cherry tomatoes. For Dhs 38 we had a grand total of 6 tiny little prawns, all liberally seasoned with cajun spices. The flavour wasn't bad but the portion size was disappointing. Our main courses then arrived, quickly followed by a look of disgust from me.

My sweet potato hadn't been scrubbed so it still had those strange strands that grow on sweet potatoes on it! Instead of butter on the potato, they had put some sort of whipped cream with cinnamon and the sauce (luckily on the side) was really sweet as well - sweet and savoury...NO NO NO. My steak should have been cooked medium-well done but was so overdone that it was bone dry and the spices that had been rubbed into the steak were quite hot on the palate, plus the steak had that strong meaty taste that it gets when it's been previously frozen. In a word...dreadful. Simon's meal fared better than mine as he had ordered a combo of chicken with coconut prawns. The prawns were the size I would have expected our starter ones to have been and he said you could really taste the coconut in the batter and the chicken was coated with melted cheese which gave it moisture and flavour. It didn't blow him away, but it was edible.

Throughout our meal a multitude of staff seemed to congregate together by the main cash till and it seemed there were only a couple of waiters actually bothering to look after the diners. Our waiter, Ahmed, was very friendly and efficient but the same can't be said of his colleagues. My impression was that there was a real hierarchy so when we asked a 'supervisor' for the bill, he didn't clear our plates since that wasn't his job and I had to ask him to take them away when he brought us the bill. The place was full of families with children and for them it would probably be a step up from Burger King, but you certainly won't be seeing me there again. Try it at your own risk!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Tribes, Mall of the Emirates

In a nutshell: Original African concept restaurant with great food and friendly staff

Mall of the Emirates recently opened its new extension, in the place where the jumping fountains used to be - Prada, Chanel and other designer labels are clearly better money spinners than a fancy fountain especially after the Dubai Fountain opened at Dubai Mall. In addition to a slew of shops that I will never be able to buy anything from, there are a slew of new restaurants, some of which are refreshingly new concepts. Old names include Biella (although my last experience of Biella Times Square was a disaster) and More Cafe, with new names including a French bistro with Dhs 30 coffees (!!!), a Chinese restaurant which is where I'll try next and Tribes which is where I ate lunch.

Tribes is an African restaurant and the African theme encompasses the interiors with sheepskin-covered chairs, drums and shields on the walls; the staff who are all from various African countries and are dressed in ethnic uniforms with facial designs painted on; and the menu which offers lots of grills with African-inspired marinades and sauces. In some restaurants it can be hard to choose because nothing really takes your fancy, here it was hard to choose because it all sounded so interesting. There are numerous salads, sandwiches and burgers as well as grilled meats and fish plus desserts of course. Our waitress greeted us in her language of Shona, from Zimbabwe, and offered to take us through anything on the menu. Halfway through our meal a group of staff gathered at the entrance to the restaurant to sing and play the drums - great atmosphere!

Whilst my Dad went for the burger, I opted for grilled red snapper with spicy tomato and courgette and my Mum ordered the watermelon, parmesan and rocket salad. Side orders included sweet potato fries, since sweet potato is meant to be better for you than regular potato as it's full of antioxidants (although the deep frying part may negate all that), I ordered a side of those. At a nearby table I saw sandwiches being delivered which were grilled panini-style and the chips served were tiny julienne'd potatoes that reminded me of these fabulous salt & vinegar crisps you used to be able to get that looked similar - not Chipsticks which are big and made of corn, these were tiny slithers of potato, does anyone know the name and if they still make them?? Hmmm.

My snapper was perfectly grilled so that it retained its moisture but was also firm and the accompanying spicy tomato and courgette was delicious. Fish can be a bit bland sometimes, but this sauce had the perfect level of piquant to give it a great taste without burning your tastebuds off. The sweet potato fries were also excellent, although because sweet potato goes so soft when it's cooked they had been very very lightly battered to keep them together. I liked them, but will order those tiny little potato chips next time. The watermelon salad was saved from potentially being a bit tasteless by the deep fried parmesan cigars that came with it and the burger was juicy and fulfilling. Prices are similar to other mall restaurants although some of the grills were well over Dhs 100 which is quite a lot to pay when you can't have a glass of wine with your meal. Tribes is the only African restaurant that I know of and I will certainly go back: a great new restaurant concept that breaks from the usual mould.