Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Cafe Havana, Dubai Mall

In a nutshell: Great location, excellent food and fantastic prices

The Mall of the Emirates branch of Cafe Havana was one of my first reviews on Bon Appetit and I was pleased to find I rate it as highly now as I did then. The Dubai Mall branch sits at the far end of the Dubai Fountain lake so you get a great view of the water and the Burj Khalifa - it's a little far to clearly see the fountain display although it is still visible and the accompanying music is clearly audible. Their outside area is huge and they have split it with smoking and non-smoking sections which I loved since so often outside areas are smoking zones and that can ruin the experience for me. The only problem with such a big area is that it can make getting a waiter's attention a little more difficult. Although the staff were friendly they just aren't at the same standard as Japengo's (I ordered a water that never came and our waitress didn't seem to know the menu that well), hence the one point difference between these two chains.

Simon ordered chicken fajitas (only Dhs 42) and they came beautifully presented with the chicken mix sizzling on a platter and the guacamole, tomato salsa and sour cream served in small pots for you to mix as you prefer. There were only 2 tortillas (not many but I presume we could have asked for more) and a portion of rice - Simon actually found this a really nice way to serve it since it meant he could have his tortillas but then mix the remaining chicken and sauce into the rice. His verdict on the flavour: delicious.

I must admit that Cafe Havana's seabass with mango salsa (Dhs 60) is my new favourite meal when I'm at a mall and want a guaranteed great dish - the Dubai Mall lunch was actually my 3rd time to have this! My first taste was at the Cafe Havana in the Umm Suqeim Spinneys mall just before Christmas and it blew me away (I didn't do a posting on it since I didn't have my camera with me) and my second was a week later at the Mall of the Emirates branch. So this was my 3rd time in just over a month, which says something about the flavours. The mango salsa is a mixture of mango (of course), tomato, onion and spices cooked together to give a slightly sharp flavour that goes perfectly with the fish. It seems that each branch makes theirs slightly differently and so far the Spinneys branch one comes out the best as it had a strong ginger flavour that I loved. The fish is pan-fried but next time I have it (since I'm sure there will be a next time) I'll ask them to grill it instead since I found the Dubai Mall one, whilst still fantastic, was a little too greasy. The official accompaniments are rice and garlic mashed potato but every time I have it I substitute those for chips and salad (counter-balances the chips!) and there has never been an issue with swapping.

Last night I made my own mango salsa to have with our Nile Perch - it was tasty but needs a few more tries to get just right I think. Maybe I need to speak to the chef at the Spinneys branch to see if he'll share his recipe with me!


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