Saturday, February 26, 2011
In a nutshell: Very original, fun place to take children, friendly service but mediocre food
Having eaten at the Rainforest Cafe in London many years ago, I was keen to try the one here in Dubai. In terms of original decor and ambiance it can't be faulted with life-size gorillas, a giraffe, a tiger, elephants, a boa constrictor, a crocodile and many more animals artfully hidden amongst the replica rainforest canopy. Every 15 minutes or so a 'rainstorm' would pass through complete with lightning (i.e. flashing lights - don't go here if you are epileptic), the full storm sound effects and all the animals alternating to come 'alive' and make themselves heard. Fun for us adults, fascinating for children I would imagine. One wall of the restaurant is the Dubai Aquarium so you can watch the real sharks, sting rays and thousands of fish swim by during your dinner - there's certainly no excuse for feeling bored as you wait for your meal.
The food was not quite as amazing though, particularly my meal. It took half an hour for our food to arrive which was longer than you would usually expect to wait but they were fairly busy. My mother-in-law's Rasta Pasta was really tasty with the right level of Caribbean spices to give it a kick and tender marinated chicken. Simon's Calypso Chicken was also well-received: half a chicken butterflied flat and covered with a Caribbean sauce accompanied by garlic mash potatoes. Definitely a step up from the Outback Steakhouse we visited a few months ago, but I still got the impression that the food was not of the same level of freshness as would be found at Cafe Havana or Japengo's.
When I initially ordered the 'wild river salmon' (I highly doubt it really was wild salmon) and requested no garlic the waiter said he'd have to check. I thought we were going to be in another California Pizza Kitchen situation where everything is pre-prepared and no changes can be made, luckily we weren't and I was told it could be made without garlic. My salmon was really disappointing and was the toughest, most rubbery piece of fish I have ever eaten. The green beans that came with it were barely cooked and this gave them a very tough texture as well - I usually love my vegetables crisply al dente but tough beans and rubbery fish just didn't work well together. I ordered a side of saffron rice to go with the fish since I didn't think fish and beans would be enough and the rice, although not piping hot, was very nice and turned out to be the best bit of the meal!
The menu is quite varied with the usual tex-mex starters that all American restaurants seem to offer, some salads, burgers, pastas, fish and meat mains. Starters were in the Dhs 50 bracket and our mains ranged from Dhs 65-80 but the steaks were all Dhs 100 or more. Fresh fruit juices were almost Dhs 30 (compared to Dhs 23 at most other places) so that's a price they could do with reviewing. Soft drinks are unlimited but in this day and age of obesity and all its health complications surely that is not actually a good thing?! The staff were all very friendly and there was a photographer going to all the tables offering to take photos for you to then buy - we declined. They have a dedicated area for children's birthday parties (minimum 20 children) which could be a great idea depending on the price. You enter and exit through the Rainforest Cafe shop where they sell a variety of stuffed animal toys and other souvenirs - some very cute baby clothes with crazy looking frogs on caught my eye but I resisted the urge to buy.
Based on my meal alone I would have said to avoid the Rainforest Cafe but taking the whole decor as well as the other 2 meals into account, it is worth a visit but don't go with high expectations on the food.
Labels: Dubai restaurant reviews - 3/5