UMAI
The Oberoi Dubai

The Oberoi Centre
Business Bay (Burj Area)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 
Telephone:: +97144441444
Chef Jeff Ramsey
Japanese cuisine is already a special one, prepare it the genius molecular gastronomy way and you have something spectacular, eventful, memorable and delectable.

I have always been fascinated with molecular gastronomy. I even hoped to witness and dine at one Hong Kong restaurant, featured in BBC food network. I seriously did try to squeeze in a date with hubby when we vacay in Hong Kong, just didn't happen for some reason. 

Alas! When I thought all hope was lost and that the closest thing to see culinary magic is on Master Chef's competition, featuring Heston Blumenthal, a chance to go up-close and personal to the sorcery presented itself.

Umai in Nihonggo means delicious, that's according to fellow blogger Grace of www.sandierpastures.com, a fluent speaker of the language. The dishes are indeed delicious. Take away all the science hoopla that goes with it, Umai dishes are yummy-licious. From the dishes that went through some magic spells to a simple steamed dumpling, they were all beautifully prepared. They are concoctions that anyone will appreciate.

It's one thing to include theatrics in food preparation, it's another to keep each morsel off the plate... Umai's molecular tapas are just that. Delicious morsels.

The Oberoi Hotel's location is a little tricky for the time being due to construction going on. I still managed to find it through the saving voice of google map. My goodness! That was the first time I have ever trusted a strange voice, blindly. I just couldn't miss this chance to try out Umai and meet Chef Jeff Ramsey and see The Oberoi Hotel for the first time. The night was filled with a whole lot of firsts and adventure of all sorts.

As I entered the hotel, I saw Chef Ramsey's photo along with what's on offer at Umai until the 8th of November. I thought to myself, "this is definitely going to be a sold-out". (It is, by the way. I just tried to book yesterday morning and unfortunately all tables were already taken with a waiting list for the whole event. So glad I managed to attend the menu tasting event. However, the hopeful that I am still got my name enlisted for the waiting list.) 

While Umai team was prepping, we happily settled in the bar next door. It's like Christmas time before you open gifts, the excitement and curiosity were palpable. When we can finally enter the restaurant, I gazed at everything like a little child. Everything was still pristine, no experiment occurred yet. The place embodies the Japanese theme but with a modern twist. Simple setting with all the kitchen tech available today. 
In the middle of the restaurant is an interactive kitchen. We settled where Chef Chie was carefully yet happily maintaining the temperature of the caramel. We later found out that it is for Caramel Corn. Again, Grace was my insider, chit-chatting with the team in Nihonggo.
Chef Dirk Haltenhof, Executive Chef at The Oberoi, Dubai said: ‘I first met Chef Ramsey in Tokyo in 2007 when he had just opened the Molecular Tapas Bar at the Mandarin Oriental.  He calls himself a culinary engineer and I am also an engineer by trade and now a chef so it was true a meeting of minds.  We have worked together on several special culinary events before, and I can promise our guests they are in for a once in a lifetime experience.’

Chef Dirk talked a wee bit, Chef Ramsey gave us a little background about his culinary experience and where and when his passion started. Then, the chemistry begun! 

First off was the Caramel Corn. A process that resembles a Breaking Bad episode. I was wide-eye the whole time. The mousse came out of the nozzle held by Chef Chie, straight onto a freezing cold spoon submerged into the nitro. Once the mousse was frozen, Chef Ramsey took it, passed it through silk-thin layer of caramel to coat it. It then dropped into a popcorn powder for the finishing touches. Voila! A one-bite light-as-a-feather popcorn covered puff that has no resounding crunch but a lasting flavour in your mouth.

Then the Meat and Potatoes. It was pita bread filled with potato mousse, topped with perfectly sliced wagyu beef. Once you bite on it, you really taste that forkful of steak and mashed potato with the addition of the crunch of pita. 

On the same plate was a ceasar salad, find it if you please. The plate then means consists of the starter and the main. I'm thinking, lunacy! There's no way those small buttons will fool me into thinking it's a salad... but it did!

The one on top is a sort of crouton-ish texture, the one at the bottom is a frozen concoction, cold to the bite while the flakes surrounding it is parmegianno regiano. I closed my eyes and just got myself lost in the flavours and my oh my it is a definite ceasar salad! I opened my eyes and pooof! Reality set in, that craziness is really small... I wanted more but I won't dare ask since I knew there are so many to taste after it.
One after another came the dishes. They were served as and when it's ready. First off the marathon was a dessert. Truffle, Truffle. Truffle coated in truffle powder. Silky, sweet, just the right richness. 
196 Tempura. Tempura with hair-thin carrot shreds sprinkled with the frozen froth made by the team, it was one yummy dish. It's a fabulous place to be in watching the whole team in the interactive kitchen doing what they do best... create amazing food!
Chef Jeff Ramsey showed us the highlight of the night, raspberry pearls created through food engineering of course. We didn't get to taste it, it was just a teaser, naughty naughty!
As we enjoy the fruit of the spellbinding performance, more dishes arrived at our table. The offerings of their specialty Chef. A mix of Chinese and Japanese delicacies. Dimsums, traditional tempura, maki, spring rolls, vegetable crudites' with Japanese mayo (super light!).
Tea lady also came with her own theatrics. Waving it like a sword and doing all sort of tricks like as if she's just holding a baton. The pot was very hot.
The finale came and I was speechless. I think most of us were with "the look" going around. Chef Dirk said, please do not start eating until Chef Ramsey gives you the instruction on how to eat them. 

The look of, Errrm-those-were-slices-of-citrus-fruits-and-I-believe-there-is-only-one-way-of-eating-them-at-their-state look.
Chef Ramsey said, "nibble on the small cherry bean looking fruit for a minute. Don't bite the seed, just the flesh around it." So we all did, feeling a bit silly to be honest. After a minute he told us to now try the lime wedges. Like a lamb to the slaughter, we looked at each other helplessly, squinted our eyes and bit on the sour lime and expected the worst.

It was sweet! Citrusy sweet! Like a candy. It was so good that nobody cared if the liquid were dripping, we indulged like a kid. I finished my whole plate in a jeef. I saw some even taking other's fruits.

It was a crazy sight, a fun-tastic one. 

Some started suspecting that they probably injected the fruit with some molecular thing, composed of sugary sweet substance and what-not. I was just so naive that I really didn't think about it that way.
When we were done being amazed, it was explained that the miracle fruit which we first ate causes our taste buds to function differently. Our tongue is coated with miraculin, which is used commercially as a sugar substitute. 

Sour becomes sweet and other taste becomes something else. Our taste buds were practically screwed for two hours :P

Then we were asked to try our vinos and coffee ... eeeew! Safe to say, the booze stopped the minute we had dessert.

I came home telling my two boys about the whole lab-like kitchen I have just been and the miracle fruit and even demonstrated how the effect was, I munched on the nearest lemon I can find. They were so thrilled!

Come brushing of teeth and I wasn't thrilled anymore. My teeth was so sensitive from all the citrus that I had a long time trying to finish. 

Albeit the pain, it was a wonderful night, happy crowd, it was FUN more than anything. An essential thing that we all need in our busy lives. Definitely memorable.
 

Picante

24/10/2013

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Picante Dubai | Authentic Portuguese Restaurant in the heart of Dubai 
Four Points by Sheraton Bur Dubai · Khalid Bin Walid St · Bur Dubai
 
Phone: (971)(4) 3977444 · 
Fax: (971)(4) 3977333 

Email: restaurants.burdubai@fourpoints.com
Early this year, a new kid on the block, Picante, opened a Portuguese restaurant in the heart of Bur Dubai. Right smack in the middle of Bank street, in Four Points Sheraton Hotel.

I attended their pre-launch food-tasting as well as their grand opening, I thought their dishes we're above average. I really do. I had high hopes for them and I thought I would actually frequent the place. 

I went there to treat my husband to a dinner on Valentine's day and it was disappointing. I felt a little embarrassed as I was raving about it a lot during the course of the month. They have all the ingredients to be a wow place even though they're in a congested area. But sadly, they just seem to not get there. 

Pre-tasting yumminess!
One fabulous launch and night ... the official opening of Picante was like a gathering of friends... Portuguese speaking or not, it was all smiles. Happy people surrounded by the best Picante has to offer... delectable food.
Then guests were treated to some awesome goodie baskets! Most came straight from Portugal... we obviously feel super special... until now I'm using the salt. If I'm not mistaken this one is fleur de sel (which is French :P) and if I'm cooking something special... I definitely put a sprinkle of these.

With the whole goodies was a gift certificate and I thought it is such a perfect way for us to give Picante another try, for the third time! 
I was so excited about the delicacies I tasted over the course of weeks with Picante. Witnessing the restaurant take form. Being fed in their very own kitchen like a family, my expectation was really way up there. Add to the fact that they are a licensed Restaurant, which means diners can have liquor with their meal! How can I not be sold with that?! 

I took pictures of our actual Valentine's dinner but I think it's best not to post them. The piri piri chicken tasted good but nothing wow. We did enjoy trying on different sauces offered though. The issue was the oil from the chicken was so much that it became the sauce to the french fries lying on the same plate. It was a horror for me to look at hubby who at that point had eyes that questioned me though unspoken "what in the world is happening here?"

I ordered the fried bacon covered dates which I had in the first two occasions and fell in love with. The third time around, it was burnt, dry and just unpleasant.

There was a dish that my husband and I enjoyed quite a lot, it was the seafood mixed in a bowl of amazing broth. It had tiger prawn, clams, lobsters. The photo is featured in the "tasting" section above. However, looking at the current menu now, it seems to have been taken off. What a shame.

I wish I have tasted the clams again but during Valentine's dinner we lost our appetite and didn't feel like expanding our order like what we normally do.

The traditional custard called Pasteis de Nata should still be good regardless of when you try it.

I think the downfall was a combination of minor errors here and there. Consistency is one. Dish and ingredient knowledge of servers was very weak and it does affect diner's mood, unfortunately.

Will I try Picante again? Yes. I have a lot of faith to a fault. I personally hope Picante recovers and streamline their operations. Since consistency is a general issue here in the UAE, I'm hoping that they will not be consistently falling short and somewhere in there, a spark of brilliance will just suddenly emerge.

Forever hopeful, Acoustic Chef.
 
 

PANTRY CAFE 
Wasl Square | Al Hadeeqa Street | Jumeirah | Dubai | UAE 
Tel : +971 4 388 3868 
Fax : +971 4 388 3869 
Email : info@pantrycafe.me 
Website : www.pantrycafe.me
A relatively new Cafe slash Delicatessen held a media morning for bloggers like myself to taste their breakfast offering.

Pantry Cafe has the same concept as Jones the Grocer, just in a more intimate setting. 

I love the interior of the coffee shop. It's sort of an open kitchen for the salads, antipasti, beverage sections but of course the hot food section remains semi hidden. I can see the oven and the chefs moving about but I don't necessarily see or know what they're preparing.

When we visited Pantry Cafe, it was also their market day. The day where independent suppliers tied up with RIPE (organic producers) exhibit their products. It was a fun experience having your meal and getting all sorts of food-tastings from these suppliers, but not fun to be interrupted though. Of course foodies like us do not mind it at all, I just wonder how other paying customers feel about the constant intrusion in the middle of conversations. Me? I got to taste chocolate nibbles from an NYC chocolatier (super sweet!), cocktail olives (super yum!), Italian olive oil with bread, and so much more.  

I'd like to think that Pantry Cafe is a cross between the TV show Friends' Central Park and the Aussie Jones the Grocer. Quirky yet a tad upmarket.

We sat down and chit chat about everything under the sun while we wait for other bloggers to arrive. Once the dishes started arriving, it was non-stop and in big portions!

We tried, Shakshouka, Middle Eastern Breakfast, Spinach and Feta Crepe, French Toast, Organic Oats, and mini croissants filled with Caprese, Grilled Chicken Mayo, Turkey Ham, Wagyu Bresaola, Norwegian Smoked Salmon. We were too full that we needed to take a break and plead with their Chef's to stop sending out more food until we get the rest we need. There are a lot of hungry people in the world so we know we will end up munching it just to make sure we did not waste any.

Over all, we enjoyed the food, some we were indifferent but most we were quite happy.

I will come back and will definitely order the Spinach and Feta Crepe as well as the ShakShouka. I know my husband and kids will lot every morsel of them breakfast.

If there there is anything I will say for improvement, it will be the service and coffee. During my time in the cafe, of course the server is on standby but not for the rest of the diners. They do take a while to get served. I remember my coffee getting cold too quickly, I'm not sure if it's the percolator's fault or it was served on our table after a long time it's been on the cup. And the coffee that I got was not anything special... granted I'm very low maintenance when it comes to coffee... I always order the boring Cafe Americano. Maybe if I order something fancy and complicated they'll whip out something super special... I'll have to come back and see.

Decor
I love their decor, open plan with rustic elements. I even love their washroom, it's like your Aunt's old place in the country, meets industrial era.
Market day with RIPE. Eat Fresh. Local. Organic.
Breakfast treats in uber generous portions!
 
 
Restaurant: Shanghai Chic
Hotel: Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate

Adjacent to Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall | P.O.Box 211508 Dubai | United Arab Emirates
+971 4 444 0000 | hotel.dubai.ibnbattuta@moevenpick.com

And so after a really really loooooong time, I want to let you know that I am indeed still having a fab time stuffing my face like a starved woman.

I am just extremely busy at work. HR isn't a walk in the park but I love my job just the same.

This post will be brief but yummy (until I find the time to revise),,, enjoy the photos taken!

AED 188, order as many round as you want! Order we did. How many you ask? We lost count! :)

Chow time starts at 7PM and closes at 11PM. We definitely did not arrive at 7PM as it's full but we sure closed the restaurant.

What a tasty treat! Sharing concept that made my night out with hubby, friend and sister all the more fun... we ended up stealing each other's food!
 
 
Let me start with AWESOMENESS FACTOR! 20% off your bill at any time via Round Menu!

ICHO Japanese Restaurant

49th - 51st floor
Radisson Royal Hotel
Sheikh Zayed, Dubai, UAE

Restaurant Reservation:
Tel: +971 4 308 0550
Fax: +971 4 308 0011

Like their page and follow them on Twitter

Chef Song

Picture
Chef Song Kyeong Hun worked in Korea and Japan before moving to Dubai.

He previously worked in Armani Hotel for three years and then transitioned to become the Head Chef of Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai.

Head Chef at a pretty young age? Only means one thing, he is that good.


It's not hard to make me happy, I see good things in everything. I'd like to think I'm a half-cup-full type of person. It helps me enjoy life... no matter what.

However, very few impresses me to the point where I will say, it's an experience that I will speak highly of.

Dining way above ground is something I have always enjoyed, regardless of how awful the food in the airplane is, it's that altitude that gives me that kick. But dining on honest-to-goodness delicious food, be it on a high altitude or right here smack on the ground... it is going to be a memorable one for a pretty long time.

I think when you have no expectation about a restaurant and they just blew your socks off for being amazing, that's the kind of culinary experience one will say a pure treat.

Japanese food is not really something I crave for.. and I crave for a lot of different cuisines. When I had the chance to dine at ICHO's, I didn't know much about it but the mix reviews I read online (when it was still JAL Towers).

Not a pretty good start I say. I was preparing myself to be disappointed, I was hesitant, I was prejudicial to say the least. That is why I never read anyone's review when I go to a restaurant, whether I'll be dining as a paying guest or as a hosted guest. One way or another it will affect my outlook. In this case however, I was proven wrong.

Upon Arrival
Arriving at the familiar hotel of Radisson Royal Hotel brought me back to the time it was still JAL towers where we stayed for the night and had lunch at IndoThai. I remember almost everything from that day but mostly remember the feast we had, the special touches they have in the décor, the service, the beautiful orchid on the table we took a picture of.

I can still taste the dishes we shared, the Thai appetisers wrapped in banana leaves, the fall-off-the-bone beef, up to the sweet ending of tapioca pearls dessert and ice cream. See? It really isn't hard to remember delicious food, to think that I'm typing this post on my iPhone while waiting for a movie to start. Yup, I can't wait to write about ICHO that is all.

The staff might not think I had a blast because I'm normally extra composed when I'm super happy, just like how I'd be at an interview for a job I really really want. That's exactly how my demeanor was... my bad, because they have to read this to know I left on a high note that night. I must remember to let them know about this post. They deserve a huge thanks.

Up there
ICHO takes the 49th to the 51st floor of the hotel. The door opened to a décor that says we're at the right place. Minimalist beauty. Definitely less is more.

Quickly we were greeted by their Manager, a very pleasant lady who also happens to be Japanase. She explained that ICHO has three levels, first one is Sushi, next is Teppanyaki and the Bar is on the 51st floor. W-O-W.

*I took couple of pictures of the bar and the sushi floor after our dinner. Sushi floor was already closing up while the bar just started to crowd up. Whichever level you choose, the panoramic view will be there to keep you wide-eye in amazement. (Click thumbnails to enlarge photos)
In we went into ICHO's very own elevator. Press we did to Teppanyaki level and I waited with bated breath until the door opened to this.
Click thumbnails to enlarge photos
Exciting and overwhelming. Meeting Head Chef Song is just the icing on the cake. What a gracious and soft spoken host he was.

As we were seated to our part of the table, we couldn't help but admire the panoramic view Radisson Royal Hotel offers. Simply breathtaking. 

While some of the chefs were already hard at work entertaining guests with flinging, banging, flying and tossing their turner spatulas. Eggs were also tossed around, some ending up on the Chef's hats, some getting purposely cracked on the teppanyaki table as part of a dish, like our yummy Japanese egg fried rice, we sat there patiently, drinking every drop of the show while our own dedicated Teppanyaki Chef awaits for what dish we want to feast on.

Teppanyaki floor has three stations, each can accommodate 20 guests. I can imagine a party being held at this place and how fabulous will that be? Alive and kicking, flames bursting, smoke rising, wondrous aroma wafting through the air, it would be a blast for sure!
Click thumbnails to enlarge photos
We looked at the menu and we knew that the way to go about it is to share a set menu. There were so many dishes that I would have loved to try but I know I can only eat so much without flooding my senses. The ones that I will definitely come back for will be tofu, scallops and prawns. Oh and I won't mind having the meal we had as well. Yes, yes, yes, I'm a sucker for good food. I don't care if people look at me and think I'm insane (they usually do), I love my food. Period.

My guest and I settled for ICHO set and asked for extra appetisers. A wise decision it seems. 

Our appetisers consisted of tempura, beef tataki, crab salad and chicken nuggets. 

Tempura was coated with a super light batter, crispy, fresh and uber-tasty. I cook a lot and experiment a lot in the kitchen and this kind of batter is something I just, just, just can't nail! At least I can trust ICHO to frustrate me even more now.

Next in line was something I have never eaten in my life. Beef tataki, any tataki for that matter. I didn't know whether I will like it or not. I didn't hate it, that's for sure, however, it will not be the first thing that will come to my head when order time comes. Beef tataki is no beef carpaccio (which I love so much). It was more ceviche-tasting.

Beef tataki is very lightly seared, almost super rare. It's sliced thinly like a sashimi and marinated with citrus-soy sauce. The one we ate was rolled and plated with a little bit of salad, a perfect mini version of the regular tataki versions.

Chicken nuggets, which I was kinda of dreading thinking it's going to be uneventful, boring and so junkfoodish turned out to be not so bad at all. It's thinner and smaller than the usual nuggets from a certain food chain starting with an M plus the usual ketchup was replaced with something bolder and with a good kick. It took us by surprise that my guest had to dive into her crab salad to take the spice off. As for me, I loved it. 

The last piece of the puzzling yet pleasantly surprising start was the crab salad. Let's just say, I cannot stop thinking about its creamy and generous flavour. It doesn't hit you at first, it's simple and innocent looking then you'll realize you have enjoyed it more than you thought you will. Looking at the bowl that you're still scraping hoping you can still juice it a bit more. Deceitful looking salad, that's what it is.

The appetisers were well thought. Everything was in harmony, it's a happy tray. The spicy nuggets complemented by the cool crab salad while the neutral tempura was oomph-ed by the gorgeous beef tataki. The best part? it's just the first course!
Click thumbnails to enlarge photos
Next in line was the mixed salad with apple sauce. Delicious but failed in comparison to the first course. Maybe mismanaged expectation? In my head it's supposed to be how movies work... succession of accumulating goodness until finale when the explosion of flavours happen. In this case, I would have presented the salad first before the four appetisers.

But thinking about the way the appetisers were presented and how well executed each component was, the salad might be the intermission of each scene. A palate cleanser if you may. If that was the intention then hats off! It did give us a fresh tasting start.
Then came the fresh seafood of the day, prawn and lobster meats garnished with asparagus and accompanied by tomato sauce. If you ask me which I prefer more, I will choose prawn. I felt that the lobster was over seasoned with salt thus overpowering the tartness of the sauce. The prawn however worked really well with the sauce.
For soup, of course we got Miso Soup. I normally don't like miso soup but what I had a ICHO is different from any Miso Soup I tasted anywhere. I wouldn't mind finishing the whole bowl. Maybe for some, they'd think it's weak or water washed but it's perfect for me. I'm not a big fun of strong sea or fishy essence and this miso is the first that is not too strong for me.
Came our grilled vegetables, like appetisers, it had different components making up to a vibrant dish. We got two types of mushrooms, carrots and eggplant, potatoes topped with fried garlic.

I enjoyed the mushroom more than anything. The combination of butter and a little bit of soya sauce gave it that unadulterated meaty taste. Carrots gave us a little crunch, while the eggplant submits beautifully. 

I get why potatoes were there, to give it a little starch but I felt that the fried garlic topping was unnecessary. Garlic has a very strong flavour that overpowers your palate once taken and so if the idea of the neutral starch is to keep the tastes in perspective, you'll lose it if you end up munching on those crunchy garlic bits.

Mains
Our mains consisted of Wagyu Beef Strips and Foie Gras with Garlic and Egg Fried Rice on the side. Sumptuous! Sumptuous! Sumptuous!

As some of you know by now, I love foie gras and I love steaks especially if it's Wagyu, combine them together? Hallelujah! Angels singing, rainbows shimmering, there's hope for this world kind of epiphany. Rich in texture, rich in flavour, rich in everything! 

I couldn't ask for a better combination than those two. Hands down, they make it to my fave list.
Last but not the least was the finale of the grand orchestra, fresh berries and kiwi combo with ice cream on the side, if I'm not mistaken, green tea flavoured ice-cream

It was a perfect ending to a glorious evening. 

I cannot wait to treat my husband and kids as soon as I get my first paycheck. Yup, the corporate world is beckoning and as the tradition goes, splurge the damn first paycheck to pieces I must. What better way to do that than to have a wonderful dinner, way up there, on the 50th floor of Radisson Royal Hotel? 

I will be filming alright, mostly my boys' delirious faces as they get sucked into the entertainment trance of Teppanyaki Chef's sorcery and witchcraft.
Above is just a few of the video clips I stitched together. A little peak at what ICHO's teppanyaki is about. You will not just arrive, sit and eat but you will be entertained, you will see and smell every single dish that you will indulge in. You are not just watching the experience, you are part of the experience. 

Thank you ICHO for the memorable time. See you very, very, very soon! 

Sushi Menu
49th Floor

icho_food_menu_-_teppan.pdf
File Size: 1720 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Teppan Menu
50th Floor

icho_food_menu_-_sushi.pdf
File Size: 1729 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Current Promotion

"Meat Me & Sea Me"
Another ICHO review will be posted soon, this time from Guest Blogger Joy.

I will keep you posted of my next visits to ICHO as there will be lots more. I will update this post as and when I try new dishes and will spill the juicy deets on which dish made it to my yes and which made it to my so-so... until next time! ICHO-food-well...! :))
 
 
A few months ago I had an amazing tour of Barakat Fruit Factory. Of course they don't produce fruits but they might as well do (if only there is already existing technology for it). They are amazing! 

At first I didn't think much of it, I thought "how hard could their job be with all the machines available nowadays"? Did you hear that loud beep they use when your answer is wrong? Yup, mine was loud and clear.  

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the amazing effort the whole organization put in into every pack or bottle they produce. Yup this blog will sound like some school's Science essay but it's a challenge to impart what I discovered without going through the nitty gritty of it all.  

It's such a shame we couldn't take pictures for proprietary knowledge reasons... but they do have all the right reasons to keep it a secret. The best I can do is describe it as close as I can to the experience... and of course research the net for some real shots of their teams hard at work.
Photo and Caption Credits: ArabianIndustry (click to open original link)
Video Credit: MyDubaiMyCity.com
Although I thought they're business was mostly relying on retail, in actual fact, retail only takes 20% of their business, the rest are B2B like hotels and other big companies which are F&B related.

The concept was thanks to Chef Michael who used to be an executive chef in five-star hotel in the 1990's. He recognised a big gap for high quality fresh juices in the market. Cafeteria type shops do not necessarily ensure high quality produce and standard processes.

This part of Barakat started with 15 people which has now grown to 500 employees handling juices and salads. They also started venturing out to ice cream and microwavable soups. For sure, they'll have more in their portfolio in the years to come at the rate of progress they're going.

The Amazeballs Tour
Barakat, garnering the Environmentally-friendly Award, logically started the tour by showing us how they use technology to conserve and recycle water. Instead of using chemicals to de-wax fruits or sanitise their fresh produce before juice extraction or slicing them for salads, they use a process called Reverse Osmosis.  A process that makes desalination (removing of salt from seawater) possible. This process also provides water for them to re-use in their cooling plant (that needs 20,000 liters to cool), sewerage and irrigation of their landscapes. This process actually made their cooling plant maintenance from weekly to three months, smart!

Every conscious step makes a difference:
Each cardboard, crates are either recycled or reused. Each crate are washed and cleaned til kingdom for the next use. 

They also tried to discuss with local farmers the possibility of using their fruit and vegetable scraps as animal food but unfortunately, farmers didn't want to use them raw and will only accept their offer if they themselves convert it to pellets. A process which will be too out of the way, if you may, from their core daily business. And so Barakat is coming up with alternative methods to produce something very exciting for later use. I cannot divulge what it is yet as the Chef is still cooking and fine tuning the process but it definitely is about recycling, nature friendly and most especially, simply genius.

We visited the fruit storage area and a melody of scent hit are noses. It's so fresh like as if you have entered the fairyland of fruits. We all wish we can bottle them and take that happy scent with us on our way out. All 90 tonnes of them in that holding area.

Since fresh produce are still not abundant in the region, albeit they try their best to source some of them here, they make sure that they only get their supplies from the best parts of the world on their best season. Their logistics and planning people got their work cut out for them. They have to ensure continuous supplies of great quality fresh produce (65 tonnes of different vegetables and fruits daily), 365 days, from all over the world without taking on costs that will affect a very good relation they have with their clients and customers.

For example, the oranges they use at the moment comes from South Africa, Egypt and a little from Spain. They will also mix oranges from different sources to achieve the right acidity and sweetness in their bottled juice. Pineapples are sourced from Philippines, where it's abundantly grown while other fruits are sourced from India and numerous other parts of the world.

Each box or crate of produce are labeled in detail. Batch no., farmer and certification, this ensures Quality Assurance team will know where to trace a particular production should there be any inconsistency in the end product. Fresh produce gets affected by variables and their QA has to ensure that these variables are still acceptable within their high standards.

Next stop, they showed us how each fruit label is taken off, manually. There is just no way around it. It's tedious but has to be done to ensure no contaminants sticks to the machine that will end up affecting the quality of their production. 

The amount of manual work in the factory is more than 50%. Peeling, coring, slicing are all done by hand. Imagine the pineapple peeling and slicing process. By hand, it's twice faster than the machine, they're that good. There are also assigned staff who guards the orange conveyors leading to the presser to ensure that no substandard piece gets squeezed. The machine then do its easy work or squeezing fresh juice from high quality oranges. And there I thought machines does the hard work?!

It is set to squeeze just enough of the orange, not take on pulps or skin oils. It basically punches a hole in the middle and squeeze out juice as if it's doing it per segment. We checked the scraps of oranges and we can see how much more juice they can squeeze from those but Chef Michael explained that those remaining juice will indeed increase the volume they'll produce but it will include oils and pulps which makes some packaged orange juice bitter. 

Their orange production is five thousand liters per hour. It is then shocked for 40 seconds in 74 degrees Celsius to kill any bacteria. It takes 4 minutes to fill each small bottle with freshly squeeze orange juice.

They have  another machine solely for citrus fruit extraction that gives them a hundred thousand liters a day. It takes six hours to cool them down then they get stored in temperature controlled area before getting delivered to places like Cafe Nero and Spinneys.

They have 125 types of juices and machine can only do so much. Some of the bottles are filled manually. Juice and smoothies alike. Smoothies goes to a process the same way how it's done home made. 

So the next time you reach out for that Barakat juice, smoothies or salads... think of how much effort Barakat exert to give you the best quality. It is definitely a labor of love.

At the end of the tour... we were treated to freshly made ice creams and soups, talk about teeth breaking process but we cannot pass the opportunity. I fell in love with their soups!

It was heavenly. As far as I know, they are available at Spinneys but I checked one and unfortunately either it's a fast seller or not available in that branch, I just couldn't get a hold of them. But I am definitely going to hunt it. 

What an amazing place, amazing people, just a magnificent place of work. I can only imagine the progress they'll make in another year or so, they are driven and they definitely know what they're doing and I say, they are best in what they do. They offer the UAE and Oman market high quality fresh with no additive produce.
Trying to source out other photos that day from another blogger as somewhat a misfortune... couldn't find mine... :(
 
 
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Nathalie's is located at:
TwoFour54 Tower
Khalifa Park
Next to Park Rotana
Abu Dhabi
For office & home deliveries and all your catering needs: 
Telephone: 02 - 4411330
Website: www.nathalies.ae
^^
Click above to visit

Nathalie's Facebook Page

and Follow them on Twitter

Brunch

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Healthy. Fresh. Handmade. Delicious.

I am not a breakfast person. I am the type who when I'm working, dashes to the office hoping to get a cup of coffee before I sit on my chair or I'll just forget the most important meal of the day, altogether! BAD. When I'm not working, I'll prepare kids breakfast, have my coffee and do all the chores under the sun just with caffeine in my system. SUPER BAD.

Don't get me wrong, I love breakfast but if I will prepare it for myself, I'd rather not have one. I have quite a diva taste when it comes to breakfast and I can't even impressed me. I feel like everything is the same. Eggs, sausage, roasted tomatoes, toast, jams, pastries. Sure they taste yum if done right but personally? I'm bored with the concept. Sure I can prepare them with flair (have you not seen my awesomeness oozing from those selfie narcissistic shots of me kicking a$$ in the kitchen?) but I want someone else's flair on my plate! Then came Nathalie's Brunch.

Brunch at Nathalie's is like a meal with your favourite Grandma (oh don't deny it, you have a favourite for sure!). It's healthy, filling and made with lots and lots of love. I say, I felt the warmth on every bite. 

If they are located in Dubai, I and the whole fambam will be a regular. The prices are great, I tasted the quality ingredients they used on every single morsel of the dishes I dove into. Everything's done meticulously. I really can't find any fault. From the warm farmhouse décor or the Disneyland-like-smiling staff to the happy-tummy food. I am just bowled over. 
 
What makes them special? Nathalie. She's the kick-ass founder of leading Nutrition and Catering Provider, Rite Bite

Okay, nutrition, healthy, natural, almost organic, that sounds clinical and boring to the majority (I, included). In my head was The BLAND band singing "bland, bland, bland". Yup, you guessed it, I'm not a healthy eater. I'm the fluke of nature who just won't gain weight. I yoyo between barely right weight to under-rexic-scary-weight. I stress eat, don't get me wrong, and a lot of things stress the bejesus out of me... but my body mass gets stress double time too so it doesn't matter if I eat a lot. And the bad in me won't stop reaching for that unhealthy over-processed salty or sweet food. I. Have. Very. Weak. Will. Power. Sue me! Okay, maybe don't.

Stepping into Nathalie's with sis and may two boys in tow, I felt like a sinner stepping into a place of worship. My heart was getting the sizzling sensation from the glare of clean food. Right there and then I felt my weight departing. I was getting stressed that I will be eating healthy food! It's a great thing that their decor is so inviting and warm, I thought... "pretty sure this is what Hansel and Gretel felt" wondered what kind of sorcery was involved? Still skeptical, I sat my skinny behind down. My two buggers (sons) happily distanced themselves from shutter addicts group, and settled at the next table. Smart boys, learned from experience, wanna eat in peace, stay away from MOM!
Then the array of carefully selected dishes wiped the smug off my face. They tasted light and clean but filling and oozing with awesomeness. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Think symphony of flavours playing in an arena built on real meadow. Not the CGI edited meadow "Bella and vampire Edward" shot the scene on. Nathalie's dishes are the real thing honest to goodness tasty. Can almost hear "Doug! They're in it to win it!" AI Jackson pointing it out loud

Dishes so real, it confused me. It was supposed to taste bland but I have not eaten any from them that is remotely bland. The bad in me was utterly disappointed that it can't manage to feel sad about eating healthy.

From the supposed to be naughty muffins to the normally oily omelettes, up to the sweet surrender which I had to their coffee. The whole thing was an experience, a very good one. Without a doubt, we left on a high.
The best partmy sons' fave breakfast are poached eggs and toast from a certain Meilleur Ouvrier de France, French Bakery in Media City. They both just won't stop telling me how great Nathalie's version is that it now made it to their top list, kicking the French Bakery to second place. 

How about that? Nathalie's just made my life a little difficult. A visit to my parents, I used to only need to remember Sanine's Shawarma on our way home at night... now have to remember Nathalie's on our way over in the morning.
What can I say, my boys aren't shy to show how much they lurve the food at Nathalie's!
Their Saturday Brunch is so good, I might just make an excuse to drive down to Abu Dhabi. Plus I want to see more of Nathalie's cute touches like this mini garden cans and those messages all over the cafe, like a hidden treasure... adore!
Thanks Nathalie's for proving me wrong. 

Granted that it's not an original concept, the execution I think is up there with the great ones. There are a lot of places who market their businesses as healthy and delicious but most than not, only delivers one of the two. This is the first time I really am impressed to witness both on a plate. 

Regular

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Catering

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Location: Trident Bayside Building, Dubai Marina
Basement Parking, valet available
Telephone: 800 43546
Opening Hours: from 1:00PM - 1:00AM daily, Friday-Sat from 11:00AM-01:00AM
^
Click above to visit their official page
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Helio Lounge is a new hip place in town where you can literally just turn up, dine in and hang out... 

The atmosphere is so chill, the view is great, has a valet parking, what else should one need to relax?

Hubby and I chose to go al fresco a few weeks back since the weather was perfect. Helio does not have a slice of the marina view.... they have a PANORAMIC VIEW of the gorgeous skyscrapers and marina. Unobstructed beauty. We just sat there, smoked shisha while we chatted the night away with the buzzing crowd around us, a mellow music in the background, the yachts and dhow cruises going back and forth, makes you think, "what a wonderful life to just be there, stress free."

I used to be a heavy smoker but I stopped a year ago (yey to me!), and so I was hesitant to try shisha since some of the flavours are a bit strong for me. Luckily, hubby's there to the rescue and got me a mint shisha... light and pretty. I love it and I enjoyed it a lot!
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The night was filled with canapés and drinks (non-alcoholic ones) which we enjoyed quite a bit. The fruit slices and cheeses are combinations that will always go down well. 

Helio actually offers contemporary Egyptian Cuisine, updated to suit Dubai's discerning palate without losing that Egyptian flare. Honestly? I have not yet tried it. I did eat Fiteerssssssssssssssssss the following day, yum!

I'll just have to make it a point to come back and try some special Helio dishes and update this blog, watch this space then!
Chef Joe Barza, region's Celebrity Chef conducted Fiteer-making master class. Let me rephrase that, explained what the Fiteer expert was doing on each stage. I'm sure he can do it himself but he's wise enough to give the table to someone who's been doing it day-in-day-out for years. Honestly, he can do it with his eyes close, me thinks.

We watched in awe as he knead, rolled and stretched them pastries to just the right thinness and filled it with so many mouth watering gorgeousness. There were dessicated coconut and sugar combo, Sojouk Feta, Beef and Beans, Minced Beef and Labna and Choco Halawa. They have a total of eleven mouth watering fillings, a choice between Savoury or Sweet Helios for you to choose from. . 
We couldn't wait to taste them, I literally burned my hand when I bit on a piece and greedy me won't let the fillings drop to the plate.
Fiteers were just beautiful. So delicious that I ended up taking home Coconut and sugar filled and Meat,,, BUT, when I opened the pack, it was half the size of what we saw made in the master class session. I was sorely disappointed to be honest. I wish it was the same size given the price.

It's AED 45 for one log, basically makes 6 good bite-sizes. A thin Fiteer is not what I was expecting. For the actual size that I took home, the price is pretty steep. I'm sure it was as delicious as the ones in the master class but I lost appetite when I saw it. Even my kids and hubby weren't interested to try them. Aside from it's really small, it was already cold when I reached home, so that's partially my fault.

I will still buy them when I go back to Helio but will definitely eat it at the venue. Fiteer are best eaten freshly baked. 

Hubby is already planning to go back to Helio with his office colleagues. Shisha lovers, amazing view, relaxing ambiance and super friendly crew. I'm sure they'll enjoy.

UPDATE: On May 22, hubby and his team had dinner at Helios. He was a bit disappointed (so was I) that shisha was unforch not available that night because of some renovations but highly and happily informed me that the meal they had which were grilled meats and other side dishes were so tasty that he's been bugging me to go back and try it myself. 

My husband is a primadonna (believe me!) when it comes to food and service and Helio seemed to won him over! Well,,, hats up to you Helio team, you just impressed a difficult paying customer without even a puff of shisha :)
And this is us! We got papped again...
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Rebel with a Cause...
The name says it all.... this food joint is a rebel in all sense of the word!

"Another burger joint!", one would say but this one believe me is SKIN DEEP.

I have not been to the area in awhile (which means a looooong time). Frankly speaking, I live quite a distance from it and there are so many foodie places in between, so when I received the invitation I thought, "it has to be a different experience", so different it was. I brought my two boys to the food tasting and it was very refreshing. 

Foodies like me sometimes get too caught up with our own complicated expectations. My kids, however, still love the basics. Sure they appreciate the adult palate and presentations but they do know good and tasty food when they bit on one. Burger Rebel had them the minute we entered the place until the time we left. 

The colourful sign, the hanging bicycle as a sort of art exhibit with its own story to be told and the corrugated steel for roofing used as a wall panel painted ala-DIY way. I had to think twice whether I'm entering an exhibit or a restaurant. It immediately hits you of how special it is.


*BTW if you have unused bikes which you would like to donate to be part of Burger Rebel installation, please let me know or contact them directly through their details below.
There I met Chef Adrian, a Mexican chap who's worked  all over Europe for so many years before giving the land of sunshine, desert and malls a chance. He gave us a little tour of the place and explained the reason behind the eccentric, playful and inviting décor that I and the boys just can't help but get curious and be so awesomely entertained. 
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apologies for my gaunt appearance... I was plagued by severe and incessant case of tonsillitis and was not able to eat like I used to for more than a month... no worries... I'm stuffing my face every waking moment to gain all the weight I lost :)
The graffiti were created by students from different Universities, the winner was from University of Wollongong in Dubai. 

I was so intrigued by each design trying to get into the artists' heads thinking what was going on in there when they were creating these pieces. What did they envision? Very curious indeed.

The interior exhibits gorgeous re-purposed furnitures,,, genius stroke a couple of times at Burger Rebel. Used banners, building metal I-beams, window louvers palettes, it's really something. Witnessing true commitment to preserving the environment, not just through their interior decoration but the whole place breathes around the concept of conservation. The iPad instead of printed menu, recycled take-away bags, the Naked Bar (because it's kept organically designed)... it's very inspiring. Makes me want to look at Pinterest and see other ways to re-purpose throw away items.
We sat down and gawked and drooled over their menu. Of course my boys checked their dessert's list first... and also checked if there's an internet connection in those iPad beauties. 

I wanted to taste all but given my current throat situation, I know I couldn't really munch much without tearing up so I have decided to focus on sliders. To be honest... they have amazing sliders selections. Throat pain or now, I will not let anything ruin a foodie treat with my kids. 

I ordered for myself dishes that I will probably not find in the usual burger places. Ceviche, Duck Confit and Burger Rebel Sliders, not to mention Beetroot Chips. My boys chose Burger Club with extra serving of chips. 

For drinks, I took the usual soda, my youngest went for the ever undying Vanilla Smoothie while my oldest opted for fresh juice. 

We were delightfully informed that everything was home-made, from the buns up to the tomato ketchup in the bottle.  We felt super special.
Oh we are coming back! 

It's a distance but it's not Abu Dhabi. I like the Ceviche although a bit soupy. The mango bits made the flavour rounder. In between citrus bites were kick of spice and a soothing tart sweetness.

Beetroot crisps were fun. Salty, sweet, dunk it in their home made mayo and ketchup and you're set to finish it all off! I'd prolly buy more next time, to-go. I can see myself just polishing the whole packet off while watching telly. I'm sure there are beetroot crisps in packets from supermarkets but home-made fresh ones are of a different level altogether. Yumminess through and through! 
My best bites were spent on Duck Confit Sliders which I love sooo very much. My youngest ended up eating some of my sliders as it was just darn soft and tasty. I really enjoyed it. I am the type who would buy those duck confit spread from supermarkets and slather it on crackers and just sit in one corner and eat at my leisure until I feel stuffed to last me a lifetime. 

I still have to taste their other dishes the next time I visit but definitely Duck Confit and Beetroot chips will be a staple.

My oldest boy ate everything in his plate! He said he loved everything. Sure I have to cut the whole Club into pieces as the bread, being home-made, doesn't hold quite well, but I couldn't care less,,, my boy finished off a man-burger all by himself!

He even had a bite of my Burger Rebel Slider (how awesome is he?). I thought he'll be squeamish as it is beef tongue, even I had to prepare myself mentally, I was a beef tongue virgin eater, he took it on a stride. He said, "mom, why wouldn't people eat it? It's still part of the beef, what's the difference between that and tenderloin or rib-eye part",,, hmmm the boy has a point.  

If I didn't know it was tongue, I wouldn't have guessed it... it was so tender that I felt more pain (bad case of throat condition) eating some of my boy's club burger than the sliders
The last act of the whole production were desserts... although I ended up stealing some of my boys' Warm Chocolate Fondant, I think Burger Rebel's intention of Ginger Glazed Fruit Kebab did not hit my palate where I expected it to. It's a polarizing dessert, I predict. It will either be a total hit to someone or a miss.... which in my case was a miss, just because I think I would have preferred fresh ones. I personally think fruits are at its best when served fresh... but hey, that's just me. I know of some people who'd probably enjoy that piece of creativity.
I personally look forward to hearing more of Burger Rebel and it's wonderful mission to get the community (youth in particular) involved in meaningful activities such as arts, exhibits and competitions.
Burger Rebel 
Floor 1
Wafi Mall, Oud Metha Road, Dubai
*Park at Nile Parking area and it will be on your right as soon as you come out of the elevator
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This is my second post about Oushe... they are indeed one of my fave but mostly because they offer something no one should ever, ever, ever miss.

Moist Fruit Cake, Festive Legendaries and Gingerbread cookies for everyone to decorate... now tell me that's not enticing enough!

It's like moist Turkey, this was my first fruit cake that I didn't hate... it definitely was not dry, hard as rock and it didn't have alcohol! It was just a glorious piece of art and love from Reem to everyone.

Festive Legendaries which I hope will be a staple, served me from insanity couple of times. Just a pop of it made me literally happy and so I must drop by and get my supply before crazy meeeh appears again. That and hot coffee... aahhhh feet up, relax and enjoy the flavour.

I and my kids enjoyed decorating our gingerbread cookies.... I have never attempted to make one and  so it was the first for me and the kids... such fun! I tell you if you have kids, nephews, neighbors (which all of us has)... you must buy them in boxes!

It's the 23rd.... go run to Oushe or call them quick!