A Weekend of Dubai Dining

I was in Dubai this past Valentine’s weekend. The weather was a sunny 30°C, and people were strutting around the malls in shorts and flip-flops. Contrast that to Beirut’s inclement rain and folks bundled up in knee-length woolen coats! I was grateful for the escape.

It’d been over fours years since my last visit to the Emirati state, and I was transported back to my numbered days there in the fall of 2010, when I worked as a strategy management consultant in Abu Dhabi. It’s uncanny how that short-lived episode is so vividly etched in my memory. After four years away, I could readily navigate around Dubai’s expansive, village-like malls, Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, as if I'd been frequenting them my entire life.

We spent nearly a full day scaling Dubai Mall’s four floors of shops, cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and confectioneries. There’s also an indoor ice skating rink, the outdoor Souk el Bahar, fountain shows occurring twice hourly in the evenings, and the towering majesty that is Burj al Khalifa.


Me eyeing an irresistible cinnamon roll at Costa Coffee in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai


On a second day, we let ourselves get lost in Mall of the Emirates, a slightly more compact shopping center with higher-end designer boutiques and swankier dining facilities—there’s even Burj al Hamam and Salmontini housed inside!

A friend in Beirut had raved wildly to me about the food at The Butcher Shop & Grill, a South African restaurant famous for its aged beef and perfectly done steaks. Our lunch confirmed it, and we were left dazzled with the Pulled Beef Sandwich (AED 55, USD 15) and Beef Espetada (AED 129, USD 35).

The sandwich featured stringy succulent chunks of beef smothered in melted Swiss and stuffed between two thin slices of toasted brown bread. The accompanying red and green cabbage coleslaw was animated by chives, which I've never seen done before, and it was delectable.  


Pulled Beef Sandwich with all the trimmings


The thick, crunchy steak fries and sweet pickle shavings were also first-rate, but the onion rings took home the cake. With the perfect onion-to-breading ratio and lightly battered texture, they were easily the best I've had. Ever.



The perfect onion rings


The vertically suspended spit of five hulking cubes of beef topped by a wedge of dripping fat made up the “espetada.” Beneath it were cubes of country-style potatoes and a roasted head of garlic that married well with the tender meat.

Beef Espetada with country-style potatoes and roasted garlic



Rumor has it that The Butcher Shop & Grill is moving into Beirut Souks in the shopping complex adjacent to Cinema City. I hope that’s true, and if so, I pray the restaurant preserves its high standards, generosity, and price-to-quality rapport exhibited in Dubai.

One thing’s certain about Dubai dining: you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, which is something rather uncommon in Lebanon. Prices are not notably cheap in the Emirate city, but portion sizes and quality of ingredients very well justify them. 

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