Dubai's biggest burger, heaviest steak, longest pizza and more
Dubai prides itself on being first, biggest and best. We measure our appetites against the city’s edible equivalents of these extremes.
Superlatives are like currency in Dubai, especially in the increasingly competitive dining scene; from ambitious creations such as the world’s tallest tower, to endless gluttony-inducing all-you-can-eat deals. Over a kilogram of burger? Why not. Gold dust on a dumpling? Done. With Dubai’s love of pushing the edible boundaries, we decided to test some of the city’s most extreme dishes, looking for the longest, tallest, heaviest options we could find. From a fine dining Burj Khalifa of thali, to a metre long expanse of cheese-covered dough in a pizza delivery box, we threw moderation out the window.
The Biggest Burger At 1.2kg, the RTJ cheeseburger (named after Al Badia Golf Club architect Robert Trent Jones II) is a monster. Its meaty make up is 50 percent Australian beef sirloin, 25 percent Australian angus beef brisket and 25 percent Australian Livingstone wagyu beef chuck. After placing my order, anticipation turns increasingly to anxiety with every passing minute during the half-hour wait.
Comprised of two large patties, each at least the size of a Frisbee, layered with melted cheddar and sandwiched between an enormous sesame-topped bun, the RTJ is embarrassingly big. Sliced, pizza-style, into eight pieces (one for each of the people this dish could easily satiate), juices ooze everywhere as I lift my first helping, and grease dribbles down my chin. Despite its novelty size, it’s still tasty, tender and well-seasoned. Towards the end of my second slice, however, now 400g in (not including the bread, cheese and mayonnaise-soaked pickle), the unchanging flavours do little for my motivation. I begin experimenting with the vast array of condiments in front of me, dabbling in confusing international combinations such as sweet chilli sauce and English mustard to get through each bite.
In the end, with three pieces down, an aching belly and a glazed expression, I resign myself to defeat and the onset of a heavy food coma. With the bill paid, I waddle off to the car park, a takeaway box under each arm.
Food challenger Holly Sands: FAILED Dhs285. Spikes, Al Badia Golf Club, Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127).
Extreme rating: +5
The Heaviest Steak When the chef de cuisine at Center Cut told me its Tomahawk steak was the largest in the city, I couldn’t repress a childish urge to take on the 1.2kg monstrosity. During training for the challenge, I worked on carefully expanding my stomach, climaxing with both a decadent brunch and a midnight pizza feast the day before. On the big day itself I have eaten just a salad by noon. By 8.39pm when my Tomahawk is presented, I am ravenous.
The beef is sumptuous, served medium rare and the opening mouthfuls slide down with relish. But very soon I am no longer tasting; I am eating, eager to make headway before my body cottons on to the ritual abuse I am submitting it to. Very quickly I am halfway through. Then two-thirds. After a ten-minute pause, I resume eating, surprising even myself at the sound of my knife scraping the bare bone. I look at my watch – 9.12pm – before looking down at the loaded side plate where I’d been dumping forkfuls of pure fat, and spitting out unchewable lumps. It dawns on me I’ve skipped around a fifth of the challenge, but I cannot eat the remaining mound of meat.
Around 30 minutes later it hits me. A cannonball to my stomach, a wave of nausea descended. It would be 24 hours before I even contemplated eating again.
Food challenger Robert Garratt: FAILED Dhs570. Center Cut, The Ritz Carlton, DIFC (04 372 2222).
Extreme rating: +4
The Biggest Cupcake Kitsch Cupcakes recommends you tackle this giant bad boy with at least six others in tow, but that wasn’t going to stop me from attempting to scoff it all on my own first. Weighing in at 1.5kg, the alarmingly heavy cupcake (they stress that it is in no way a ‘cake’) arrives, delivered to the office, weighing down my arm as I attempt to lift it. The monster-sized sweet treat is noticeably bottom heavy – over two thirds of it is cakey-sponge, while the cream cheese icing is approximately only two inches thick.
As I cut into the beast, I notice the inside is red velvet cake, fortunately my favourite. When I bite into it, I find the base of the cake is a slightly different hue to the centre and is much crunchier, perhaps slightly overcooked. This is not surprising, considering it sits for approximately three to four hours in the oven. After only the first slice I’m feeling a little defeated and overcome with the sweet sickly texture of the cream cheese icing, but I persevere and go back for seconds. That tips me over the edge and I shy away back to my desk. Within moments, my colleagues have noticed the giant cupcake sitting idle on the table with chunks ripped out of it and they immediately gather around to poke, prod and cut a slice off for themselves. At least it didn’t go to waste, but I guess I really was no match for Dubai’s biggest cupcake.
The Tallest Thali At Indego by Vineet, the weekday thali lunch offers an extreme surprise. Inspired by Indian stacked tiffin lunch boxes, the thali is served, not only horizontally, but also vertically, in a tiered glass tower, 20cm in height. The first thali item is a normal-sized amuse bouche of tomato lassi. Next a (horizontally-plated) dish of juicy black garlic chicken and delicious Mumbai fried fish, with buttery, fragrant lemon-cashew rice. Next, the three-layered glass cylinder thali tower arrives and the waiter swiftly separates each compartment (too swiftly to catch its full height on camera…) to reveal three bowls of fresh and colourful mixed salad, sweet and oniony carrot chaat and a bizzare aniseedy strawberry yoghurt. And there is more to come; Hyderabadi style lamb curry, dal makhani, cumin potatoes and sundried tomato naan breads are all exceptional. Finally, I am presented with ‘gold dusted’ gulab jumun milk dumpling, in a bed of bright pink, rose-flavoured rice pudding (kheer). It is a heavy and decadent lunchtime for me, but the enjoyment involved in this challenge made it all the easier.
Food challenger Penelope Walsh: SUCCEEDED Dhs170 (vegetarian), Dhs190 (non-vegetarian). Indego by Vineet, Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 317 6000).
Extreme rating: +2
The Longest Pizza Pizza by the Metre measures by length, making it Dubai’s longest à la carte pizza, but also a relief, since a metre squared of pizza could easily have resulted in tears. I opt for the intimidating-sounding ‘extreme bbq’ signature pizza. A large, rectangular pizza box arrives, decorated with ruler measurements down the side, proving that this is a monster. It is too long to carry without help and I anxiously wonder, if I can’t move this by myself, how am I supposed to eat it?
Inside are 24 average sized slices (designed, presumably for 12-24 average sized eaters), covered in sliced chicken breast, mozzarella cheese, chunks of red and green bell peppers and plenty of house made barbecue sauce. I make a start, and the first two to three slices pose no major challenge. The base is relatively thin and light, meaning I wouldn’t suffer a carb-overload too soon. In fact, the first issue is the torturous extremes of seasoning, which start to hit home after the fourth slice. The barbecue sauce is terribly sweet, and I fight through the saccharine-dressed chicken, until I begin to reach slices doused with plenty of black pepper. Suddenly, the sweet-peppery dichotomy becomes my wall; it is like the taste bud equivalent of water-boarding. I can’t take being bandied between them, and I can’t overcome it. I give up around slice six (a mere quarter of the way through), feeling both heavy and heavily defeated.
Food challenger Penelope Walsh: FAILED Dhs164 (signature pizzas by the metre). Pizza by the Metre, Next to Citymax Hotel, Barsha (04 447 0707).
Extreme rating: +5
5 odd Dubai eats Challenge your palate with some of the city’s strangest menu items.
Cuttlefish liver The dish ‘shiokara’ contains raw cuttlefish, served in cuttlefish liver. Dhs35. TOMO, Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha (04 357 7888).
Bull’s testicles The menu includes bull’s testicles, bullwhack, as well as ‘speciality beef balls’. Dhs26. Mom Special Cafeteria, China Cluster, International City (055 932 4081).
Tororo This variety of yam is grated into slimy, slippery slivers and served with noodles. Price on request. Kiku, Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000).
Lamb’s brain The mixed lamb’s brain and lamb’s tongue sandwich is served in Italian bread. Dhs29. Feri Kasif Tehroon, Diamond 4, Dubai Marina (04 457 2919).
Sea urchin Try sea urchin, the root of the cordonopsis pilosula plant or rare pine mushrooms. Price on request. Pyongyang Okryu-gwan, Al Maktoum Road, Deira (04 298 1589).