Al Barza is both new to Jumeirah Beach Road and to Dubai’s ever-growing Emirati restaurant scene.
Occupying a small ground floor space underneath a kandora shop, the restaurant is decorated (not just with a couple of kandora-toting mannequins, but also) with a softly traditional appearance. It is characterised by a pleasant, Khaliji-looking environment of sand-coloured stone tiles and wooden lattice work in a rich brown-black polish. The venue also boasts an outdoor terrace and a teeny, tiny spot for valet parking.
Staff are friendly and even (on the quiet, off-peak night that we last visited) a little excited to welcome customers. Despite being primarily non-Arabic, servers are also able to offer enough insight on the menu to help fellow non-Arabic diners.
Al Barza defines itself as ‘contemporary’, but the menu is classic and just a little neatened up around the edges with regard to presentation and preparation. On that menu, you’ll find breakfast, main courses (primarily paired with different traditional rice recipes) and sandwiches filled with options ranging from camel salonah through to smoked salmon. We were, however, confused and disappointed to spot ‘jisheed’ on the menu – usually translated as ‘baby shark’ and largely considered to be an unsustainable option (even banned by some hotel groups in the UAE for this reason).
First to arrive at our table was a complimentary dish of sweet and sticky dates, teamed with a dish of fresh cheese. Next up was ‘dango’ boiled chickpeas – simple, fresh and healthy, and enlivened when seasoned with the ground cumin and fresh lime that came on the side. The deliciously crisp little triangles of samboosa were stuffed with a very mild-tasting fresh cheese. The harees laham (lamb) was a highly enjoyable wheat porridge, rich and creamy, with fine, shredded pieces of meat scattered within it.
Each of our main courses came as hearty, generous portions. The plate of camel meat with ‘panned rice’ featured mountains of meat interspersed with soft, gooey strips of fat and a large portion of rice, simple in flavour, but with a buttery consistency and golden ghee hue. Better still was the grilled shrimp machboos. The shrimp themselves were fat, sweet, juicy and plentiful, while the rice, doused with fresh, shredded parsley, was deliciously rich in flavour, cooked in tomato that clung to the grains – a more refined and enjoyable machboos than we have previously encountered. We also tried the avocado and date shake, which was delicious (if you enjoy classic avocado shakes) and filled with natural, ‘good’ sugars and fats.
Overall, Al Barza is an uncomplicated, but very pleasant café in which to try classic, well prepared Emirati food.
The bill (for two) 1x dango Dhs18 1x lamb harees Dhs35 1x sambousek Dhs22 1x camel meat Dhs85 1x shrimp machboos Dhs85 2x avocado and date shake Dhs58 1x large water Dhs15 2x karak tea Dhs30 Total (excluding service) Dhs348