The Zabeel Saray, the second hotel to open on the boulevard of dreams, brings with it a host of restaurants specialising in all colours of cuisine, from Indian to Turkish to Franco-Vietnamese. While we wait for the new Al Nafoorah and Voi to open their doors, I decided to content myself with a visit to Amala. A vowel away from Amal at the Armani Hotel, Amala tries its hand at high-end Indian food; I’ll skip the requisite rant about my feelings on high-end Indian dining, and focus on the facts.
Fact one: Amala, refreshingly, doesn’t feel like a spa when you first walk in (think Indego by Vineet). Despite being brand-spanking new and virtually empty on the day we visited, it’s ever-so Indian. The regal creams and golds of the seating contrast nicely with the rangoli-inspired tiles that covers both floor and walls, while ornate wrought-iron lamps hang from the ceiling. Yes, it’s over the top, but it works.
First came the murgh kathi kebab, a delightful combination of roomali roti, chicken, mushroom and pickled mango. We were then treated to the tawa kanagoora – pan-fried scallops seasoned with cumin and coriander. We enjoyed these so much that we ordered a second portion, but not before the onset of a main course of till jingla (sesame prawns each served on their own miniature barbecue), machli masala (a fish curry brought to life with mustard seeds, and tempered with fresh coconut), tandoori chicken (‘It’s butter chicken,’ the waiter sweetly informed me), black lentil dahl, karyee lamb chops with cumin and green mango paste… A generous spread if ever I saw one and, considering the high-end environs, not bad value.
So what’s the catch? Well, one caveat is that you can’t spend less than Dhs450 on a meal for two, but this is a pretty reasonable price considering Amala is set in a high-end hotel. The service was also a little over-attentive (I ended up having to politely ask the waiter to leave us alone), but I put this down to the fact that we were the only diners in the restaurant.
My last quibble, and I promise it’s my last, is an age-old lament I have with so much Indian food I eat here in Dubai: the food at Amala is prepared with love and care by competent (dare I say talented) chefs, though many of the flavours have been dulled for the palates of the undiscerning masses. If the chef had free range to do as he pleased, then things might get interesting at Amala. As it stands, we have a good restaurant on Dubai’s West Crescent, just not a great one.
The bill (for two)
All-you-can-eat à la carte menu (per person) Dhs225
Total (excluding service) Dhs450