Time Out Says
This brilliant juxtaposition of simplicity and serious luxury showcases the best of a wide range of Arabic food. From the cheapest hole-in-the-wall dives to the most expensive restaurants it seems to be compulsory to present hommos with a puddle of olive oil in the middle and a few whole chick peas floating in it, and paprika stripes around the edge. Nothing changes – except that here it is served in very fine gold, burgundy and white china instead of the same old brown and white melamine bowls. We really appreciated the fact that despite the venue being so upmarket the food had not become pretentious.
The long black-coated waiting staff offered a mix of time-honoured Lebanese style service and seven-star Burj attention. The huge tome that was the wine list, kept us reading for ages; most of the time with our eyes popping at the prodigious prices. While we nibbled on a few pickles and olives, we realised that we were missing the usual cornucopia of salad that fills a large part of the table (not that we needed it, we have just become so accustomed to having it sitting there). The bread selection was international; soft milk bread rolls, slices of baguette and flatbreads too. We still prefer Arabic bread with our hommos.
We were surrounded by European visitors to Dubai, it wasn’t until later on that a few locals came in (Al Iwan lacks three vital elements to attract locals: live music, belly dancing and shisha pipes). For us, it is great to be able to enjoy the food without the haze of sweet, fruity smoke. We tried the hoummos (of course) and Baba ganouj – prettily presented smoked aubergine. From the hot mezze section we had some fatayer – pastry triangles filled with rather wet stewed spinach. The Kebbeh bil Samak – fried minced hammour with crushed wheat were a delicious new find.
The Moroccan style Lamb couscous tagine was rustic with full-bodied flavours. Although we wondered how traditional it is to serve white asparagus in North African cuisine, we still enjoyed finding it amidst the other vegetables. The Shish Taouk, grilled lemon marinated chicken, just melted in the mouth. The desserts were very cosmopolitan in origin. My rice pudding with apricot puree was a solid little number. The orange and sage marinated fig gratin was served with mocha ice cream, which got high praise.
Al Iwan’s new menu has greatly enhanced the experience of Arabic dining Burj al Arab-style. Executive chef John Wood is doing a great job of bringing the standards in the restaurants up to meet the high expectations of visitors to hotel. It is well worth a visit, but be aware, you will need to save up for this treat.
By Carolyn Robb | 01 Mar 2002
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