Time Out Says
It’s a first for Filipino food in Dubai, because of its fine dining aspirations. In turn (because of licensing laws) it also offers a rare opportunity to order food from the Philippines alongside a beverage, and meat dishes that are much favoured by some Filipino diners, yet not served in the average eatery in Karama and Satwa.
Manila Grill looks and feels like a more upmarket haunt than those Karama favourites, too. Diners are met at the entrance by staff at a reservation desk, to the right of which are several private dining rooms. Past a bar and into the main dining room, this restaurant boasts a dedicated area set up for nightly live music. Although the design is very simple, it also has a distinctly East Asian sophistication to it, with dark wooden details on the walls and a feeling of intimacy created by semi-private dining booths behind slated wooden screens.
Staff were friendly and welcoming. Since most of the servers are Filipino, they also understand what is listed on the menu. However, since the vast majority of diners here appear to be Filipinos themselves, we suspect the staff don’t usually need to go into explanatory patter. While it felt as if food was taking some time to arrive, the waiting staff had the common sense to ask whether it would be ok to bring the main courses first, since the starters were not yet ready.
The menu is a fairly lengthy list, primarily categorised under headings of chicken, beef, seafood, and so on. There is a wealth of ‘foreign’ meat dishes on here, from classic crispy deep fried knuckle to sisig made with ears. The Filipino national dish kare kare (a mixed stew in a peanut sauce) is available both as the classic version made with beef tripe and as a seafood variety. Since the beef kare kare was unavailable, we opted for the seafood recipe, which contained crab, shrimp and vegetables, and had a lovely colour contrast of soft orange and bright, lively green. It was tricky to get into the crab shells and out again with much meat on your fork, but the flesh was creamy and sweet. The shrimps were perfectly fresh and plump (even if the veins were still intact), and the mixture of pak choi, green beans and aubergine tasted crisp and healthy. Adding to this so far successful dish was the sauce, which had an airy, creamy lightness, plus a soft, perfectly balanced sweetness to it.
The side order of green mango salad (mixed with raw onion and tomato) proved to be a leap of faith too far for a non-Filipino diner since the extremes of vinegar and intensely fishy shrimp paste were not a pleasant combination for an unaccustomed palate. However, the fried tofu lumpia were fairly similar to Chinese spring rolls. In this instance, they were stuffed with fresh mushrooms and beansprouts for plenty of crunch, while the fried dough was also perfectly crisp. The starter of baked mussels with cheese was pleasant and an interesting non-traditional twist to the menu.
Manila Grill is not exactly fine dining when compared to the finest standards in Dubai. However, it is a very successful attempt at offering Filipino food in a setting and style that has serious refinement. Dining here is a pleasant experience, an interesting option for a special occasion and perhaps a good gateway into this cuisine for
curious foreigners, too.
The bill (for two)
1x green mango salad Dhs20
1x baked mussels Dhs39
1x tofu lumpia Dhs30
1x seafood kare kare Dhs49
2x steamed rice Dhs10
1x fresh juice Dhs23
1x large water Dhs13
Total (including service and municipality fee) Dhs202
By Time Out Dubai staff | 05 May 2015
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