Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Halwa, Poori, Nihari and Why I Dislike Riyadh the most!

It’s one of those days when the ‘Desi’ in me is missing Dubai a lot. You might wonder what’s the connection between Desi and Dubai? Well it’s just that ever since I’ve moved to Riyadh I’ve been desperately searching for a Pakistani restaurant that serves the best Halwa Poori and Nihari. But rather sadly even after being here for 2+ years  I haven’t seen a single decent Pakistani restaurant open up that would serve this yummy (and extremely fattening and filling) breakfast delicacy in Riyadh. Now if anyone in Riyadh is vouching for that Al Hamra Restaurant located in the Hara area of Riyadh as a possible alternative, I’m afraid that shoddy place, not to mention the below average taste, simply doesn’t count. On the other hand just about 600 miles away from here, in Dubai the most mouth-watering, sense- swirling ‘desi’ breakfast is served every Friday.

It is my heartfelt recommendation to anyone visiting Dubai, and who craves for the occasional Halwa Poori and Nihari like me, to PLEASE TRY the following restaurants in Dubai, infact you know what, just don’t leave Dubai without trying them. Now if you’re from Lahore you might argue that it simply cannot match the Lahori breakfast flava, but trust me my Lahori husband has even given it a 9/10 for the authentic taste. And the foodie that he is, I dare not doubt his opinion. So here goes: the best spots to have a filling ‘Desi-Style’ breakfast and Nihari with your family:  

Kabab BQ
On our recent trip to Dubai in February we discovered another newly opened yet fabulous restaurant with lovely decor serving our most-loved traditional Halwa Poori Breakfast called Kabab BQ. The seating arrangement and the decor is very modern, and simply perfect for a posh Pakistani crowd. My husband’s friends had taken him there on one Friday and when he came back and shared his delicious experience, I decided that the coming Friday we were going there this time (husband’s treat) accompanied by Dubai-based brother (who may I add had no idea of this restaurant) and sister who was visiting from Pakistan.  We were there around 10ish and were surprised to see the restaurant was vacant. I mean literally empty with the waiters anxiously waiting for someone to arrive. As my husband had explained, there was buffet of lip-smacking chaney/choley (chick peas), soft halwa (dessert), desi saag (a variety of spinach), nihari & aroma-rich tea. We quickly got seated and as my husband had mentioned waited for the hot pooris to be served. The best part was as we would finish one set of pooris, the next steaming-hot set would arrive. Last but not the least was when at the end of our breakfast they served hot Jalebis (traditional Pakistani sweet). Usually I don’t like Jalebis so much but even I couldn’t stop myself from having these fresh-out-of-the-wok sweets. Well from my side they get full marks for the service, the food & the decor. It was truly an amazing and unforgettable breakfast experience. Needless to mention, highly recommended to anyone who’s a die-hard fan of having a traditional Pakistani breakfast on a weekend.

P.S- Right next to it is the Maria Bonita Mexican Restaurant which serves great Mexican food. Once we finished with our breakfast at Kabab BQ, I took my 16 month baby girl to see the parrots at Maria Bonita Restaurant. There seated were 2 guys who seem of Indian-Pakistani origin, they were still deciding on what to have, when one of them saw us coming out of Kabab BQ with a hearty smile. He immediately decided to pay Kabab BQ a visit to check it out and emerged 2 mins later only to apologise to the waiter at Maria Bonita saying ‘next time’ and took his friend to have a desi breakfast at Kabab BQ. Needless to say they made the right choice :)

  •      Umm Al Sheif Street, Jumeirah 3

The location explains why the restaurant was empty. It’s located between Al Wasl Road and Jumeirah road and hence is easy to miss.

Cost per person – AED 39 only
Timing – 9am to 12:30pm for Friday breakfast
Menu: To see what all they offer other than desi breakfast visit this link

BBQ Delights
Famous for its open buffet kebabs and traditional Pakistani style menu, this restaurant serves a delicious variety of desi breakfast items such as halwa, chaney, poori, nihari, paaye, etc. only on Friday. Though it’s usually called a Friday Brunch I wouldn’t regard it as one since its starts early in the morning on Friday. Yes! on a Friday 9am (for a desi crowd) is regarded early.

  •          Karama, Dubai
  •          JBR, Dubai

 Cost per person – AED 39 only
Timing – 9am to 12:30pm for Friday breakfast

Delhi Restaurant
This restaurant or should I called ‘Nihari Wonder’ should rename themselves as Nihari Restaurant. I mean seriously these guys have been around for nearly 30 year serving by far the best nihari anyone has ever had in Dubai. Never has their taste or the quality of their Nihari ever gone wrong. Having lived all my life in Dubai, eating Nihari from Delhi Restaurant every month without fail was a family tradition. Credit goes to my father (spent 30+ years in Dubai) who being a ardent desi food lover discovered the place with his friends and helped us understand the difference between a average, good, excellent and out-of-this-world Nihari. Need I specify where Delhi Restaurant’s nihari stands?! I still remember how my father used to take a big pot/vessel (enough for atleast 12 servings) with him, and used to get Nihari as take-away from Delhi Restaurant with their yummy nans/bread. When he’d enter home with it, I would scream ‘Ɲipppppie Nihari’!!! Proves my love for it, doesn’t it. Oh how I miss those times!

I told my husband that this time we simply cannot miss eating here while in Dubai. In fact I told my husband that by far it will be the best nihari he would’ve had so he was looking forward to it too. And guess what? I was right. My brother took us there on our first night and the place was jam-packed. Thankfully we got seated soon and immediately without even browsing the menu ordered for our favourite item. We also ordered for some malai tikka boti, some seekh kebabs and another bbq item (don’t remember honestly). I simply cannot explain the feeling of my first bite of nihari (after such a loooooonnnnnng time). Surprisingly the other items my brother ordered such as the malai tikka and kebabs etc. were also really delicious. The thing is we never before tried anything except for Nihari from this place so had no clue they served other amazing dishes too. My mouth still waters at the very mention of their nihari. Least said, DO NOT leave Dubai without having this true delicacy from Delhi Restaurant.

Deira, Dubai
(It’s located in the busiest district of Deira and unfortunately has no parking space available. Despite that people flock to the restaurant even sometimes waiting for 20-30 minutes before they find a parking. Need I say more!)

Well, from the above detailed reviews you can very well imagine why I titled this post as ‘Why I dislike Riyadh the most’.  I just hope and pray that one of these places open up here soon. Anyone listening???

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where We Ate In Paris

Rather unfortunately while in Paris we tried a level best to look for Halal food but may be it was the area we were staying in (walking distance from Arc De Trimophe), we couldn’t find a single restaurant which served Halal food. We used to spend our afternoons (amidst all our exploring and trips) looking for Halal food joints but no matter which map we followed  or whoever we asked we simply never found the exact location and hence ended up eating at non-halal joints. If you’re a Muslim, please understand that the below is recommended only in case you aren’t able to find a decent Halal restaurant. Hope you understand.  

Nai Restaurant
Cuisine: Lebanese (NOT Halal)
What we had:
  •          Shish Tawook plate - €18
  •         Chicken Shawarma plate - €18

Total Bill: €36 without soft drinks

We dined here 2 nights out of the 4 that we stayed in Paris, so you can imagine how much we liked it. Very honestly after a long day of exploring and walking, we wanted to have hearty portions that would satisfy not just our appetite but also our taste buds. Hence we didn’t take any chances at trying Parisian cuisine. We stuck to what we like best - Lebanese cuisine. And, we were lucky that this restaurant was relatively close to our hotel.

Feedback: A bit expensive but truly lived up to our expectations of a fabulous meal. The taste was truly Lebanese in every way. In fact the staff too was of Lebanese origin, and ofcourse spoke fluent French. Definitely recommended to all those flying from this region, and want to play it safe on the 1st day ;)

Pizzeria Fiorentina
Cuisine: Italian (Not Halal)
What we tried:
·         2 Pizza Poulet (chicken) – €10.99 each
·         Pates Au Poulet (chicken pasta with white sauce) – €11.99
·         Pates A La Rabiatta (chicken pasta with Arrabiata sauce) – €9.99

Total Bill: €51.94 including soft drinks (we were very hungry)

Out of the remaining nights, we only dined here. Why? Simply because this Italian joint was truly awesome. We happen to be returning from the Eiffel Tower and realised that it was past 9:30. By the time we would reach the hotel, it would be close to 11pm and most of the restaurants in our area would have closed by then. Hence we decided to take a chance with Pizzeria Fiorentina.

Feedback: The waiter was extremely charming and helpful, hence full marks for the service. Regarding the food all I can say is that it was the best I had in both Paris and Italy. Yes! I said Italy! I mean if I ever go back to Paris, I may not go to see Eiffel Tower but will surely drop by this joint to have my favourite food. That’s how much we loved it. I mean come one the next day being our last day in Paris, this restaurant was completely out of our way, yet we took the sub and headed straight for Pizzeria Fiorentina. Hence, my recommendation for all those planning to visit the Eiffel Tower, try this restaurant you’ll love it. It’s right opposite the Bir Hakiem metro stop, next to Subway. 

A Trip Down Paris Lane - Part 2

Now since this was my first trip apart from the usual trips to Pakistan, Dubai and back to Riyadh, I definitely cannot count myself as a ‘frequent traveller’. So you can imagine how tired I must’ve been after a 7 hr flight to Paris which may I add was delayed at the Frankfurt airport by another 3 hrs. In short what I really wanted to do was get to the hotel, kick off my shoes, eat a hearty meal and get in bed. But that wasn’t going to happen.

 After we reached the metro closest to our hotel, we realised that with our luggage we had to walk another 20 minutes before we could reach the hotel. And, the worse part: we still had to find the hotel. Anyways, after our long relentless walk, we checked-in to the hotel, freshened up and decided to get some food. Now ofcourse that sounds like easy task, doesn’t it? Well it didn’t turn out to be one. We headed to the reception and asked the guy if he knew of any Arabic/Lebanese restaurant close by (yeah we decided to play it safe with a Middle Eastern cuisine in a European country so what!).  Fortunately he said he knew of one where the food was really good and it was within the vicinity. He gave us directions and we started walking (again!). We walked and walked and walked and realised that the restaurant was a good 10-15 mins walk from the hotel. Our wonderful luck was when we reached the restaurant it was CLOSED! I started swearing ‘coz I couldn’t take it anymore. I mean for crying out loud, doesn’t the native idiot receptionist know that the restaurants close after lunch and open only in the evening!!! Why the hell did he send us here without the warning.  Argh! By now both me and husband were famished and dog-tired, well atleast I was. We decided that we couldn’t turn back and decided to keep walking until we find a small eatery. After walking another 10-15 mins, lo behold we found MCDONALDS! You would never believe that our very first meal in the romantic streets of Paris was actually at MCDONALDS!!!!!!! Without giving it anymore thought we rushed inside and ordered whatever we could. I went to the counter and ordered combos well that’s what we are used to here in Riyadh right? But at counter when the lady said fries and coke separate, I was like ‘is she kidding me’. Moreover the price we paid for the individual burger, fries and coke was equivalent to the price of 5 combos here in Riyadh, or for that matter in Dubai or Pakistan! I mean it was unbelievable! Who would’ve thought after covering 1000s of miles we’d end up eating at Mcdonalds and paying such a price! Anyways the worst wasn’t over yet. We walked back to the hotel and changed into something warm. At this point I was ready to crash into bed, UNTIL my husband announced that he wants to go and explore the Arc De Triomphe. Do I really need to spell out how I felt like?! I think not. But what really made me hit the roof was when we got to the Arc De Triomphe, and my husband made me climb the 284 stairs of Arc De Triomphe!!!! Trust me when we got to the top for the first 15 minutes I couldn’t decide whether to divorce my husband or throw him off the roof. I mean the pain in my legs was unimaginable. I felt like someone had cut off my legs. Anyways after 15 minutes I had mercy on my husband who couldn’t stop feeling guilty and apologised several times. Then we posed and took several photographs, and after about an hour (where I sat at every opportunity I got and oh how funny and unfit I looked) we came down the stairs.

Trust me I DO NOT recommend for anyone who is as inactive as me to ever attempt walking so much on the 1st day. Least said I definitely will never forget my 1st day in Paris.