Al Nafoorah in Dubai’s Jumeirah Zabeel Saray offers an ambience that is at once cosy and friendly, with the staff coming by often for a laugh and a chat. While most menus during Dubai Restaurant Week offer a set three-course meal, you’ll get additional hot and cold mezze at Al Nafoorah. I zeroed in on the hummus and zaatar kuboos, while my dining partner chose the healthier and tastier minced salad. The fresh cucumber, tomato, lettuce, mint and parsley had a pleasantly sharp bite thanks to the green chilli and lemon dressing. The sautéed chicken liver was the best I’ve tasted, the meat at once crumbly and silken, the consistency of the pomegranate sauce sweet with none of the cloying aftertaste. The fried kibbeh, on the other hand, was overstuffed with lamb meat that didn’t quite capture the right flavour.
Fortunately, both the mains made up for the kibbeh. The grilled summan fillet main gets higher points for taste and presentation. Three juicy fillets lie on a bed of crunchy roasted vegetables and come with sprigs of mint on top, a tangy mustard sauce on the side and a slice of lemon. Despite the absence of a curry, the buttered rice that comes with this dish is a perfect accompaniment to the succulent fish. Shish taouk (of course) is the second main on offer. The chicken is tasty and tender, but it’s a small portion with just two skewers and a lone piece of herbed bread.
The floral flavours of the mouhalabiyah (Arabic milk, sugar and rose water pudding) were a bit too strong for me, but my partner enjoyed it. The ashta bil asal (a dessert made of thick cream and honey) is made at the table as the server elaborately laces the cream with honey from a long-mouthed urn, lifting the unbroken viscous thread up to two feet high. This is followed by a swish of crumbled almonds and pistachios, the perfect garnish to balance the honeyed cream and a fitting end to the rich meal.
Al Nafoorah is one of 15 restaurants serving special menus for just Dh199 per person during Dubai Restaurant Week. There are two seatings nightly — 7.30pm and 9.30pm — through March 4. To book, visit www.roundmenu.com/dubai/restaurant-week