The Emirate of Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, having an extremely diverse palate for food enthusiasts, the options never seem to disappoint anyone. I’ve always been a fan of Lebanese cuisine; the rich flavours and the tinge of delectable spices make for an enjoyable meal. Which better city than Dubai to gratify the authentic Lebanese search?
One such quest to savor the finest Lebanese cuisine in town led me to Sofitel Downtown’s popular eatery Almayass. This acclaimed restaurant boasts of serving Lebanese, Armenian, and Middle Eastern cuisine straight out of Grandma’s cookbook.
Upon arrival guests could find themselves contemplating between two sections; a quiet, classy fine dining indoor seating and a more vibrant, musical, and laid-back outdoor area. Initially, I chose to sit in the peaceful section admiring the beautiful tarnished wooden flooring, rustic brick wall, delicate crystal chandeliers, vintage tall candles, fusion Arabic and contemporary interiors, and a designer bar. After having a glass of fresh juice, I decided to shift to the other section and explore the energetic side of Almayass.
The outdoor section is usually covered during summers, but visitors can experience a breezier side during winters. As I was seated gazing at the colorful interiors and secretly swaying to the foot tapping tunes, I was approached by Tony, the manager of Almayass who politely enquired about food allergies and preference. For me, Lebanese menu is always forbidden to the vegetarian essentials, but Tony promised a twist to this meal. As I waited, I could only think of possible options which I’d be presented with and wait for the surprise Almayass had planned.
My food trail started with fresh mixed pickled olives along with Zaatar salad which is made of thyme, chopped onions, olive oil, pink salt, and sumac. I savoured the salad along with Arabic bread assortment which was already placed on the table. The popular Fattoush salad and Bulgar Salad or Itch were then served; the pita crisps topped on freshly cut veggies generously dashed in salad dressing was a healthy treat for me, I can’t resist the garden-fresh Fattoush whenever I decide to go the Lebanese way. Bulgar salad or Itch was a new addition to my taste buds, as soon as I took I bite, I relished the mixed flavors of sautéed onions, tomatoes and a wholesome dose of peppers; a unique preparation from the conventional cold salad option.
How can a Lebanese tasting be complete without Hummus? Breaking a piece of soft and slightly sweetened bread and dipping it into Hummus Beiruti and putting the morsel in my mouth; with eyes wide open my senses took off to enjoy a blend of finely cooked chickpeas with tahini, labneh, and garlic; Oh! If it’s hummus it’s hard to focus on the rest of the meal. To accompany the Beiruti Hummus, there was vegetarian Batenjan Harr. On being presented with it, I could just anticipate egg-plant with spices, but the dish had much more to it, unlike Baba Ganoush, Batenjan Harr had an uneven texture with a smoky flavor and a tangy aftertaste, I found myself on a repeated drill of tasting the novel Almayass veggie delight.
My table looked so full as much as my tummy felt, but it was time to taste the final epic creations of Almayass. Beurek Cheese which looked like a traditional croissant was brought, as I nibbled on it, the cheese melted in my mouth and I felt a rush of salt and creamy fountain of three cheese blending with the outer layer of the dough (a cheesy formula is sure to create a win-win for the palate). Kibbet Addas, a famous traditional meat-based Beiruti delicacy was presented in a vegetarian avatar using split lentils. Our server insisted we try the alteration done by the chef, I cut the tikka looking dish, the texture was soft and slimy, on taking a bite, I wasn’t too mesmerized at the start, I felt it was bland and needed more herbs maybe, but as the flavours settled and mingled in my mouth, I sensed the proportions and found it alright. Battata Harra, chunks of potatoes sautéed in garlic, Arabic spices, and green chillies is always the wisest selection for Lebanese food. I usually eat it with Hummus to enhance the taste. The batata harra at Almayass had a slightly crispy exterior with perfectly marinated spicy interior; filling and appetizing!
Almayass didn’t want the food journey to end and presented me a platter of mixed freshly cut fruits to end my Lebanese tasting with something sweet and relatively healthy compared to calorie bursting desserts. Though it was tough to finish it all, I tried eating a piece or two.
It’s not every day that a culinary treat raises the bar of expectations in one’s mind and affirms to the set standards one has before visiting. Almayass was successful in ticking mark most of the set criteria from my check-list. Will I visit again? Of course, why would I miss the tasty food and courteous service?
Place: Almayass, Sofitel, Downtown, Dubai
Speciality: Lebanese, Middle Eastern, Armenian
Overall Experience: 4.75/5
Pic Courtesy: Almayass restaurant and Soul Style Soufflé
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