Dubai Consumer Mirror

Friday, October 13, 2006

Restaurant Review: Mawal, Al Moroj Rotana Hotel.

In Ramadan, I try to avoid eating out as much as possible. Not only because having Iftar in Ramadan is all about sitting with family members and enjoying a good ol home cooked meal, but also in Ramadan; most restaurants don't offer any decent "iftar experience".

Serving Iftar is any restaurant’s ultimate test to the proficiency of its kitchen, quality of its food and service of its staff. From my Ramadan dining experience in this part of the world, ALL restaurants in Dubai drastically fail when it comes to quality, price, service or (in a lot of cases) all combined.

Except one.

Every year,
Mawal proves to be -by far- the ultimate Iftar experience.

It is understandable why in Ramadan majority of restaurants prefer to offer an 'Open Buffet' iftar menu. Tying to serve too many people, too many orders in too little time - is virtually impossible as ‘a la carte’.

On the other hand, asking hoards of hungry men, women and children to queue up for an underserved buffet to wait at least 15 minutes before going back with whatever food is left on their plates, is an Iftar experience many people do not like to go through. especially when most of them had nothing to eat, drink or smoke for the past 12hrs or so.

The guys at Mawal brilliantly avoid that from happening. What they do is very smart. They make sure that 12 to 15 small plates of the best Lebanese mezza you can get in town, is on your table when you arrive.

After a very personal and warm welcome, you are escorted to your table and the same waiter asks for your choice of soup and Ramadan drink. In less than 3 minutes, hot fresh aromatic soup is poured in the bowl in front of you followed by a chilled glass of Jellab, Temer hindi or Qamar el Din.

On you table is a paining of platters. You name it, its there: Foul, Hommus, Mtabbal, Tabouleh, Fattoush, Mussaka'a, Lobiyeh bel hamud wel toom, jwaneh mtaffayeh (Garlic lemon chicken wings), mdardara, kebben neyeah, a plate of assorted fatayer, bamyiyeh, falafel, dates, dried figs and apricots... and of course, what table is complete with out the colorful fresh veggies platter.

Once Iftar times starts, waves of hot, freshly baked Lebanese bread make their way to your table every 5 or 10 minutes. I swear, I never needed to ask for more bread. The minute I start on my last piece, more are added without me noticing.

By doing that, you end up nibbling on a delicious variety of dishes at your table, having your hot soup in joy and quenching your thirst with refreshing beverages - by doing that, you brush off that Lets-rush-to-the buffet-before-its-wiped-out feeling you usually get 5 minutes after Iftar starts in other restaurants.

As for the main course, the entirely accessible buffet offers a variety of grills, pastas and mouth watering Syrian/Lebanese main dishes. When I was there yesterday they were serving Kebbe bel Laban, Kousa mehshi, wara2 3eneb, djaj bel freekeh, kharouf ma7shi and the basics (rice, veggis..etc). They were also serving pasta el forno (Pasta, Chicken 'n Béchamel) and Paella for the non-arabic food lovers.

Oh, and if you don't feel like walking up to the buffet, the waiters are more than happy to get you what you want right to your table.

When you are done with your main mail, 5 plates of Ramadan deserts: atayef 3asafiri, ma3mool, 3awameh and zalabiya, land on the table. Those are followed by a large bowl of fresh cut and carved exotic fruits: pineapple, cantaloupe, kiwi, mango and strawberries.

Not only the quality of food is unquestionably tasty, price is extremly reasonable nor the attentive service is fantastic, the overall atmosphere around you is also very relaxed and inviting.
Exactly at the table behind us, Lebanese pop star Dina Hayek and her manager were having iftar as well.

Mawal is my favorite Iftar venue .. what’s yours?

9 Comments:

  • From what I read, I understood that praying Maghrib isn't exactly an integral part of your "ultimate Iftar experience." I don't mean to criticise. It's just an observation that I made. You may have not planned it, but prayers seem to have taken a backseat.

    It seems a bit irrational to leave out the obligatory prayers that are [ideally] offered all year round; for something against which you spoke so strongly in your earlier post about Ramadan.

    By Blogger ashiQ, at October 13, 2006 at 5:48 PM  

  • Dude, keep the Islamic lecture to yourself and cut the guy some slack will ya?

    To assume that he did not perform the islamic prayers just because he didn't mention it in his restaurant review, which i totally dig btw, is both presumptuous and judgmental.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 14, 2006 at 12:29 AM  

  • Have you considered a career in food writing?

    By Blogger marwan, at October 14, 2006 at 4:11 AM  

  • I havent been to iftar there, as you said, eating out is not exactly the ultimate iftar experience. I liked the Tagine though, for i like The morrocan food. To the contrary of Mourooj, at Tagine, the starters and desserts are on buffet and 5 or 6 main courses come to your table, in addition to the legendary hreira soup of course. I couldn't complain about the service coz i've been to much worse 5 star service; but it wasn't exactly impecable. The Mourooj Rotana always had great food and service. What i didn't like about them was the entertainment which is by far less than the one on Garhood, the Boustan Rotana> but i guess this should be irrelevant during iftar no? anyways, i'll try it and let you know, thanks for the excellent review.

    By Blogger achinar, at October 14, 2006 at 10:17 AM  

  • Ashiq and Anon.. thank you both for ur contributions, ur always welcome here..

    Marwan.. I considered a career in the kitchen.. :) but not writing about it; i am not that good.

    achinar - its been ages since i've been to Tagine.. it does serve great food indeed.

    By Blogger moryarti, at October 14, 2006 at 1:18 PM  

  • "i am not that good."

    Au contraire. I am perpetually hungry after reading this post, so misery accomplished.

    By Blogger marwan, at October 14, 2006 at 2:37 PM  

  • home with family is the best iftar, after toiling all day to make the feast. bring on the biriyani, baby.

    By Blogger grapeshisha, at October 15, 2006 at 3:41 AM  

  • Excellent write up. You have to be the critic we were waiting for. I am still in awe after your Kuwait/chocolate post.
    I also have to commend you for your tactful response to ashiq's comments. I think writing is your thing afterall.

    Anyway back to the restaurant. I agree, their food and service is impeccable. Although the only hotel experience I have through Ramadan is in Sails restuarant (Renaissance Hotel), which is lovely. I like the size of the restaurant (very small indeed) and the choices on the buffet are varied enough to cover most tastes.

    By Blogger CG, at October 15, 2006 at 10:11 AM  

  • I usually hate going out for Iftar, not because of the food or the crowds, but because I want to crash on the sofa immediately after eating and I can't do that outside the house.

    By the same token, I have mandated a "no guests" policy for Iftar at home so I can crash on the sofa and not bother with small talk. Plus, when guests are present we tend to exaggerate with the food and I end up eating more than I should!

    By Blogger Zaydoun, at October 16, 2006 at 1:27 PM  

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