I’ve had to come to J-town unexpectedly. The suddenness of it made it an unnerving trip as I had to cancel a lot of plans that I was quite looking forward to, but then being home with your parents is always uplifting. Whenever I come home, I binge on hommus of all sorts, cheese tamees, falafel, ma3soub and ta3miya. Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of Al Baik though. On this particular trip, my thoughts can’t help but keep drifting back to Dean & Deluca in Mall of the Emirates, because it is there that I discovered the spinach fateerah that was basically my entire childhood on a pie. Yes, in an American cafe restaurant franchise, I reconnected with my Saudi childhood. Globalization for the win.
Dean & Deluca arrived in Dubai not too long ago and were kind enough to invite me for a tasting. What really got my attention was the invite that stood out as a most pleasant surprise: it came with a D&D cookbook! For those of you who don’t already know, cookbooks make me ridiculously happy. As does the Bloomingdale’s home store and Crate & Barrel. D&D essentially serves up intercontinental fare here. They’ve kept in line with the U.S concept in that sense, but have tailored the menu to be more region specific to the Middle East- mainly by having a Middle Eastern station instead of a Japanese one, in addition to an Italian and American station. They also have retail merchandise which would make for nice gifts because how can you go wrong with parsley infused olive oil, green tea, chocolate bars, potato chips and a cookbook!
The menu is a bit too overwhelming to say the least, and we had to flip through it at least half a dozen times before we could even begin to decide what to order. There’s definitely something in there for everyone but it would be a nightmare for someone who hates making decisions. We narrowed it down to ordering one item from each section/cuisine, and went with what looked and sounded the most appetizing.
We started off with the Chili Lime Fried Shrimp, which was sadly so poorly executed it was almost inedible and entirely unenjoyable. The batter was tough and chewy- and not in a good way. I reckon the batter was made of rice flour and tasted as if it had been made ahead, left out, and reheated before being served. This was perhaps the first time I left shrimp on my plate.
I was a little hesitant ordering the Truffle Mac and Cheese Balls but the combination of words made M blank out with excitement. They had a nice mushroomey taste to them but we couldn’t detect the vaguest hint of truffle in them, which is shocking considering what a strong and distinct flavor anything with truffle usually has. This appetizer has potential to be hearty and comforting but I generally find mac & cheese balls to be excessive; excessive in calories, excessive in carbs, excessive in the hype created around them and excessive in disappointment.
The Beef Sliders however were instant redemption for the previous disappointments. They had very buttery buns, juicy, well-seasoned patties and homemade feel to them. What I found unnecessary was the smear of sauce (siracha, mayo and whole grain mustard) on the plate that the sliders were placed on. It made the bun wet and sticky from the outside and made me want to wipe my fingers after every bite. I’m still skeptical of whether the sauce really did have any siracha in it (as claimed by the waiter), because I couldn’t taste it at all, nor was the sauce tinted with color in the least. BUT, these sliders were fantastic.
On the server’s recommendation, we also tried the Chicken Shawerma, which was fragrantly flavored with lots of dill. It was served with garlic sauce, pickles and piping hot potato wedges. Here’s what makes this shawerma different: unlike traditional shawerma meat, this one isn’t moistened with just fat, but in fact a slab of cheddar cheese too! Dais.
The piece de resistance of the night, and what engraves D&D in my memory though, was the Triple Fatayer. Now, this was no mini fateerah, but it is not a manakeesh either , as the crust is thicker and softer/chewier, but the toppings were absolute, sheer perfection. M and I grew in in Saudi Arabia, so I’ve had A LOT of fatayer and manakeesh in my life. This fateerah made us so happy it’s ridiculous- flashbacks to a simpler time with every bite. The meat column was wonderfully seasoned, the cheese column was different from the traditional as it had a blend of Emental and Mozarella, but the spinach column was the show stopper for me. I used to take moajjanat for my school snack on my mom’s lazy days and they had the exact same filling! For those of you who didn’t have a childhood as awesome as mine, the spinach is boiled and and flavored with pomegranate molasses.
The good stuff didn’t end there though, the Woodfire Baked Prawns were another shockingly pleasant surprise. It was very close to a tagine in cooking style, but spiced much better (I’m not a fan of tagine). The prawns were accompanied potatoes, okra, eggplant, onions and tomatoes and had a zingy tanginess to them. Absolutely loved this!
Dessert was a tad disappointing. The Lemon Tart missed the mark by a notch or two, and the pecan pie- while delicious- was presented in a very sloppy diner way and I wish it had been bigger because I was left desiring more.
Overall though, I did not expect to find such great Middle Eastern food in a cafe restaurant in a mall. While some dishes were mediocre, others were absolute perfection.
Thanks for having us, D&D 🙂