I was invited to dine at B.B. Social Dining for a review, free of charge. As always the opinions stated within this post are entirely my own.
For our 4th wedding anniversary on the 29th of December, M and I waited too long to make a reservation at our favorite place in town, The Experience by Reif Othman, so I decided to just go through my email and accept the most attractive invite. B.B Social Dining won, and by extension, so did I!
B.B. Social Dining wasn’t hard to find. I did the smart thing: I simply asked the valet which way is B.B. Social Dining. He pointed to my right, and we simply accessed B.B from it’s ground floor/terrace numero uno. Then we climbed up a short flight of stairs, only to immediately climb down another short flight of stairs, and up another quite long, narrow, spiral flight of stairs, till we were shown to our table on the absolutely charming terrance numero duos. In between all the stairs are ample tables and seating. While this layout allowed for a high ceiling in the LG seating area (or was it LLG?), the space still feels little too cramped with an attempt at far too many covers. Also, while I absolutely loved the vibes and lighting during the daytime, and the decor was completely charming!
Rumor has it (and I could not personally confirm this because I was already dizzy from all the stairs), but there is a floor numero tres another level up, which doubles as the lounge/bar area. I’m also guessing that’s where you can access the restaurant from if you’ve already entered the DIFC maze. Word of advise: don’t wear heels, as there will be a lot of walking involved just to get to your table and to exit the restaurant, and/or if you need to use the washroom.
On to more pressing concerns. What/who is B.B.? This question was addressed almost as soon as we were seated, by the manager every restaurant should have. Seriously though, I don’t remember the last time (if ever) that I met a manager so (not only) well-informed, and perceptive. He walked us through the brand personification and explained to us what the word B.B stands for and what personification the brand has, and as the meal progressed, he brought us the best, most diverse selection from the menu, and just kept the food coming until our (large enough to eat a horse, each) appetites were truly satiated!
B.B can be short for “Habibi”, which is an Arabic endearment that roughly translates to “my darling”. B.B can also adopt the Urdu/Persian roots, where the word “Bibi” is used to refer to a respectable, elder, wiser lady. I’m going to go with both.
The team wants the restaurant to represent a well-travelled, classy Western lady, who left her heart in Asia and is now settled in the Middle East. Sounds exactly like me to be honest, minus the well-travelled and Western part. I think they’ve nailed it, as the personification does come across through the menu, the staff, the decor- everything.
What I love most is how much love and thought has gone into the branding, and it really shows by how engaging the owners are, not just with the restaurant but also with each and every diner they come across.
Let’s talk about the menu, which is inspired by Asia but has a Middle Eastern twist. Best of both worlds, why not? It is divided into 4 sections, ranging from Baos, Bites, Bowls and BBQ (All “B’s, I see what they did there). In a way, its a very tapas style restaurant, especially in terms of portion sizes (quite small). There is also no prescribed way to maneuver through the menu and is very “go as you please”.
We started off with an Elderflower Sparkler. I am not one for cocktails and unnecessary sugar, but this was the best darn most balanced drink I’ve ever had. “B.B is all about inclusion”, which is why they have a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage as a substitute for champagne. While this was the best darn bubbly/mocktail I’ve ever had, it felt a little too pricey at AED 35 per teeny tiny glass, because it was SO refreshing, light and addictive, that you simply can’t have less than 3-15 glasses, haha! I think that keeping in mind that it’s a low involvement beverage with just sparkling water and elderflower cordial, AED 25 would be a more reasonable price for this.
The manager suggested he bring us an assortment of items for us to try. I told him I hate Goats Cheese but am game with just about anything else, and boy oh boy he did not disappoint. He first brought us some bites, followed by baos, and when he saw that we’re still ready to rumble, he suggested the 4 of us share a Shabu Shabu. When we asked for refills of soup and noodles on the Shabu Shabu, rather than being the cheap cost-cutting manager, he suggested we try some of the BBQs instead. A manager who wants to spoil me and my guests is a manager who wins me over, because he is a manager who wants to make the most of the opportunity at hang and showcase the best of his menu. Tip of the hat to you, Spero Panagakis.
Here’s what we had:
Edamame and spinach hummus. Yaaay…not. Those were my initial thoughts, as I’m seldom (if ever) impressed by “creative” spins on hummus. The reason is simple: I always feel like I can make that at home. But then I had this edamame hummus, and I stood corrected. This was truly unlike (in a great way) any other hommus I’ve ever had before, and none of us could stop from reaching for more! It was excellent!
This superfood salad with iceberg, pineapple, chia and coconut was basically just calling out for me, for pretty obvious reasons, haha! It was light and refreshing.
Another dish that made my heart sink when I saw it because I was expecting a drab old lentil salad. Once again, I bit my tongue because this was DELICIOUS! The magic was in the dressing and I could eat bowlfuls of this every day.
This one excited me, because I tried to make my own crispy Brussels sprouts salad over the holidays, only to abort the mission after realizing only one Brussels sprout in that this will require far too much labour of love. I therefore thoroughly enjoyed this, and the sweet and savory dressing on top made this extremely moreish.
The grilled Shishito peppers with rock salt were a crowd pleaser but didn’t really do much for me. I think I would have preferred them with a dip, or as a condiment.
Cauliflower and pecorino popcorn with a truffle tofu aioli! I can’t imagine why anyone would even want to have chicken poppers ever again, after trying these beautifully seasoned, meaty on the inside, breaded and fried to perfection on the outside, cauliflower tots. I REALLY need to figure out how they made that rich, creamy tofu truffle sauce! Do not deprive yourself of this dish, this alone is reason enough to head to B.B Social Dining right now.
I passed on the Kung Fu Wings as wings are not my favorite part of the bird (don’t hate on me, ok), but everyone else on the table loved them. They only wished they were offered wet wipes afterwards, or that the wings were boneless. Sadly, the restaurant did not offer any wet wipes or hot towels, and none of us were in the mood to make the hike to the washroom.
This is what we were MOST excited about, from the minute we saw it in the menu, and the presentation was stunning! I don’t know if it’s because we ate it cold (took too long painting this like a French model), or the fact that the half I got barely had any yolk in it, but the Truffle Egg was a bit of a let down.
Of the baos, we had the Habibi, This is BB and Habibti. quite endearing names, all of them, but the one that stood out most for me was the Habibti with the soft shell crab. I love baos but these baos were just….okay. Nothing to keep me up at night, really.
I’m a total fool for soupy noodles, phos and ramens, so the “Bowls” were what I was most looking forward to in this meal. Because we were a party of 4, the manager suggested we try the Shabu Shabu, which is a sharing hotpot and the ultimate social dining experience as far as I’m concerned. Please refer to my post on Johnny’s Steamboat.
Here’s what I loved about this Shabu Shabu: everything. From presentation (hotplate included), to the noodles and especially the broth, everything was sublime. Here’s what I didn’t like: the pricing was ridiculous. AED 480 for a few dip-ins and Shabu Shabu? Oh, honey, no. Just no.
Grilled Baby Gem with truffle cream. Why can’t all lettuce be this divinely good?? I don’t think I can ever have plain lettuce again.
I don’t eat lamb so I didn’t try these but everyone else on the table loved them.
Freekeh stuffed aubergine. This is what dreams are made of. How have I never had such insanely delicious vegetarian options at any other restaurant before? Yes, Tresind and Carnival by Tresind wow my socks off too, but at B.B. Social Dining, they didn’t have to rely on heavy spices and still made the vegetables as tasty (if not more than) as the meats!
Grilled Seabream with yogurt dip. My oh my oh my. The char and crisp on this fish was what robata goals are made of. I can still remember what it tasted like, and with a squeeze of lime it reminded me a little bit of Pakistani chicken Tikka (which is one of my favorite things to eat on earth).
I don’t know if we were just too stuffed by dessert, but the only dessert items I truly loved where the coconut ice-cream popsicles (because duh), and the Bao-nut. You guys. This was the lightest, airiest, best spin on a donut, EVER. We slathered it with homemade strawberry jam and cream, and this was a simple dish done very, very right.
Service: Beyond excellent, but we may have received a superior experience since we were served by the manager himself. That said, small details spoke volumes, such as the fact that we were given the options of both lemon AND lime with our sparkling water, which is super rare, if even existent at all.
Overall, we were extremely impressed by the vegetarian and vegan options at B.B. Social Dining (and 3 out of the 4 of us were big meat eaters and vegetable haters). The meat options were good too, but it’s the rabbit food that was truly unforgettable. I’m still a little conflicted about some of the pricing and value for money in some instances, cases in point: AED 35 for a glass of elderflower sparkling water, AED 50 for a single bao, and AED 480 for Shabu Shabu (hotpot), sound absolutely outrageous to me. I would pay AED 95 for a single spoonful of food at Toro + Ko (the uni, Servuga caviar and quail egg), and that would more sense to me than AED 50 for a bao. That said, I do understand that this is Dubai, and more particularly this is DIFC, overheads are high here, and this is where people come to wine and dine and be fancy, even when pretending to be casual, so I guess it might satisfy the marginal utilities of the right target market.
The million dollar question: would I go back to B.B. Social Dining? Oh hell, yes.