By Debbie Rogers: When team FoodeMag heard about Siraj, a newly opened restaurant offering Levantine and Emirati food, we had to pop in for lunch to check it out. We are always on the hunt for good Emirati food, specially as the city doesn’t yet have too many options for Emirati fare, and therefore Siraj not only intrigued our interests but also our taste buds!
The Concept of Siraj
The menu is created by Executive Chef Ahmad Al Fakir (who we have previously met while he was at Qbara), is packed with organic ingredients and authentic tastes with a modern twist. He told us that he has worked on the development of the menu for over six months, taking inspiration from recipes passed on by older generations and adding his own personal experiences for the contemporary twist to the traditional dishes. We loved our dining experience in Siraj – the aroma of freshly baked Arabic Bread at the entrance of the restaurant, along with the displays of organic jams and pickles are all very enticing and comforting. The food is traditional yet served with a modern twist, the awe-inspiring interiors and a landmark location make this a great venue for taking visitors who want to taste traditional food and at the same me tick the ‘things-to-see-in-Dubai’ list – the Dubai fountains and of course, the Burj Khalifa!
What we loved: We started off with a dish of traditional hummus paired with gorgeous fluffy bread along with a beautifully presented (and delicious) Grilled Eggplant Mutabal and a Labneh with Smoked Salmon (you may add caviar here at an extra cost!), followed by a rather interesting dish of Warm Dates & Kale Salad where, the dates had been slow cooked in Arabic ghee and topped with Syrian string cheese. The Signature Halawa Salad followed soon along with the Lobster Kebbeh, the later clearly being one dish that we had been looking forward to.
Our Mains included a Chicken Biryani (cooked in a ‘dum’ wrapped inside a dough resembling much like the pao), Grilled Veal Chops and Grilled Seabass. The veal chops served with dried curry potatoes and zaatar pesto was definitely our clear favourite pick of the day as was the simple comforting dish of potatoes – Siraj Potatoes cooked in the family style of the restaurant’s founder, Heba Rumhein.
Although we were rather full and asked for a dessert to share, Chef Fakir and the restaurant’s notion of Arabic hospitality ensured that we tasted more than just one! The Dates Crème Brulée was light and crispy, both the Logaymat (also popularly known as leqaimat) and Sticky Dates Pudding affectionately sticky, all the desserts hit the right sweetness quotient although the Sticky Dates pudding with the caramel sauce was our firm favourite!
Drinks in the menu do call for some attention. The Mango Chat Masala with fresh chilli which was a big hit, with fresh red chilli stirred in for an added kick for those feeling extra brave! There are plenty of other interesting options to try – Pomegranate Champagne, the Arabian Delight with dates, almonds and rose syrup or the Toffee Dates Delight with espresso, chocolate, dates and whipped cream – the later acting as a worthy end-of-meal dessert substitute. And speaking of my final thirst quencher – coffee, Siraj offers two different types of Turkish coffee as well as an Emirati and Saudi blend of Arabic coffee. All check boxes checked!
Siraj is located in Souq Al Bahar in Downtown Dubai, a quick walk from our office at Impact Hub. Once inside, we loved the modern contemporary feel that combined effortlessly with the rich Arabic touches. Starting with the beautiful long bar area, or the large display of a coffee pot in the middle of the restaurant and the different family style banquet seating areas, there is a lot of light streaming in imparting a bright feel to the restaurant and there are plenty of aesthetic touches to please the eye. Outdoors, there is a terrace with views of the Dubai Fountains – perfect once the weather cools down for the discerning Dubai residents and tourists.
Iftar (AED 190/person) and Suhour menus (a la carte) available throughout Ramadan from sunset to 1:30am
Siraj Level 2, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai; Reservations: +971 4 457 4063 / firstname.lastname@example.org
[Images: Debbie Rogers & Ishita B Saha]