With the holy month of Ramadan just round the corner, I was invited to Al Maeda restaurant to preview their Iftar selection. For the uninitiated, Ramadan is a time when Muslims the world over abstain from all food, drinks and other physical needs. It a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Iftar is essentially the breaking of ones fast after the sunset prayers – usually in the company of close family or relatives.
Having lived a few years in the UAE, I have come to expect that most hotels and restaurants have an Iftar offering around this time of the year – generally in a buffet style setting. Al Maeda is no different – located at Double Tree by Hilton and boasting a splendid view of the JBR beach – what sets its Iftar offering apart from the competition is the fact that it is completely traditional, authentic and proves to be a worthy torchbearer of Arabic hospitality.
From the minute you walk in, you are enveloped by a sense of familiarity – as if you are in your comfort zone, in your home. The staff are friendly, always on hand to guide you – especially when I needed help trying to understand some of the dishes. The decor is tasteful; with Arabic accents visible everywhere you look.
Reminiscent of oneâs family dining area, where dishes are laid out on a long table – Al Maeda seems to have taken this literally to heart – as is evident in the way the unbelievable spread of Levantine cuisine is showcased – a feast for the eyes, with the dishes presented beautifully – and the food being flavoursome.
A special mention for the open kitchen where you can view fresh bread being baked and the aroma’s emanating from there is sure to get you salivating in no time.
From the myriad of dishes on offer, there were 3 that particularly held my interest – so much so that I helped myself to a second serving. I simply love eggplant and the Baba Ghanoush (roasted eggplant spread, eaten with pita bread) ticked all the right boxes.
Chicken majbous, put simply is a dish of rice and meat – an Arabian take on the Indian biryani – but I can assure you in texture and taste, there is a world of difference. The rice was cooked perfectly, and the chicken virtually fell apart in my mouth. Definite winner, and highly recommended.
Hearty comfort meets healthy eating in the dish they call Chermoula Fish – which roughly translates to fish prepared with a fragrant blend of Moroccan seasonings. The scent that engulfs you when you approach the dish is just fabulous! A complete delight to the senses.
No meal can be ended without feasting on the array of desserts on offer. There was virtually every kind of dessert available – ranging from traditional Arabic classics like the Umm Ali (a concoction of almonds, pistachio, bread and condensed milk) and cone shaped cheese katayef (deep fried, stuffed in cheese and soaked in syrup) to westernised offerings such as Mango pannacota and chocolate cakes.
I reckon the traditional dishes on offer, coupled with fantastic Arabic hospitality and the homely interiors warrants Al Maeda to put on your list of places to visit this Ramadan.