The sambosa plate, top, was a winner at Osha, a tranquil Emirati restaurant in Masdar City. Delores Johnson / The National
The sambosa plate, top, was a winner at Osha, a tranquil Emirati restaurant in Masdar City. Delores Johnson / The National

Abu Dhabi’s Osha restaurant serves up classic Emirati dishes done right with a few twists

A few years ago, if you wanted an authentic taste of Emirati cuisine, you had to be fortunate enough to get invited into someone’s home.

Now, with more and more Emirati restaurants opening across the country, diners should have no trouble finding authentic local dishes such as balaleet, khameer, batheetha and legimat.

When I visited Osha Emirati Restaurant in Masdar City for a midweek lunch, there was only one other couple dining there. The restaurant is quiet, almost tranquil, and despite speakers hanging from the ceiling, there was no music playing during my visit.

The venue has 10 light, wooden square tables, contrasted by bright-red chairs, in the small dining area. There are also a handful of private majlis seating areas that can be closed off with curtains. Two bright-red chic chandeliers hang over the majlis area, while artwork on the walls depicts scenes of Arabian life from years gone by.

The concrete floor and exposed black pipes give a trendy, industrial feel. There’s a large bookshelf – an ersatz wall – that divides the dining area, with an assortment of books in English and Arabic, many of which focus on life and architecture in the UAE.

Overall, the space is a well- executed attempt at blending the old with the new.

There is a selection of ryoog (breakfast) combinations on the menu. The ryoog osha is an Emirati breakfast with balaleet, chebab and egg with tomato and chami dates. The ryoog Mumbai is an Indian breakfast of chickpea curry, vegetable curry, lentil curry and minced-meat keema (along with a description that reads “simple dishes home-cooked by my Indian nanny Kumari with love and passion”).

While you will find several dishes that are not traditionally Emirati on Osha’s menu, you’ll find plenty of authentic tastes from the country, such as chebab, chami and dates, maleh salad (aged, salted king fish), harees (a ground wheat and meat dish), jasheed (shark), sambosas and much more.

The menu is a playground of authentic Emirati spices and flavours and it’s a good education for the uninitiated.

I started with a quartet of sambosas (Dh20), which were surprisingly good. A step up from standard sambosas, the shells were perfectly flaky and crispy.

The mint-infused cheese sambosa was light and fresh, the chicken variety was tender and fragrant, while the vegetable option was packed with Arabic spices and was the most flavourful – and my favourite – of the bunch. The meat sambosa was average and fell short on flavour – it was the only one I didn’t finish.

They came with a thick, sweet date and spicy-chilli dip, which added another level of interest to this classic appetiser.

In hindsight, I should have stuck with a traditional Emirati dish for my main, but my friendly server suggested a new dish on the menu: salmon teriyaki (Dh55). It was a generous, thick portion of salmon, while the teriyaki sauce was tasty and not overly sweet. However, the fillet bordered on boring and simply failed to leave a lasting impression – though I loved the side of sautéed leeks and mushrooms. Unfortunately, it also came with mashed potatoes that were unforgettable – for all the wrong reasons. The mound, mixed with dill, was glue-like and inedible. Overwhipping can murder mashed potatoes and perhaps that’s what happened here.

I also tried the camel pizza (Dh55), just to say I did. I loved the thin, crispy crust and the simple red sauce, but the minced camel meat on the eight-slice pie was mild-flavoured and underwhelming.

Sambosas aside, my meal was bordering on forgettable – but then the sticky date pudding (Dh36) arrived. This rich, thick, moist date cake was covered with a thin layer of date syrup, and the vanilla ice cream it was served with was doused in pistachio bits and toffee sauce. Both were set atop soft, wispy layers of white candy floss, which added a surprising bit of playfulness and texture to the dessert. I loved every bite – this is a must-try item.

The chefs at Osha are clearly proud of what they’re sending out and it shows in the careful presentation of each dish. The food was a bit hit-and-miss – but if you’re in the area anyway, Osha is worth a visit.

Heed my advice, however, and stick to the classic Emirati options – it’s clearly what Osha does best.

• The meal, enough to feed two, cost Dh171. For more information, call 02 555 3575. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito.


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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”


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