Emirati restaurant Al Mashowa in Dubai’s City Walk is serving a buffet iftar for Ramadan, consisting of as many courses as one can feasibly manage. The extensive spread offers everything from soups and salads to stews, grilled meats and a hearty selection of traditional desserts.
What to expect and where to sit
Be prepared to start your iftar with a bang (just don’t have a full drink in hand if you’re of a nervous temperament), courtesy of the cannon just outside the restaurant, next to a tranquil water feature. The authentic experience does set the tone for the evening, which is mostly focused around traditional Emirati dishes, with a little twist.
The decor nods to the Emirates’s history and culture, with lanterns adorning tables, salt and pepper holders in the shape of dhows, embroidered fabrics covering trestle tables and a wooden boat frame hanging from the ceiling.
The inside of the eatery is pleasingly spacious, with tables sat far enough apart to ensure an intimate evening, without hearing the ins and outs of your fellow diners' conversations. There is also a selection of seating options outside, which are scattered with guests when we visit on a weekday. On a less humid evening, they'd make an ideal choice for a little people-watching, with the restaurant located right in the beating heart of City Walk, alongside the Roxy Cinema and Hub Zero.
Al Mashowa's iftar is a serve-yourself occasion (though staff are on hand whenever you need help, and make speedy work of clearing plates). A printed menu outlines the dishes on offer, and everything is also clearly marked on tables that line the restaurant's interior. Drinks and soups are laid out towards the entrance, while mezze and mains are towards the rear, to the side of the sweet treats.
Al Mashowa may be renowned for its seafood offerings when it comes to its a la carte menu, but the iftar selection is a more carnivorous affair. We start with a holy month staple, a date washed down with a glass of Vimto, before heaping up our plates with fresh mezze. The hummus is satisfyingly tangy – they don’t scrimp on the lemon or tahini here – as is a crunchy fattoush and lightly sweetened beetroot salad. The Arabic bread is still soft and slightly puffed (which you won’t always find at a buffet), and the lentil soup is particularly warming.
The menu, to our happy surprise, fuses Emirati fare with that of India’s, with samosas and pakoras served alongside falafel, moutabal and mixed pickles. The fried snacks add a little heat to the flavourful but not spicy mezze, although are disappointingly soggy on the outside, as if they’ve been left to sit rather that served fresh out of the sizzling pan.
For our second round, generous hunks of piquante tandoori chicken tingle the palate; the balance of spices may be expert, but unfortunately most dishes are served lukewarm. An excellent fiery chutney does add a certain warmth to proceedings.
The baby lamb is cooked to perfection, though lacking a little seasoning; the same could not be said of the machboos rice, with each little fluffy grain masterfully coated in a cinnamon spice blend, and cashews adding a little extra crunch. The djej bel foren is also rich on the palate, the buttery chicken and sliced potatoes given a garlicky bite, but not overwhelmingly so.
The desserts round off the extensive menu, tempering the spicier dishes with plates of creamy, oozy milk cake, tangy fresh pineapples, luqaimat dripping in sugar syrup, and a crispy coated kunafa.
While the flame-grilled chunks of tandoori chicken were particularly enjoyable, the dish of the night had to be an exceptional Umm Ali. Not tooth-achingly sweet, yet expertly enlivened with cinnamon, served warm and with just the right amount of nuts and fruit. A truly moreish end to the evening (we even went back for seconds).
A chat with the chef
Executive chef Bilal Saleh has also devised the menus of City Walk’s Sikka Cafe and Qasr Al Sultan in Jebel Ali as part of his work with Meraas. Previously, he was head chef at Olea at the Kempinski Hotel at Mall of the Emirates, and has also worked at Al Nafoorah at Jumeirah Emirates Tower.
Saleh says Al Mashowa's iftar menu was designed to focus on "home-made authentic Emirati food made of locally sourced ingredients and spices. It is carefully curated and deeply inspired by mothers' recipes which will definitely make guest feel at home," he adds, citing his favourite main dish as the lamb machboos.
Value for money and contact info
At Dh132 per person, diners certainly get an abundant feed courtesy of the all-inclusive menu (on the typical a la carte menu, the machboos alone is Dh71), and there are enough appetisers, sides, salads and breads to create an ample four or five courses. Compared to some of the Dh200+ iftar menus around Dubai, Al Mashowa’s pricing feels exceptionally reasonable considering the quantity.
For reservations, contact Al Mashowa on 04 5905 455.
This iftar was reviewed at the invitation of the restaurant