Owner of Special Ostadi Restaurant in Dubai dies; customers pay touching tributes on social media

Posted on the restaurant front, the note reads: “On the sudden death of our beloved father, the restaurant will be closed until further notice."

Mohammed Ali Ansari, left,  pictured with Majeed Ali Ansari in 2013, at their family-run Special Ostadi restaurant in 2013.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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For years, UAE residents have visited the Special Ostadi Restaurant in Bur Dubai, most of them lingering over their kebabs and tea to chat with the owner, Mohammed Al Ansari, who opened it way back in 1978.

So when customers recently found the family-owned Iranian eatery shut, with a notice about the death of Al Ansari, 84, they took to social media to pay their condolences.

Posted on August 10 on the restaurant front, the note reads: “On the sudden death of our beloved father, the restaurant will be closed until further notice.”

Kevin Sebastian, a 25-year-old Dubai resident, says there is an old-world charm to the Iranian restaurant, which has maintained a steady 4.5-star rating on user-generated websites such as Zomato and TripAdvisor.

“It’s like going back to an older time in Dubai,” he says, adding that he frequents Ostadi for the succulent grilled meat. “If there’s any place that makes the best joujeh kabab, it’s Special Ostadi.”

Arva Ahmed, co-founder of Frying Pan Adventures that organises food trails in Dubai, says the restaurant is an institution and a part of the food history of the place. “You could always feel his presence there,” she says. “You’d see his sons serving, and he would be sitting at the back, overseeing the entire operation. He was like a permanent fixture.

“Step inside the restaurant and on the right are antiques and photos. The entire place is plastered with posters and full of memorabilia. Every table has a glass top under which there were old bank notes, which I believe he [Al Ansari] collected.”

Slava Noor posted a picture of the notice on Facebook with the comment: “I just found out that the founder of my fav family owned Iranian restaurant “Special Ostadi” has passed away. I will truly miss saying hello to him every time I passed by on the way home and his kind smile. RIP.”

The 28-year-old photographer says she had a very dear relationship with the owner.

“I did not know his name but he always smiled at me. He would put his hand on his heart and wave at me.”

She says when she saw the sign a few days ago, she was saddened. “Going there has always felt like I was visiting my uncle’s home. Everyone is so friendly and it has such a relaxed atmosphere.”