Ramadan 2018: international iftars to try in the UAE

Once you’ve had your fill of traditional hummus, kibbe, ouzi and Umm Ali at this year’s iftar tables and tents, sample these eight menus that draw from world cuisines with a tasty and nutritious twist

Courtesy Miss Lily's
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Iftars in the UAE are not restricted to traditional Arabic food and sweets, as these eight restaurants amply prove. These include lentils and lean protein at Le Petite Maison, Mexican-flavoured coriander, cumin, cinnamon and clove dishes at Peyote, and a veritable spread of Japanese food at Atisuto and Peruvian treats at Coya. Take your pick from these and more intercontinental flavours and choose from set menus and à la carte options to sharing platters and buffets.

Jamaican at Miss Lily’s

The colourful decor and cheery vibe at Miss Lily’s lends itself well to this unique iftar, which is a cross between Caribbean staples and Middle Eastern spices. The most intriguing item on the menu is ackee moutabal with Scotch bonnet beef, which gives an Arabic twist to Jamaica’s national fruit, and is made up of chargrilled eggplant infused with ackee and meat, and garnished with allspice and pine nuts.

Also on offer are a roasted red pepper, pumpkin and harissa soup with a drizzle of labneh, sumac and coriander; an ital stew with sweet potato, yam, red peas, coconut and jasmine rice. For dessert, choose from a tropical fruits eclair and a fried pistachio and date ice cream with nuts and berries.

Chef Dharan Rana says of the menu: “A large ­population of Jamaicans observes Ramadan, so we wanted to create a traditional Caribbean iftar, giving an unexpected ­Jamaican twist to ­traditional recipes. This menu was planned to highlight a oneness through a ­marriage of spices and ­cooking styles privy to both cultures, using ingredients such as the Scotch bonnet [chilli ­pepper], allspice pimento, ackee, sumac, pine nuts, tahini and labneh. Jamaica and the Middle East also have some cultural similarities in their approach to dining as communal affair, and this is definitely a key aspect for our iftar,” he says.

Miss Lily’s is located at Sheraton Grand Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. The iftar is priced at Dh190 per person. To make a reservation, call 04 356 2900.

Peruvian at Coya

Beetroot causa at Coya
Beetroot causa at Coya

The iftar menu at one of Dubai’s most loved Latin American eateries is both nutritious and also upholds its dedication to authentic Peruvian fare. The meal starts with a selection of three soups: Peruvian bean, corn gazpacho and cream of Peruvian corn.

Soups are accompanied by sharing platters of kale salad, corn salad, chicken taco, sea bass croquettes, beef bao, beetroot causa, chicken anticucho and setas anticucho.

For mains, choose from one of four options: succulent baby chicken, spicy short rib, salmon fillet, or papa mushroom with sides of cream corn and green salad. Complete the meal with a date and honey pudding for dessert.

Coya Dubai’s iftar menu costs Dh289 per person. Call 04 316 9600. Coya Abu Dhabi is closed for renovations.

Chinese at Hakkasan

Dim sum at Hakkasan
Dim sum at Hakkasan

Drawing from some of its most popular Cantonese dishes, Hakkasan in Abu Dhabi and Dubai has a four-course set iftar menu for Dh228 per person.

The meal starts with Arabic sweets, followed by starter options such as hot and sour soup, signature Peking duck and a selection of steamed dim sum. Mains include stir-fry tiger prawns in spicy lemongrass sauce, five-spice-braised Wagyu beef ribs, and olive and chicken fried rice, while desserts are kept simple with homemade sorbets.

“This year, I wanted to use dishes that are great for sharing – such as our Peking duck and Wagyu ribs – as this is what Ramadan is all about,” says Andy Toh Chye Siong, executive chef of Hakkasan Dubai.

To make a reservation at Hakkasan at Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, call 02 690 7999; and for the Dubai branch at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, call 04 384 8484.

Fusion Indian at Farzi Cafe

Kunafa nest at Farzi Cafe
Kunafa nest at Farzi Cafe

Farzi Cafe puts its signature gastronomic twists on even the simplest of dishes this Ramadan, with a set iftar menu that includes chicken tikka pockets, cottage cheese scrambled tarts and curry leaf prawns served in a coconut shell with thayir sadam (curd rice), which can be eaten either hot or cold. “There are two elements in the dish, one which brings out the heat in the prawns through black pepper, while yogurt cools it down and is also used to temper the rice,” says restaurateur Zorawar Kalra. “The main course includes pearl barley haleem, as well as an old classic that which was once a popular meal among army squads, the Country Captain Chicken and Iranian Berry Pulao, which will be served in a classic tiffin box popularly used by the dabbawalas of Mumbai,” he adds.

Dessert is equally innovative, and includes kunafa served with chena pais, nestled in a crispy bird’s nest with hot rabri.

The iftar menu at this City Walk restaurant costs Dh130 per person; call 04 394 2556 to reserve a table.

Mexican at Peyote

Black bean soup at Peyote
Black bean soup at Peyote

The DIFC restaurant has two iftar offerings this Ramadan. For Dh125 per person, you get five starter plates to share, plus a portion of churros for dessert; and for Dh198, you can add a main course.

The mezze of five plates includes: frijol with tortilla, a black bean soup with avocado and sour cream; coriander and jalapeño hummus; huauzontle patties with eggplant and feta dip; and ensalada de trigo y aguacate, which has bulghur wheat, fresh leaves, jalapeño, tomato and avocado with lime and tajin vinaigrette. For mains, choose from pollo con mole de camote baby chicken with sweet potato, pineapple mole and fennel relish, or mixiote lamb stew with filo pastry, adobo and pickled onions. These come with sides of arroz and lentejas (green lentils, rice and crispy onions) and fideo seco (short noodles, tomato, chipotle sauce and fried plantain).

“Our iftar plates are a nod to some classic flavours used in Mexican gastronomy, which were originally brought to Spain from the Middle East, including coriander, cumin, cinnamon and clove,” says chef Walter Melo.

Alongside, enjoy beverages such as hibiscus juice, tamarind agua fresca and labneh, plus a mocktail with green apple, pineapple, tamarind, vanilla and mint, designed by Al Jalila ­Foundation, which will receive Dh10 per iftar purchased. Call 04 521 6300 to book.

Japanese at Atisuto

The Atisuto iftar for one person. Courtesy Atisuto
The Atisuto iftar for one person. Courtesy Atisuto

“Japanese cuisine is all about balance; this is particularly important during Ramadan,” says Joylyn Guilan, brand head chef at Atisuto Restaurants. “Just as soup is traditionally eaten at iftar, our menus start with a miso soup, which stimulates digestion and energises the body by helping to replenish some of the fluids lost during the day. Of course, it’s not Atisuto if there’s no sushi – in this instance, vegetarian sushi provides a valuable source of carbohydrates and is served alongside a choice of protein-rich main courses for a nourishing and delicious way to break the fast.”

This year, Atisuto has two five-course meal plans. The individual menu is priced at Dh95 and includes: dates and miso soup; miso aubergine, chicken gyoza, spring rolls, salmon belly yakitori and ebi tempura for starters (pictured); a sushi platter with California rolls, mango red pepper rolls, salmon sushi and tuna maki; a choice of mains from katsu don, salmon don, chicken or beef ramen noodles or vegetarian tofu yakisoba; and for dessert, a traditional Japanese half milk cake.

The sharing menu, which can serve up to five people costs Dh349, and includes five in-house drinks; dates and miso soup; a starter platter with chicken yakitori, spring rolls and Japanese salad; a sushi platter; a choice of main course from among chicken don buri, chicken ramen, beef ramen, salmon teriyaki don, chicken tantanmen, wanton men, chirasi or vegetable yakisoba; and a choice of dessert – date cake, matcha cake or spring festival cheesecake. The iftar menu is available at Atisuto branches at The ­Galleria Mall, Al Ghurair Centre, Bay Square at Business Bay and Ibn Battuta. To make a reservation, call 800 284 7886.

Mediterranean at Le Petite Maison

Sea bass at Le Petit Maison
Sea bass at Le Petit Maison

Lean protein, heathy carbs and high fibre are in focus at the French bistro’s à la carte iftar menu, with all dishes made from fresh and non-GMO ingredients.

According to head chef Rory Duncan: “Muslims who are observing the fast are recommended to eat extra dairy and protein to help stave off hunger the following day. Your body uses amino acids from protein to create energy and to repair itself. Healthy and organic protein-rich foods, which are a key part of our iftar menu, help to slow down the stomach and can help to ward off hunger pangs.” The iftar menu at La Petite Maison Abu Dhabi and Dubai starts with complimentary dates and soup, followed by lentil salad and quinoa tabbouleh. LPM’s famed warm prawns are also part of the menu. “Prawns are a good source of omega as well as unsaturated fat, which can help to improve your blood cholesterol levels when you eat them in place of saturated or trans fats.”

The mains include French baby chicken with lemon marinade, grilled lamb cutlets marinated in Kalamata olive sauce, grilled veal chops with sage leaf stuffed with anchovies, and salt-baked sea bass (pictured), plus gnocchi dumplings dressed in a cherry tomato sauce with fresh Italian basil. Dessert is cheesecake with berry compote.

The Galleria Mall Abu Dhabi branch will reopen on June 3, reservations can be made by calling 02 692 9600; for the DIFC branch, call 04 439 0505.

All things chocolate at Cocoa Kitchen

Lamb shank at Cocoa Kitchen
Lamb shank at Cocoa Kitchen

Mixing sweet and savoury, this innovative iftar menu pairs traditional dishes with high-quality chocolate. At Dh129 per person, you get Sardinian music bread with 70 per cent citrus-­infused Dominican Republic chocolate nibs, plus a choice of two mezze from among: hummus with lemon, coriander, 70 per cent Cuban chocolate shavings, rose harissa, ­barrel-aged feta and parsley oil; moutabel with pomegranate, parsley and bitter cocoa nibs, both served with toasted cocoa nib pita bread; tabbouleh with parsley, tomato, cracked wheat, rainbow leaves, lemon juice, olive oil, and seasoned with Peruvian cocoa nibs; crispy fried falafel with sesame seeds, served with 70 per cent Cuban chocolate mole sauce, tahini and cocoa nib salt; and free-range Turkish poached eggs with garlic, cocoa nib labneh and chilli oil.

For mains, choose one from among: balsamic and sumac slow-cooked lamb shank with 70 per cent Cuban chocolate and roasted Romano peppers; blackened salmon with 65 per cent Peruvian Alto El Sol dark chocolate miso; and butternut squash with 100 per cent cocoa ravioli, ricotta, pine nuts, Parmesan and cocoa nib tuiles. Desserts ­include either a pistachio milk cake with 35 per cent milk chocolate from Papua New Guinea or a saffron milk cake with 34 per cent Zéphyr white chocolate.

The restaurant is located at City Walk and can be contacted on 04 343 2506.