Having a taste of home is a comfort most of us cherish and fondly remember. For many UAE residents, memories of home are intrinsically tied to local delicacies they might have taken for granted in their native countries – and street food plays a big part in these recollections. Soul Street at Five Jumeirah Village in Jumeirah Village Circle is an amalgamation of these memories rolled into a unique venue that offers patrons a destination away from the main buzz of Dubai’s inner city.
Usually, when one thinks of food venues, JVC doesn't naturally spring to mind, but that is changing as the city grows, with more neighbourhood eateries catering to localised residents who want a tranquil escape from driving across town. Soul Street has this in bounds.
What to expect and where to sit
The venue, situated on the fifth floor of the newly opened hotel in the centre of JVC, has a unique layout that hugs the circular architecture of the building. A round bar greets you at the entrance, where a dedicated mixologist whips up cocktails inspired by the different cuisines represented. Soul Street is essentially a sharing restaurant and serves reimagined dishes associated with street vendors from Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The restaurant decor, too, follows this journey with a layout that is broken into regional cues.
Behind the bar is the European section, followed by Latin America. Tucked away behind a majestically muralled pillar, one finds the Middle East section that segues into India and a richly decorated East Asian seating area, complete with shuttered street shops and a full cherry blossom tree with lanterns. This where we choose to set up base, although the swing set bench in Arabia and the rickshaw table in India are both excellent contenders.
The selection of dishes is at first daunting, with the choices presented in a tabloid-sized menu that takes the format of a newspaper. Our knowledgeable and very keen server, Atul, takes us through the options, and here is where the concept of Soul Street starts to shine. The menu has three sections broken up into salads and cold bites, hot bites, and big bites. It’s a web of mouth-watering options that reminds one of weaving through a dense city to find that perfect street vendor you read about on TripAdvisor.
The guacamole (Dh45) arrives at our table first. This one, though, has a hint of truffle that blends well with the soft avocado and salsa, and can be eaten scooped with tortilla chips made in-house. Next up is the tostones (Dh35), pan-fried plantain crackers topped with black bean sauce, pico de gallo, pickled cabbage, baladi cheese and chipotle aioli. This one comes with three on a plate, although most starters can be ordered with four diners in mind. Check with your waiter before ordering, though, to make sure everyone at the table gets a portion to try. Next up is an Indian classic, Mumbai pani puri (Dh40), served with masala, mint-flavoured water and tamarind chutney, flavours that burst in the mouth in an interesting fashion. We also try the flavourful raj kachori (Dh35); a staple of chaat shops in India, this semolina shell is packed with sweet yoghurt, pumpkin mash, and tamarind and mint chutneys. Dig into it as soon as it arrives, before the juices are all soaked into the shell, which makes it soggy.
For mains, we go with the lobster. Served in a paper tray in an authentic vendor method, the fresh 220-gram lobster tail is cooked, diced with coleslaw and stuffed into a bun until it's bursting. Prepare to get your fingers dirty if you want to enjoy every mouthful. The dish is served with homestyle-cut fries that make it filling and reminds me of diners along the North American coast
Dessert is worth saving some space for. We try the churros (Dh40), which come freshly made and piping hot, dipped in cinnamon sugar with a side of Nutella and raspberry coulis. The bestseller, however, is the kunafa cone (Dh40), a twist on the traditional Middle Eastern treat hailing from the alleyways and kanafeh stands of Nablus. This is jazzed up with pistachio, strawberry compote and sugar syrup.
Soul Street brings together different flavours, both traditional and innovative, from a range of regions. And it does this without being gimmicky in its approach.
The food is well prepared and blends with the atmosphere to create a relaxed dining experience best shared with friends over a beverage. The menu is engineered to be shared as one would in the street if you were exploring a destination with friends. It’s why the tacos el trio (Dh70) with its offering of beef, shrimp and chicken, packed into soft home-made tacos with tangy sauces and salsa to match, is a must-try. The Wagyu beef pho (Dh75), hailing from Vietnam with historical influences from China and Europe, is another hearty meal that will fill any belly happily, while the Philly cheesesteak (Dh75), served in a plump potato bun with abundant cheese and peppers, will be a firm favourite with sandwich-lovers.
A chat with the chef
Chef Jagjit Singh is a native of Delhi and has been in the UAE for the past four years. He draws heavily on inspiration from his team of chefs that span the breadth of his menu. “We have a chef from Mexico, we have people from Thailand, we have a guy from Nepal and, of course, from India. Since we have all come together and we have the food from our countries, we are trying to create a menu we can all enjoy together,” he says.
Chef Singh recommends the kathi roll made of omelette-coated roomali roti stuffed with chicken tikka, the fragrant tandoori lamb chops with mint sauce and, to round up the meal, the mango with sticky rice.
Price point and contact information
The big bites range from Dh45 to Dh115. Coupled with the starters, which are between Dh35 and Dh65, one can easily spend more than planned. This, though, is quickly taken care of at the table when the bill arrives. After all, this is a sharing concept. Soul Street is open from 5pm, and tables can be booked on 04 248 9989.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant