Restaurant review: Studio Masr, World Trade Center Mall, Abu Dhabi

Studio Masr in World Trade Centre Mall produces some notable mains, but don't expect a fast meal here.
Freekoto, with chicken, mushrooms and cheese. Courtesy Studio Masr
Freekoto, with chicken, mushrooms and cheese. Courtesy Studio Masr

When I saw that Studio Masr – a restaurant specialising in Egyptian food – had opened in Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Center Mall, I grabbed a friend and hurried over.

The restaurant is filled with photos of Egyptian films and film stars, a nod to the iconic Egyptian film studio the restaurant is named after.

This all would have been more interesting if the waiters could have expounded the significance of the photos and decor, but the staff were uninterested, to say the least.

The restaurant is disjointed, with two distinct halves separated by a long hallway. The space is almost too open and, halfway through our meal, we decided it would be nicer if there were walls to seclude us from the mall; my view was the Axiom Telecom shop.

Despite the restaurant being nearly empty, the service was painstakingly slow. We were forced to wait far longer than was necessary to place our orders for each course. And after waiting more than 30 minutes for the bill, I had to hunt down our server to request it. If you’re looking for a quick meal in a mall, this isn’t it.

But if you’re looking for interesting food – and a break from typical mall food – Studio Masr should be on your list.

The restaurant serves Egyptian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. When asked, the waiter suggested I try their most popular appetiser: chicken livers with garlic and lemon sauce.

My friend chose besara, a hummus-like dish made of crushed fava beans, parsley, leek, dill, onion, peppers, cumin, coriander and mulukhiyah (jute leaves).

It was dark green, pasty and it did not look appetising. But looks can be deceiving. The vibrant flavours seemed to evolve with each bite. Paired with warm baladi bread, this is a dish you’ll remember.

I can’t say the same about the chicken livers. Had I not had chicken livers before (and liked them), I would have thought organ meat was simply not for me, but alas, I knew better.

My immediate impression of the livers: this is what it would taste like if you scraped the burnt bits off a dirty grill grate and ate them. Maybe it was just an off night for the livers. Our waiter saw my untouched appetiser, but never asked if I liked it (nor did he clear the dish from the table).

Thankfully, my main dish of freekoto tagen was a gift. Baked in a clay pot (a tagine), the dish is a blend of freek (wheat grain) cooked with chicken and mushrooms and topped with melted Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

The baked cheese combined with the soft mushrooms and the gritty texture of the grain was comfort food at its finest. For mall food, this dish has to rate among the best.

My friend’s siyadya fish tagen was also a tasty choice. The waiter told us it was a Vietnamese fish, but could provide no further details.

There is a long list of desserts to choose from and, of the two we chose, the Umm Ali (Egyptian bread pudding) was our favourite, though the kashtaleya with dates also proved itself worthy.

It was the mains at Studio Masr that won me over and convinced me I’ll need to return to explore the rest of the extensive menu – but only when I have time to spare.

The service needs drastic improvement and will require more patience than many of us have.

• A meal for two at Studio Masr, World Trade Center Mall, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh187. Call 02 635 1609. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito

Published: July 9, 2014 04:00 AM


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