The macrobiotic method of healthy eating at Dubai’s Comptoir 102

The Dubai cafe Comptoir 102 is leading the way in the art of leading a macrobiotic lifestyle, which goes beyond food.

The chef Eva Barril at work on a macrobiotic dish. Razan Alzayani / The National
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Born out of a boutique offering the latest trends in art, fashion, accessories and interior design, a year after opening, Comptoir 102 cafe in Jumeirah delivers the kind of fresh, inventive and surprising food that you’ll talk about long after you leave.

And now this: a newly unveiled macrobiotic menu, designed by the chef Eva Barril. Hailing from Barcelona, Chef Eva began studying macrobiotics five years ago. Her son, who was two years old at the time, was suffering from long-term digestive problems. She wasn’t feeling well, either.

“I was very stressed and had a bloated stomach every time I ate,” she says. “Doctors did many tests on my son and me and they told us ­everything was OK.”

Then Barril found and adopted the macrobiotic philosophy and immediately felt better. It worked for her son, too. Now she teaches macrobiotic cooking classes. She’s also a consultant working with restaurants and cafes like Comptoir 102 to bring macrobiotics to the masses.

The macrobiotic diet is not a diet per se, but a way to live a balanced life, starting first with food. Chef Eva explains: “It’s based on the philosophy that food is our best medicine and it should be applied depending on the condition and constitution of each person.”

A main element of the diet is whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. Another large component is leafy green, round and root vegetables. Meat, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, coffee, processed food and refined flour are off limits. Even fruit is to be enjoyed only sparingly.

If you think macrobiotic food won’t please the palate, think again. The intense combinations of flavours in Barril’s 11 original recipes featured at the cafe are simply mouth-watering. “What I’m trying to show is that you can eat healthy and enjoy yourself at the same time,” she says.

The miso-pumpkin soup is sweet, rich and a nice way to awaken your appetite before a meal. The mains include a tofu scramble with leeks, nori and capers, miso mackerel with nori rice, and polenta pizza topped with sweet onions and mushrooms. But the standout is the sweet-and-sour quinoa salad, a blend of sweet potatoes, snow peas, asparagus, hazelnuts and feta cheese – the perfect combination of nutty and sweet. For dessert, try the strawberry agar mousse or the winter fruit with sweet, silken tofu.

Designed with taste in mind, the new menu not only nourishes the body, but also the senses. As one taster puts it: “It tastes like it’s naughty, but it’s not naughty at all.” That’s good news, because it’s difficult to leave any food on the plate.

The owners of Comptoir 102 – Alexandra de Montaudouin and Emma Sawko – are confident that customers will appreciate the attention to detail in the new menu. De Montaudouin says: “Chef Eva has brought new ingredients ... upgrading a bit what we’ve already done. It’s really nice to learn something new and to bring something new to Comptoir 102.”

• Comptoir 102 is on Jumeirah Beach Road in Jumeirah 1, Dubai. The cafe is open every day from 8.30am to 6.30pm. The boutique closes at 7pm

A recipe for healthy eating

The chef Eva Barril from Comptoir 102 cafe shares her recipe for sweet-and-sour quinoa salad


1 cup quinoa

2 medium sweet potatoes

100g snow peas

100g baby ­asparagus

3 tbsp fresh oregano

1 clove garlic


160g feta cheese, broken into chunks



Mineral sea salt

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp umeboshi paste

2 tbsp rice syrup

1 tbsp apple syrup


• Preheat oven to 200°C. Peel and dice sweet potatoes into 2cm chunks. Spread in a baking pan. Drizzle 2 tbsp oil on top and ­sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 35 minutes, until tender.

• Place hazelnuts in a baking pan and roast for 20 minutes.

• In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa, 2 cups of water and ½ tsp mineral sea salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for five minutes. Then, let it cool.

• In a pan with salted water, boil the snow peas for one minute or until tender. Drain well and transfer to a bowl.

• Heat the remaining oil in a small frying pan. Fry the garlic to infuse the oil for about 30 seconds or until light golden. Add the oregano and stir for about 30 seconds. Watch to ensure that the garlic or herbs don’t burn. Remove the garlic and pour contents of the pan over the quinoa.

• Next, add the sweet potato, feta, hazelnuts and snow peas to the quinoa. Toss everything together gently with the dressing, being careful not to mush the sweet potatoes or the feta. Serve at room temperature, garnished with parsley.


Mix the ­umeboshi paste, rice syrup, apple syrup and lemon zest together; add the olive oil, stirring well. If it’s too thick, add 1 tbsp water. Make your own apple syrup by reducing 1 cup of apple juice to a syrupy texture.