With Claw BBQ, the catch is in the food

Claw is still in its infancy and the food just needs refining rather than rethinking.

On a recent Friday night, Claw BBQ in Dubai's Souk Al Bahar was packed to the rafters with high-spirited groups seated at long tables groaning under the weight of food and drink.
Colourful paraphernalia from American football flags to ship buoys, fairy lights and fishing nets covered the walls and ceiling of the BBQ-Crabshack-Grill, while, somewhat distractingly, Dr Oz stared down at us from plasma screens dotted around the open-plan bar.
My companion and I left the ordering of house specialities to our friendly servers, Phillip and Sandra. Sharing combos of mini crab claws and eye-wateringly spicy buffalo shrimps soon arrived. Passable but let down by sloppy presentation was the Nacho Libre appetiser. Though it surely had best-selling potential, a mound of almost cheese-less nachos, guacamole and excessive raw onion concealed a decent-tasting chilli beneath.
Next came our shared main, dubbed Crabapalooza and described as "the ultimate crab feast of blue, snow and king crab legs", with a price tag of Dh185. I had high expectations. I was crestfallen when it was eventually served.
Lacking all finesse, spiny legs of the regal crustaceans had been tossed into a dull metal dish with three dry segments of potato and a tiny chunk of corn cob. The drawn butter sauce was cold, appeared not fully clarified and would have benefited from a hint of garlic or lemon to kick it up a notch.
Substituting for blue crab, which was off the menu, were prized mud-crab legs. Despite our best efforts the pencil-thin back limbs were too meagre for us to extract any meat out of and we gave up. Having only had a few mouthfuls of seafood, we ordered the daily catch and a Texas beef brisket to fill the void.
While the meat sandwich was swimming in a sauce bordering on saccharine, the side-serving of oversized onion rings was a delight. The grilled red snapper was overpowered by its spicy seasoning and the cold salad competed for plate space with the hot food.
To his credit, having noticed how we were somewhat underwhelmed by the cuisine, Phillip delivered us a complimentary serving of - the afore missing - mud crab's front claws. Piping hot and deliciously meaty, now, albeit too late, we were getting somewhere.
Of the desserts, the cheesecake could have been half the size and still feed an army.
As for the banana burrito, after struggling to cut through its fried, sweet tortilla exterior with a fork, my guest resorted to scooping out the fruity filling and enjoying the chocolate sauce.
I'm loath to say more about Claw BBQ because it's still in its infancy and the food just needs refining rather than rethinking. I also get the overwhelming impression that the staff - both kitchen and front-of-house - want nothing more than to please their patrons. Indeed, the Southern hospitality we received from start to finish, completely enveloped us.
If Claw BBQ is on your must-try list, be sure to book early, dress down and leave your preconceptions at the door.
Would I go back? Possibly, yes, but with a gaggle of girls for an alternative evening with the emphasis on fun, not fancy fare. After all, where else in Dubai will you be served drinks in a jam jar, be trussed up in a plastic bib and have the option of riding a mechanical bull to test your stomach's retentive powers?
A meal for two at Claw BBQ costs Dh904 inclusive of 10 per cent municipality & 10 per cent service. All reviews are conducted incognito and meals are paid for by The National
. To book a table at Claw BBQ, Souk Al Bahar, Dubai, call 04 432 2300 or go to www.clawbbq.com
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