Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fermenting things - chili sauce

Currently I am quite obsessed with fermenting. Some will say,that this is obvious due to my job (duh), but I don't mean using alcoholic products. Here I mean lactose-fermentation, salt curing, vinegar curing, pickling and so on.

And I don't really do enough in my eyes.

Yesterday I have seen Fresno peppers and cherry peppers, when I did my grocery shopping. I bought them both. I did my own siracha a couple of weeks ago, but the 200ml bottle is almost finished. This time I will do more, and with mixed peppers, for a more nuanced character (well, one cannot really complain about my siracha... It was plenty of characterful, spicy and funky. But more is better, isn't it?).

The process is simple: cut chiles into small pieces (you can use your food processor, if you have one - I don't). I took the better part of membrane and seeds out, as I wanted to taste a bit more than only fire... You can leave them in (some are even using insane hot habaneros, which are surprisingly often available here in the Middle East).

Then you can put them in a jar. Last time I used a foodsaver bag and vacuumed sealed the chilis. This is not necessary, however you have to be prepared, that mold can spread if you don't vacuum there. In a lot of forums, they tend to advise just to discard the upper part of the produce which is moldy. But I am not that far yet.
You should however not "100%" vacuum the food (e.g. in a commercial chamber sealer) - as botulinum is spreading in anaerobic environments. And this critter is about the most toxic microorganism around...

Anyway this time I put the chiles into a Kilner jar. I added the salt (use sea salt or rock salt which isn't fluorined) 3.5% of the weight, added two coves of garlic; and muddled everything. Yeah, a wooden muddled was about the right tool for this.
Then I sealed it with my nifty foodsaver jar attachment and put it on the counter.

Don't screw the jar-ring tight, as at a certain point the CO2 out of the fermentation will need some space. 
I will ferment it around 1 week.

After it is fermented, I will blend it and probably will cook it with the addition of vinegar. Point is, that it would be perfectly fine to keep it as it is... But cooking makes it more "siracha'like". If you don't heat it up, it will be healthier, though, as lacto-bacillus is very supportive for your ingestion-system as it is for your immune system.

I will decide in a couple of days...

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Fish & Chips Room

Short dinner and I took the opportunity to try the Fish & Chips room, which is only 5 minutes walk from my work place.

They have an abundance of menu choices [usually not a great sign]. From fried stuff, over to baked potatoes, over to pizza.
I took the middle approach - on one hand, I am not a big fan of fish outside of a Japanese restaurant or fine dining restaurant [so no fish for me] - on the other hand I was not really up for pizza from a British inspired place.

Hence I had:

  • Onion rings
  • Fried chicken steak
  • Pickled onions [as side dish]
  • Backed potato with butter
  • and a Coke [there were not really great options of alcoholfree drinks - besides of "fresh" juices.
The waiting time was very long. I haven't used my watch, but I assume, that it was at least 15 to 20 minutes. Given that this is no gourmet food, this is long...

After the waiting time, everything came within 2 minutes and very soon I understood, that I have over-ordered.
First point I realized was, that everything was fried in the same better. Sometimes this was ok, sometimes not..
The fried onions were quite crispy - however also greasy. Not the most greasy onions I have ever encountered - but definitely a bit too greasy for my taste. Overall though they had a quite satisfying taste - though came in a giant portion. So big, that I could not finish them - so big, that I had actually a pretty bad conscience of wasting food.
The fried chicken steak was another rather big portion - however as main course it was about right. It didn't "felt" as greasy as the onion rings, but after a couple of minutes eating, the batter on the underside of the breast became soggy, and it was no fun to eat. The overall flavor was rather below average. Ok, I would say, but definitely not a highlight. They served some remoulade sauce with it, which was obviously from a bought jar.
One issue especially with the chicken fried steak: the batter tasted "fishy". Not as much that I would give it back [not fishy as old fish] - but it tasted, as they would batter fish in the same "pot" as they would batter the chicken - not so good.

The pickled onion [as side dish] was a joke: Ok - the dish cost only 2 Dhs [or so], but these were 4 or 5 pearl onions [the very small ones]. I expected at least some English pickled onions in malt vinegar - not to speak from house-pickled onions. But this dish, was a big no-no.

The baked potato tasted... quite old. Yeah - I know a baked potato had to be prepared [well it doesn't have to, if you are using the microwave technique] - but anyway - it wasn't great as well - though it was at least good - it was smothered with butter - and was rather a potato mash in a baked potato - I was happy, that I didn't ordered the one with cheese - as this seemed even for me far beyond any calorie intake, I would find adequate...

I paid around AED 80.00. This is not expensive, given, that the portions are huge. However I wouldn't consider it value for money either, as the quality wasn't really there.

One point to the service and overall comfort: they didn't seem to have really a sequence of service - I was "welcomed" with a menu and ordered while sitting down... kinda weird. While I was waiting, the waitress came just once with the drinks... and while I was eating [and after that] nobody asked me, how it was...

The room itself had a lot of flies, which were annoying. Not to the point, I would call it infested - but definitely close to it. And the restaurant didn't looked dirty on the first spot, but also was far away of being hygienically clean. The bench seating was also pretty uncomfortable and needed definitely an upholstery.

WOW or MEH:                  Meh
Ambiance:                           3
Value for Money [1-10]:     3
Deliciousness [1-10]:           4
Staff Helpfulness [1-10]:     3
Going back:                         maybe
Overall Score:                      3

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chinese chicken cabbage rolls with tofu

One of my all-time favorites dishes of German cuisine are Kohlrouladen - cabbage roulades.

These are minced meat farce [my mother always used beef] stuffed leaves of white cabbage braised and served nicely browned. They are really tasty.

Anyway - I wanted to do something new - and looked for an Asian dish - and I found several references for Chinese cabbage rolls.

Usually the Chinese variation, is just poached in broth. And instead of making a farce with egg and breadcrumbs they use tofu.

So I minced my chicken with my knives [more work - but the irregular and larger meet pieces are much better than the meat mash], added soya sauce, sautéed brunois of garlic, scallions, carrot, mushrooms and also added it to the mix and besides of seasoning [salt, pepper and some homemade Chinese 5 spice], I also added tofu. Mixed everything properly up and voilà.

I blanched the whole head of cabbage, to get easier the leaves off - and I shaved off the middle rib of the cabbage leaves, to make it easier to roll. Then I filled the leaves with the farce.

Instead of using butcher twine [which is quite a pain], I rolled them into cling film, and made a bonbon out of it [and knotted together the twirled ends of the cling film].
Then I put them into my sous vide hacked rice cooker and poached them for 1.5 hours at 63ºC.
After that I put them into a ice water bath to chill them down fast.

Momofuku Ko's Ginger Scallion sauce
via Tastespotting blog
Off course - if you like to have something tasting really great, you need to utilize the Maillard reaction (which normal people would call browning] - hence you would need to undress the cabbage rolls out of  their cling film sleeve, dry them [don't throw the liquid - put it into your sauce, it is tasty], and fry them in a smoking pan with peanut oil [or any other heat stable oil like corn oil].

Cut one open to try; delicious!

As a dish, I thought to serve it on fragrant rice, with slightly thickened miso sauce and David Changs scallion ginger sauce.

Do you need sous vide here? No definitely not, but it makes live easier - you don't have to watch over it, that it doesn't start to boil.
Well - the recipe is a go. let me see, if I will be able to make the whole dish, without eating one after the other delicious roll...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sharpening knives

Last week I bought 2 Japanese sharpening wet-stones at Dean Fujiya Japanese supermarket. And I was beyond believe, how much I had to drop on them [you will not find one stone below AED 220!!!].

Bought a combi stone - 220 / 1000 [this is the grain fineness] and one around 6000.
My long serving Wusthof Trident Santoku
Yes my Ken Onion knife is that pretty!!!

Why? Because I have great knives, one Wüsthof GrandPrix Santoku knife and one Ken Onion by Shun chef knife. But over the time, the knives really suffered - and looking on the blades, they looked more like serrated knives, than normal chef knives.

The Ken Onion knife was also quite disappointing, when it comes to the blade strength. The steel of the blade edge looks really soft, much softer than the German knife - even after only a couple of months, it had a lot of grooves and dents...
Yes - it is still a beauty - and if sharpened properly, one of the sharpest things around.

Inspiration was the amazing youtube video of Chefsteps. Love these videos:

Well - in the video, they just took 10 minutes to sharpen a knife [even with reshaping the tip] - in reality, I needed a bit longer... for both knives I needed 2.5 freaking hours, to get them perfectly sharp.

But now I am proud again, on my jewels in the kitchen. I even tried the neat trick of shaving some hair of my arm with the my Santoku and it worked without problem!

In future, I will use much more often my new sharpening stones, that my knives are never getting in such a bad shape ever again.
And: while the stones were expensive: to buy a new knife is much more expensive: My Santoku is no more produced [in absolutely the same configuration] - however similar knives would cost definitely AED 700 and more... and the Ken Onion by Shun sets you back also more than AED 600 [and it is for the moment no more longer available - bought it at Barrel & Crate - but they don't have this exact knife anymore].

So my advise: Sharpen your knives yourself with a wet stone. Yes, it will take time, and it is definitely quite a mess [I didn't mentioned, that the whole kitchen floor was wet, due to the consistent wettening of the stone - my better part freaked out, when she came home and saw the mess]. But it is so worth it. My knives cut now better than when they were new. And: if I see my German knife, which is already older than 10 years, I think, that I can keep my two main knives for the rest of my life. I just love this idea!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mooyha burger, can it score?

This is a pretty new opening... Maximum a couple of weeks operating.
The staff welcomed me very enthusiastic... Maybe a bit contrived mirth, but who am I to judge.
The place isn't the Ibn Battuta mall and is clean, features bright colors like red and yellow, which is accompanied by wood textures.
There are two big chalkboards on the wall, but it seems, that is more for the show than for daily specials.
Overall a quite pleasant interior.

I got a pager, to notice, when the order is ready, but it didn't took long and it was my food was served. While this might be not the standard (they we not busy at all), I value the effort; very good.

My order: mooyah burger, sweet potato fries and lemonade. I paid AED 61.00.
By the way: they have coca cola products (nice).

The fries:
Johnnie Rockets: please come here and try! Other than your miserable examples of fries, these sweet potato sticks are awesome! Crispy and spiced outside and creamy inside. Hell yeah!

The burger:
I've ordered the tomato on the side... And it came in a small bowl on the side. Finally someone who understands me.
The burger has a double patty. Nobody asked me for the doneness, but it came medium well. Juicy and nice. While they say on the trayliner that they have different cheeses, mine was by default American (cheese imitation). My own fault, but someone could have told me...
There were also caramelized onions on the burger (great but a bit too wet), salad (didn't hold up against the patties) and pickles (average). Overall a darn tasty burger, which was a bit messy, though.

The lemonade:
This was of the kind: stir powder into water. Not really great... You could even taste the secondary sweeteners (something like aspartame). It was not revolting, but also not good at all. They offer though one free refill!

Lets get to the ratings:

Yay or meh: yay. I will definitely come back. Not driving extra down like this time. But the venue is directly besides the cinema. So coming a bit earlier and munch a good mooya burger is better,Nathan the overpriced cinema snacks.
Restaurant comfort: 6- but only due to noisy Tagalog chatting. Even in a fast food place, I really don't like to hear staff conversation!
Food and Beverages: 7 - the burger is good. Not not as good as JR, ShakeSh., or Elevation Burger
Service: 7 - very friendly and helpful. At times a bit too noisy.
Value for money: 7
Overall: 6.5

I would drive to venues like Shake Shack or even Johnnie Rockets. But Mooyah burger is not such a place. Yes the burger is good, and they had the best fries yet in my reviews. But there is a little bit missing for real greatness. But well... Like mentioned, definitely advisable before a movie...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Döner Kebab... In Dubai... at German Döner Kebab

This was my idea... Really!

A couple of years ago I told a,couple of friends, that German Döner would be an instant hit in the UAE. It's so obvious: people like here comfort food, sloppy food, Middle Eastern cuisine, sandwiches... And a "döner" is everything and more...

My concept was, to team up with a Turkish-German "imbiss" and replicate it here with their help and some of their 'cooks'.
Then, a couple of months ago I have seen the first 'coming soon' ads. When I have seen, that they finally opened, I wanted to be here... I had to come here... And here I am!

The restaurant
Common guys, in Germany this kind of restaurants are more cafeterias... Often little bit more than a white tiled hole in a wall. Here it is like an ultra modern bistro... Very nice, with free wifi... Black, orange, white with ambiance lighting. Wonderful and strange at the same time. This would be in Germany the Döner Kebab for hipsters...

The service
I wanted to have a beef döner... beef and lamb is usually the way to go. Chicken is for whimsies! However beef was sold out, so I had to go for poultry.
Most servers are African (again strange... what is wrong with Turks?). They are confident, but not exactly service oriented. And don't have the appeal of Ali of 'Döner an der Ecke'.
Though.., also no complains here.

Der döner
I have to say... This döner is pretty kick ass. It is that good. 97% from the best Döners in Germany. The bread is a good Turkish fluffy flatbread, nicely toasted. The composition is really great. Tasty - tasty - tasty. Much better than the British-Indian concepts... Take this, UK!

They have also German potato salad which doesn't really make sense... It is a Turkish concept, remember (you would not expect a truly German dish in a Chinese German restaurant, would you? It wouldn't be so far off, if they would also offer other German popular dishes like currywurst. But they don't... So it is weird).

Drinks are pretty standard: coke product (bravo, I don't like Pepsi), but no refill (sad)- Snapple products, which again doesn't really fit... 

And this is a big but: they took away the ordering and customizing experience. You can order at the cashier, and gives the order to the kitchen. In Germany it is so different. I guess part of the popularity of this dish and its venues is, that the German Turks implemented long before Cold Stone Creamery or other similar concepts the theater of food preparation.
You come to Ali (or Murat) - most of the time, he knows you and chit chats already some small talk. He knows your order... off course... But even if you are a first timer, you order at the guy with the big knife (or electric round cutter) and he will assist you for our dream döner. Salad, cabbage, onions, yoghurt garlic sauce, tomatoes, spicy chili sauce, chili flakes... Everything is in front of you and is heaped onto the sandwich as soon as he asks, and you confirm. It is like "build your dream döner"- and this is truly wonderful.

Unfortunately this stylish outpost just ripped away this essential experience from us.

Yay or Meh: definitely yay!
Restaurant comfort: 7 (in comparison to German venues it would be a 10- letting their counterparts on a 3 or 4)
Food and beverage: 8.5 
Service: 6
Value for money: 6
Overall: 7

Proper Döner Kebab bonus: 10
Lack of friendly snotty Ali: -10

Döner alone is superlative to anything here in Dubai. Yes I would even say, it would be quite with the top 10 of Döner sandwiches in Germany. BUT, due to the unique concept in GER, you almost always have your perfect burger there... Like lots of garlic? Your friend at the spit puts more garlic sauce on... Like it spicy? He put some extra spicy sauce on the bottom and/or adds some chili flakes on top. Don't like tomato or like more onions? You get it. And here all German döners are outplaying the Dubai counterpart.
If you don't know it from Germany you won't miss it and you will celebrate the glorious sandwich. If you know it, you will miss it. A lot!

Still, it is a very pleasant place to go... A bit hard to find...
They seem to be on hard work with several franchises, which is a good thing. But they really should consider to put the assembly back to the front, where it should be...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dean Fujiya Japanese Cafe and Restaurant

I love to go Dean Fujiya Supermarket near Lamcy Plaza. This minuscule supermarket has a surprisingly great selection of Japanese produce as well as kitchen tools (I fell in love with a classic super heavy, traditionally one sided cut Japanese chef knife, the back thick as someones ring finger) and other Japanese food related stuff. I bought there two authentic Japanese teas for work.

And a  couple of meters besides, they built a restaurant, which they promoted keenly.
So I thought, it cannot be so wrong to give it a try.

The looks are a bit rough. Super bright light, almost clumsy counter which seems not at all sensible, black unrelated furniture, plastic flowers on the table -there was no interior designer at work for this restaurant. The waiting stuff, two Filipinas offered me the menu- a folder with plastic wrapped pages. Seems that the guys didn't put a particular concept in place.

I've ordered agedashi dofu, a sushi selection and cold soba noodles with grated radish. I've also ordered a melon calpis to drink and additional I've informed the waitress that I don't like seafood/shellfish/octopus...

My calpis came after 3 minutes. Very sweet but refreshing (and yes, as I am shopping in their mart, I know, that it is laden with artificial flavors... but sometimes it happens that I don't care - I won't offer it myself, but I don't judge, as long as the offering person don't give me, we are offering only the best speech) it was delicious as refreshing.
The agedashi dofu came hot on the table. The silken tofu was pretty average, the whole dish was slightly undersalted and it wasn't crispy at all. Overall it was though successful, especially, if you haven't previously experienced a better execution.

The sushi took a bit longer. I still got cuttlefish sushi [annoying, why exactly do I state, that I don't like seafood, when I still get some]... but I have to say, the salmon, tuna and hamachi nigiri were excellent, no, it was superlative - I didn't ate better sushi at 5 star hotels - even not at Zuma or Nobu! The quality of the produce was amazing and the still slightly warm rice [it was ever so slightly warm] was to die for! The tamago was very big and very rough looking. The taste reminded me more on traditional scrambled eggs and not the superfine Japanese omelette. It tasted though very good. Overall all the pieces of the dish lacked uniformity and refinement but made it up with flavor and produce freshness.
And, it came with a bowl of two pieces of cooked salmon in a creamy [maybe sesame?] sauce. First of all I thought that this was odd. And then I tried the salmon - cold! But the next impression was mind boggling. The salmon was dense and very meaty - only a very little bit salmony [fishy sounds bad]. I never encountered this dish, but it was absolutely stunning. Horay!

I got then cold soba noodles- unfortunately crowned with two tempura shrimps and slices of fishcake [didn't I mention, that I don't like seafood???]. The sauce was again a bit on the underseasoned side. Overall I think, it could be better, if they presented the soba on a plate not a bowl and have a separate bowl for dipping instead of drowning the noodles in the sauce. The whole dish was ok, but didn't blew me away.

And that wraps it up. If you are going there, make sure, that it is in a group, where everyone, likes something. I was really annoyed, that I especially pointed out, that I don't eat shellfish/seafood, and still got it on the plate - the only thing they replaced was one prawn nigiri - but then forgot my preference, even in the same dish!

The atmosphere? You better like to prefer Filipino soapy songs and staff which is singing with it. The place looks quite clean, but you mustn't be in search for something fancy.

Overall I think, it missed its mark. It is almost there, to be a insiders' tip. The sushi is absolutely great and they have items, which are offbeat and interesting. I can even forgive them the lack of style, the kitschy music and singing waitresses. The only thing, which is not good is the service. Yes, the waitress are nice, but they didn't even reacted, when they've seen, that I put the cuddlefish nigiri and the shrimp tempura demonstrative beside. They didn't asked, if everything is alright. At one time, when I ate the cold soba, the more silent waitress pointed with her finger on my bowl and on the carafe and told me, that 'should' pour the sauce into the bowl [I already did].

Don't get me wrong. I don't look for highclass_blow_my_ass_service. I am realistic here. But I am looking for a kinda sensible service, which looks for feedback and respond to the customers actions.
I also look for service, which knows the menu and can explain their guests, which is the difference, if the guest seem not to fully get the menu.

I paid around AED 130 for the meal, which would have been very good value for money, if I could eat everything! But while I loved nigiris and the drink, and also liked most of the other stuff, I just felt, that there was something elementary missing.

Yay or meh: very mixed.
Restaurant comfort: 3 
Service: 3
Food and beverages: 7 (nigiri alone a 10!!! But the slightly undersalted other dishes brings it down)
Value for money: 8 (mixed bag again - I put 1 out of 5 nigiri down, the tempura shrimps, which seems to be the difference to the next dish which was AED 10 cheaper etc. - my rating is based on the fact, that you eat everything)
Overall: 4

Verdict: They have takeout and delivery - I am prone to order the next time a ton of sushi [by piece, I am not again so naive and ask them to replace something] and pick it up to nibble at home. This would make my home to Dubai's best sushi bar [well I don't have a bar, but you get the drift]!
They are not yet there. Not at all! They really have to up the ante, if they don't want to have an underperforming restaurant with an expensive real Japanese chef [or they might loose him to one hotel].

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Elevation Burger Dubai, review

And here we are again... The next heart busting review....
Yes, another burger, yum!

Elevation Burger is the victim today. Located at Sheikh Zayed Road, besides of Crown Plaza it is not hart to find, but I've heard, that they've several other locations as well.

They say, that they're ingredient savvy ('ingredients matter') and that the meat is organic grass fed, free range. I love it when my food was happy, before it got the bullet...

One personal badge: they offer Coca Cola - free refill! Haha!

Anyway, I had to wait a bit for the food - 8 min after my order the burger arrived, though there might was some confusion as the server asked me of my other order - but my salad arrived only 2 minutes after the reconfirmation.

The order:
Elevation burger - custom toppings (red pepper relish, ketchup, mustard, roasted onion, lettuce)
Elevation salad - ranch dressing.

The staff is super friendly, mostly Asian (Filipino I guess)- the only down is, that they give number tents to wait and then call out the number (even though they directly find you without that you have to wave) - maybe they should learn from Shake Shack!

The burger
It was rather small. I guess the diameter is smaller than a McD hamburger... But two patties make sure, that you still get your carnivore fix. The meat was crumbly, toasted and well roasted. Nobody asked me for the doneness of the burger, but if it is always like that, there is no need for it!
My only complains: the bread roll was cold and untoasted and rather uninspiring. Think supermarket burger rolls. Not convincing. 
The taste though is. The bread obviously is overthrown of glorious meat and condiment taste. Almost very good.

The salad
I got a round transparent plastic box with romaine lettuce with a ring of mandarin segments and pecan nuts on top. They gave two small plastic bowls of ranch dressing.
The dressing tasted, as it was commercial off the shelf ranch. The mandarins, again uninspiring. While I always use to have a can of those in my cupboard in case of forbidden cravings, I don't think, that they should be on any restaurant menu (did you know, that they apply acid to corrode the skin?).
Still the salad tasted nice due to the nuts and fruitiness- just not really convincing). 

I wanted to leave, but seen house made fries on another table... Here we are again... cheese burger, this time and the fries. 

The fries, were almost matchstick thin, looked crispier as they were quite greasy - unfortunately they also underseasoned the fries. Not so good. As I asked for extra salt, they tasted better, but still too greasy (please check in the Internet how to make very crispy fries - Heston Blumenthal and other culinary masterminds share a trick or two openly). The cheese burger was as expected - good meat and toppings, bad roll...

Did I mention the free refill coke?

Lets get to the rating:

Yay or meh: more yay
Restaurant comfort: 7 (soda fountains besides of slightly smelly toilets are taking one point off)
Service: 7
Food and beverages: 7.5 (burger alone a 7.5- also plus for free refill)
Value for money: 6.5
Overall: 7
 Would I come back? Definitely!

Verdict: elevation burger has a lot of potential though disappoints in some areas. For the concept, I would not expect ingredients like industrial produced dressings, rolls. The signature burger is also surprisingly small! and lets not talk about the fries (for all who complain about the fries at Shake Shack: they are definitely better than most fries i had lately in the other joints). But the meat quality elevates it directly underneath Shake Shack and Johnnie Rockets!

And: did I mentioned the free refill?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Your expectations will change, if you cook sous vide

Yeah, I know... My praise of sous vide cooking already gets boring... But trust me (again) it is really really great!
If you are cooking sous vide duck breasts, the fat of the skin is perfectly prepared to render. You never had crispier, yet juicy and medium rare duck in your life!

Speaking of medium rare: I have to admit- I wasn't a big fan of anything below medium. I experienced the taste a bit... oily - it just tasted odd. And the texture is usually kind of unpleasant chewy. This is because, medium rare (or rare) in traditional cooking means really partly uncooked (and yes, you could put the stuff into the oven on a low heat, which decreases stage problem, but it is still there).

This applies for everything you eat medium rare or rare: duck breast, beef, game, lamb - I realize it specially if it comes to beef tenderloin!

However if you sous vide it to the same temperature, it won't have this oily and chewy character. As you really cook the meat (to the perfect temperature) throughout.

Unfortunately this means, that you will be much more picky, if you are eating out.
A couple of days ago I had a Wagyu strip loin, and while the taste was great, it was (in my world now) far too dry, almost overcooked. I could do it better. And (this is another advantage of sous vide): guaranteed and consistent!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Johnny Rockets review

I visited Johnny Rockets several times, but I guess that I didn't really reviewed my visits.
So here we are...

I had a meal at the Jjumeirah branch...quite hidden in a small shopping mall with a Choitram.
I tried a rather standard burger, sweet potato fries and a peanut shake.

Service was ok. Like often the stuff was almost entirely Filipino. It was very slow in the restaurant and they rather entertained themselves in their mother tongue as taking care of their guest (which was me).

To the food.
The server asked me, how I would like the burger- I opted for medium well (he asked me actually, if I would like to have the burger well done). The burger arrived after quite some time. It was overcooked but overall great! The patty was thin, well roasted and crumbly... Extremely tasteful, the bread W's good and the toppings adequate. 9 points out of ten in the burger department.

The sweet potato fries were a different subject. Long orangey fries, served with ranch dressing. Unfortunately they were quite tasteless and the ranch only added confusion. A 3.5 at most.
The peanut shake? Not from this world. Very sweet, though everything fitted. Amazing (the only drawback is the guilt, which you feel, when you have one... you can just imagine that one shake has a quadrillion calories). Definitely 10 out of 10 (with a plus).

Now the real negatives: you pay everything separate without meal bundle. Three items for around AED 90? Outrageous. I feel that JR out prices themselves. I have the feeling, that I even pay less, if I go to Shake Shack, which has a better overall quality (burgers fare pretty much the same). And Shake Shack has a much better, conte,portray feel - mad lets face it, the 60's theme is no more really fresh (at least it doesn't attract me)

Meh or Yay? Definitely yay!
Restaurant comfort / design: 6.5
Service: a meager 6
Food & beverage: 8 (only due to the disappointing sweet potato fries)
Value for money: 4 
Overall: 7.5

Verdict: if you stick with burgers and shakes, Johnny Rockets has a convincing quality. Unfortunately they are also very expensive and the atmosphere and service doesn't justify the high prices. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013


It is surprising, what are doing in those days without wifi at home. As I was anyway shopping and hungry, I went (searched... MOE mall direction are not updated) to Costa... Having free wifi, it was an understandable move.

It was not easy: Shakeshack was lure'ing me... But I was withstanding my cravings and went to the more café'like environment.

My order:

Double espresso
Aged cheddar and apple sandwich

The sandwich
Hm... cheesy. The cheddar was great (even if I am not so sure to call it vintage), the apples were a bit refreshing on the palate... were not pronounced but still worked great with the cheese. There were also cranberries,which worked well with their sweet tartness (huh), in favor to the whole composition. Overall a great sandwich - however it falls a bit behind if you are considering the price (and that it is prepacked).

The espresso was good. Nice blend I would say- not too strong but strong enough with some great chocolate notes. Unfortunately it was far too cold!

The brownie
It looked just gorgeous! A dense chocolate brownie with a chocolate cream on top with white chocolate nuggets! Well... it was rather disappointing! It was too dense and the chocolate fondant didn't had the typical (dairy) creaminess - tasted more like cheap cake topping. It was just unnatural in your mouth and heavy... No great choco aromas...

The Tagalog issue. Staff was genuine friendly but were talking loudly without a pause in their language (guess which) and while I am ok with casual and occasional chatter, this was clearly too much. Felt like in little Manila. Otherwise wired self service (staff wanted to take the order, but without English menu it was not possible).

Meh or Wow: so-so
Service: 6 (due to their friendliness)
Ambiance: 4 (due to the backyard Manila sound-environment)
F & B: 5.5 (the sandwich would fare a, 7 the coffee an 8, but the brownie a 4)
Wifi: 6 (complimentary and they gave me two 1hour tickets, but it was slow)
Verdict: American café style with filipino flavor...

Fails and successes

Ok... Just some updates about my some cooking experiments:

Tacos de lengua
I made homemade tacos which were a revelation. It was pretty but not very useful to incorporate a flowered chive in a spiral fashion... There most of the time the tacos broke apart. The beef tongue (cooked sous vide for 72 hours on 60°C was very good - tasted beefy , soft with an distinct ham texture. I made a Mexican sauce with dried chili (of course reconstituted in water) and fresh poblano,  dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, cumin, coriander seeds...
Tasted surprisingly authentic Mexican! Served it with sour cream, fresh tomatoes, salted onions and freshly diced avocado.

Frozen Scotch eggs
After my Mexican adventure I just wanted to do Scotch eggs - as I had still some beef chorizo in my fridge. Eggs were slightly overlooked (too small for the recipe) but I just went ahead. I put the already shaped sausage balls (already hiding the eggs) into the freezer.
But then S. asked me to come to bed - already 5 in the morning and I forgot the unfinished Scotch eggs in the ice box. 
Tried to finish them today - but as expected the egg white was oddly  layered and watery. What a waste... Into the bin...

Lamb belly / breast
I asked at Géants the butcher to debone some lamb ribs (the meaty-fatty one).
In it went into a flavorful brine with fresh rosemary, sugar, fresh garlic, coriander, chili, salt, water) for around 10 hours. From there I rinsed it and put it into vacuum bag with a frozen mixture of more rosemary, roasted garlic, olive oil, honey (I had to freeze it, as the normal foodsaver won't work with a liquid marinade- if you have a chamber cryovac- you can skip this step) and it went into my hacked rice cooker for around 24 hours at a fairly high 67°C. Took it out- into an ice bath (which I used then to rinse the meat).

First attempt - seasoning and deep frying it: nice... Not enough salt... Overall very nice.... Not too much lambiness... crisp... slightly overcooked.
Second - breading it (still had the breading station from the blœdy Scotch eggs...) and frying it... Odd... very crispy (thanks panko)... but it taste like breaded bacon... not so good... again underseasoned!
Third - just flouring a piece and pan fry it ultra hot in little oil... again with seasoned flour with added salt and pepper... very nice... slightly crispy... but again underseasoned (damn).
Fourth and last attempt - seasoning it with salt and pepper (a lot)... frying it in ultra hot pan with little oil... salting again with Maldon sea salt... Perfect! Could not be happier... meaty, fatty, without being greasy. Taste like lamb without being overpowering with hints of garlic, rosemary and honeysweetness (without being too sweet). Voila!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Suhoor - my way...

Since a couple of days, I do have a sous vide rig. Oh boy, was this a operation to get it to Dubai. First I got my thermocouple via Amazon. Not cheap (especially the optional but recommended DHL shipment), but definitely far cheaper than a professional SV rig (which you cld buy here in the UAE. 

Then I had to buy a slower cooker... Not available! But a rice cooker is as good (only thing is, that rice cookers are usually smaller than slow cooker).

And then the cables. Lets say it like that... My set up might not be recommended by any quality & safety organization (TÜV, CE etc). But it works!

After 64°C eggs and an über beef tenderloin (both amazing) - and an "uneaten" beef tongue (48hours sv'ed) and a rump round steak (12 hours), I wanted to do the chicken, which waited since a couple of days in the fridge. I butchered it (quite well), made some airline breasts (with the wingbone) and sous vided it with garlic, scallions, cilantro and black pepper. 1 hour only made it the most juicy but still properly cooked chicken breast, we had for a long time. I served it with avocado tomato salad and oven kale chips (which were slightly too salty)

After the breast left their jacuzzi, the legs & thighs were vacuumed with aromatics and a lot of butterand had a swim (well they Are still in... For around 9 hours) - I thought, it would be nice to have chicken leg confit...

Hence there will be enough to eat in the next days... Despite (or even especially) of Ramadan.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ravi Restaurant Dubai Satwa

Ravi restaurant in Dubai Satwa is somewhat something special. They have quite some accolades, won a lot of awards in TimeOut under the "cheap eats category" [what ever they call it].

Are the awards justified - or do we have another venue, which is overrated? I went there to find out.

You can directly see, how successful "Ravi" became - as three venues, are situated side by side. All called Ravi [restaurant, palace and another one, I forgot]. Inside these venues are looking like most cafeteria styled restaurants. White tiles, not very luxurious or styled.

Outside, tables are situated on the sidewalk. The tables are stainless steel - another proof, of their success. I don't really remember the chair - only, that it was not the usual flimsy plastic chair, you have in most other places. Off course Satwa is a busy place with heavy traffic - hence you shouldn't be afraid of some exhaust gases...

I sat down, asked for a menu [felt a bit funny - do you ask in such a den for a menu?]. I was presented the takeout menu. I thought a good idea was to take chicken and some vegetarian fare.
Mentionable was, that my waiter sat before on a chair close to the entrance massaging his sandaled foot. After that, he didn't showed any arrangements to wash his hands and serviced me with feet-flavored hands… anyway the hand wash basin situated to the restrooms didn't made a great impression on me- so either way, I would not have the ease of mind I wished [in a hygienic way].
It also has to be mentioned, that the salt and pepper shaker were not only totally dented [the top of it] - but it was really dirty - and my professional me ordered myself to clean it by my self.

Anyway - after quite some time, a plate with onions, fine sliced lettuce, tomato and cucumber came to my table, with half a small Indian lime accompanied by a really puffy soft flatbread. The bread was totally amazing - soft and freshly baked. There were also a small bowl of yoghurt cucumber raita - which was quite watery.
Shortly after this "appetizer" came the ordered dishes.
The vegetable tikka [don't anymore the exact name] was ok. For me it was tasting like "mushed Indian vegetables" grilled on a stick and slathered in green sauce [this is exactly what it was]. I was not a big fan of it - but truth has to be told: there are very few vegetarian dishes, which are impressing me.

The chicken boti was a whole different dimension. Golden brown outside and really soft and perfectly cooked inside, it was besides of the bread the highlight of my visit. The sauce, which came with the chicken boti was a thin chili scented sauce, which was nice, to put your bread wrapped chicken in. It had a nice spicy bite - but wasn't really to write home about.

This was about it. Overall you can say, that Ravi restaurant knows how to prepare their proteins and have one of the best flat breads I have encountered in the UAE. Both the chicken and the bread, would anytime bring me back to this place.  However I am very concerned about their hygienic standards. And I have also experienced much much better service [if you are comparing these kind of restaurants, the service is on par with other places - but usually in good cafeterias, you have more really nice and smiley waiters, which I could not find in Ravi [but maybe I was unlucky and just happened to be served by a not so attentive waiter].

WOW or MEH:                  Wow minus
Ambiance:                          3
Value for Money [1-10]:     7
Deliciousness [1-10]:          8
Staff Helpfulness [1-10]:    3
Going back:                         For sure
Overall Score:                      6

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Short review - Shawarma at MoMo - Dubai Satwa

Just a short one. MoMo is not a unknown restaurant for me. I have had numerous time a shawarma there. And it was always delicious. Then I went with my better part Sarah to have a proper meal. Very inexpensive - but the items where rather hit and miss.

Yesterday I went again to the Iranian venue - for two chicken shawarmas take away.

Absolutely delicious. I never had a better shawarma anywhere [and the best thing - they are totally consistent with that].
There secret: they dump the outside of the filled bread in a bit of the fat which came out of the meat and then they are toasting it in a sandwich press. Utterly yummy!

The only let down - I guess they are so popular, that they are portioning your pickles to one piece each - carrot [not a whole carrot, duh - just one small piece], one piece of cucumber and one green pickled pepper. Yes - thats it. The pickles themselves taste good - not the best pickles I ever had, but tasted self-made and more than adequate.

Service is also a bit "different". The Pinoy cashier wasn't particular friendly, just took my money, gave me the ticket and gesticulated me to next door, where the "kitchen" is located. The Arabic cooks are at least smiley and funny.

The overall looks of the place is also not really worth a candlelight dinner.
But they focus on takeaway - and while shawarma is not particular romantic food, you can dress up your home with a lot of candles [and make it otherwise dark] that only the tastebuds sing their song of romance…

WOW or MEH:                  Wow
Ambiance:                          2
Value for Money [1-10]:     7
Deliciousness [1-10]:          8
Staff Helpfulness [1-10]:    3
Going back:                         Definitely
Overall Score:                      7

The rating is for the shawarma only. The other food items are solid but rather a hit and miss and not as delicious as their lamb or chicken shawarmas. Definitely take it out and ask for extra pickles!

Amazonas, Mushrif Mall, Abu Dhabi

My visit happened already a couple of weeks ago. I directly posted my experience on [think Middle Eastern yelp] - but then was too busy and lazy to put it here.

Amazonas offers [as the name suggest] South American cuisine. I think it is especially Ecuadorian and Columbian cuisine - but I am no more sure.

Anyway the Mushrif mall offers quite  a lot of dining options - especially in the food court. And every shack is more colorful and polished looking than the other. Not so much Amazonas - it looks rather like a cheap cafeteria - don't get me wrong  - it is clean and all, but it just doesn't give you a lot of confidence.
I think, the manager was behind the counter - and he was very friendly and helpful. I opted for the pulled beef arepa and a shredded chicken empanada. The manager gave me some lemon soured sugar cane juice to try, but as it was luke warm [I think this was the only downside of my experience - except off course the design] I rather went for a commercial soft drink.

The food took a while - maybe a bit longer than the spoiled fast food person. But when I got my food, it was hot and freshly prepared.
At Amazonas the arepa was not as filled - but still very tasty.

The arepa [kind of a sandwich] had a very nice, fluffy but also crisp exterior. The meat was nicely seasoned - and as I ordered it - pulled. The meat was a bit dry… but the package was definitely really yummy.

The empanada was different, as I got to knew it from Argentina. In fact, it was a completely different dough. But anyway - it was totally delicious!
Again outside crisp and inside soft [though a completely different texture than the arepa], properly seasoned.
Unfortunately the chicken was also a bit dry.

But here is the thing: it really felt and tasted as home cooking. And while home cooking is sometimes not perfect in technique it makes up in love. And this is the point in Amazonas - it really taste as the chef made it with love and as the recipe where developed with love.

And while it is the maybe ugliest stand in the food court, I would definitely pick it as the best! Unfortunately most people will overlook it, as the other restaurants look much better, more flashy, better designed…
But if you really like to have good food, turn to Amazonas. And fill out [like me] a comment card, with the request, that they should redesign the looks of the stand - but keep the love and the tasty food!

WOW or MEH:                  Wow
Ambiance:                          3
Value for Money [1-10]:     7
Deliciousness [1-10]:          8
Staff Helpfulness [1-10]:    8
Going back:                         Definitely
Overall Score:                      7

Taza, Dubai Satwa

Hi Pals - I had the last couple of days several food encounters. Lets see, how well they fared.

Taza, Dubai Satwa

Taza looks quite good. In an area, where you can find either way rather not designed cafeterias and your usual chain restaurants [McD, KFC etc], it looks modern, clean and well a bit like an unknown chain restaurant.

The menu combines some Arabic items [e.g. salads like fatoush or kebab sandwiches], some Asian snacks [e.g. satay], normal fast food staples [fried chicken pieces] and so on.

The restaurant is quite big and it was well received, when I went there.

The staff is friendly and jovial. I asked the guy at the counter, if the satays are good - he was shrugging shortly but then smiled and said "off course" [maybe I should have interpreted this situation better?!].

I had the kebab sandwich menu [one Pepsi drink, two kebab sandwiches and French fries] and one portion bbq satays.

First to the good point: The French fries were as good, frozen industrial produced fries could be! crisp but not hard, soft but not limp, perfectly salted. Nice.
And - the packaging is whimsical as practical; and looks very professional. The staff is also friendly.

But: I first of all "dig" into the kebab sandwiches. Again - nice presentation - and the arabic bread was really cool "rolled" and crisp. Biting into it, all hopes were gone. Grey meat, not grilled at all [it looked as it would have been steamed]. The texture quite rubbery. Awful - cannot remember, the last time I put something worse in my mouth. There was some vegetable [tomato, cucumber and salad] in the sandwich - not enough to make the sad meat sing. And the hummus just worsen the experience, as its gritty, pasty texture made things from bad to worse.

The satay? Please don't ask! Again really cool packaging in a small "thermo" aluminum lined paper pocket. But out came slightly browned, irregular skewers of chicken.
They were browned, but looked everything but properly grilled. The meat was chewy, this time totally dry and seemed again to be steamed rather than grilled. The peanut sauce was chunky, quite unimpressive but also not repulsive like the satay meat.

I hate to waste food, but I didn't finished half of my portion [despite, that I had a healthy appetite]. This doesn't happen often.

WOW or MEH:                  Meh
Ambiance:                          6
Value for Money [1-10]:     1
Deliciousness [1-10]:         1

Staff Helpfulness [1-10]:    5
Going back:                        definitely not
Overall Score:                    3

Categories are scored from 1 to 10 - 1 being totally inedible and 10 being the best, what you could put between your teeth].

Sorry - but whimsical design and thoughtful packaging doesn't make up for bad food. I guess, I would not even have worse food in almost any cheap cafeteria. Please don't go.

Very near is the Ravi restaurant, which got the best scores in this category of restaurant. I will very soon go and will let you know, if the hype is justified.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sous Vide Viennese Schnitzel

picture in courtesy of
I really love sous vide. I love it, for what it is - I am not those, who are sous-viding due to the fact, that it is trendy. And I am not one of those who like to sous vide everything.

But - as Heston Blumenthal I believe, that this is one of the techniques, which will stick and will have a great culinary impact.

I will not explain here, what exactly sous vide is - there are so many people who wrote and blogged about it and many of those who are much more accomplished than me. Just google it.

For the moment, a Supreme deluxe is till out of reach [who can easily spend U$ 400 on one kitchen appliance + shipment to the UAE will also be quite expensive]. But I adapted the beer chiller hack and it is working great. It is perfect for very short sous-viding as well as for things which would need medium-long time to "cook". For things which need very long or things which you need an exact temperature control, it is not that good…

Anyway - I don't remember how I got the idea, but suddenly I thought, that a breaded escalope would be perfect to sous vide. Usually the meat [for Viennese escalope it should be veal, but for other "schnitzel" also pork and poultry is used] is hammered to tenderize it [and in case of poultry also to ensure, that it has an uniform thickness].

The problem besides, that a proper "Wiener Schnitzel" is bigger than the plate it is served on, is that due to the thin hammered meat, you don't have a lot of meat taste. And I love meat. I adore meat!

So my plan was, to use controlled low temperature cooking, to tenderize but not dry out the meat and after the medium-rare steak is chilled down, to bread it and fry it up.

I bought some large slices of veal top round. They were quite big already but still 1.5 cm thick.
Then my spice mill came into action. I made a "special schnitzel" seasoning - pepper, salt, dried garlic, dried onion flakes, caraway, mustard seeds and dill seeds were part of it. The meat was then seasoned with the almost pulverized spices. Then they went into a plastic bag to get vacuumed.

Then I put it into my beer chiller - with the water heated up to meet a temperature between 55ºC and 60ºC - for 60 minutes. In this time most of the connecting tissues is converted and the escalopes look anemic but are edible.
Then they went into the fridge. To cook already cooked meat when it is warm, would result in an inconsistent breading as well as it would be overcooked.

After the "chilling time" it was breaded in flour, egg-cream wash and grated stale bread crumbs [I loved to use panko crumbs but all what I had was dry baguette].
Then they took a bath into an hot oil and butter mixture. Schnitzel are fried swimming in ghee - but I didn't had it on hand - plus I didn't wanted a half pound of butter for frying only.

And: the result was delicious!

The only point, I will do different the next time: I will not use a egg-cream mixture. this is done for a classic Viennese schnitzel to ensure, that the batter is not clinging to the meat - but as the meat is anyway thicker, it wouldn't be an issue and would result in more crispiness - and maybe I would directly use panko instead having the mess of grating the bread...