Sunday, September 10, 2006
Never mind the name, go for the food.
I've been intending for ages to talk about and recommend some of the restaurants where we've had excellent meals at amazingly low prices. But other things keep cropping up and I haven't got around to it.
That is until I read Moryarti's review of Al Sammach which prompted me to stop making excuses and just get on and start doing the reviews.
Far too many western expats will only go to restaurants in 5-star hotels, wouldn't be seen dead in the mall or roadside restaurants. The lack of alcohol is part of it I'm sure. But I enjoy a drink as much as anyone and I can tell you that alcohol is not actually essential to having a good evening, excellent dinner and enjoying yourself.
The restaurant I'll talk about this time is Automatic in Jumeirah 1. Not the best choice of name I grant you, but ignore that. It's a small chain of Lebanese restaurants, been around for years and years, with outlets dotted around the city. We go to this particular one because it's the nearest to us.
It's in the Jumeirah Beach Centre on Beach Road, not far from Mercato Mall, on the ground floor at the front. (Get a window table and watch the cabaret of the morons using Beach Road as a racetrack.)
The decor & furnishings are predictable, just what you'd expect. Nothing frantically trendy, as too many of out outlets are, but comfortable. The staff are what you want them to be - greeted by the maitre de who will show you to your table, attentive service but not in yer face hovering all the time.
When you sit down your waiter will bring a huge bowl of salad, a big dish of assorted olives & pickles, a basket of bread, all of which is complimentary. The salad alone is enough for a meal - our last one was a whole lettuce, rocket, two cucumbers, a whole green capsicum, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, spring onions, bunches of mint & a whole lemon.
Most of this is free folks!
It's typical Lebanese cuisine, which I must say is one of my favourites. Not complicated, just good quality fresh ingredients cooked simply. And plenty of different mezza dishes - we love to pick at the different tastes and textures of a variety of dishes.
Of the main courses our favourites are Shish Tawouk, marinated chicken pieces grilled on a skewer and served with rice or french fries, and Seafood Grill, which is hammour, large prawns & calamari with french fries & vegetables. We always have hommos, which I like with the kebab.
There's no alcohol of course but don't let that put you off. I recommend fresh lemon & mint juice, which Automatic does very well. They also have very fresh bread...
So our meal is often olives, pickles, salad, hommos, bread, shish tawouk, seafood grill, lemon & mint juice, mineral water, Turkish Coffee. And that doesn't cost much more than Dh100 in total. That's roughly 15 pounds Sterling, US$27, Aussie$36...for dinner for two.
Think about it folks. Dubai expensive? There's a hell of a lot here that isn't anywhere near as expensive as 'back home' - and making it even better value, here you're paying for it with untaxed salary.