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.


Anonymous said...

Very nice post seabee.

I've been to other lebanese restaurants around, and they also always serve the veggies and kubz first - free yeah. ^___^

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.

this post is ought to get into GN. well said.

CG said...

I would imagine it would be hard to find a person who does not like any of the Automatic restaurant branches.

Was it this restaurant who was in the news a few months ago for cramming like 20-odd people into one bunk bed, or something like that? I remember wondering how they can keep bodily infections at bay when they basically live on top of each other. Sorry to kill the excellent review.

Seabee said...

cg, you're right, that report was about Automatic. I still like the place though, even if I'm not a fan of their employee relations!

secretdubai said...

Yes - Automatic is great. I wish there were more of them. Eg in Al Ain - I wish they would put a nice, dependable Automatic at the top of Jebel Hafeet, instead of that hellish junk outlet.

MD said...

I love Automatic, especially their 'Mixed grill'. Don't miss the garlic 'thom'...very nice!

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled upon your blog & really enjoyed it.

The idea that Dubai can have street food is novel enough for me to sink in very,(very) slowly. Are you sure?

I was last in Dubai about 15 years ago - passing through after doing my time in Saudi Arabia - and everything I have heard since suggests to me all the authenticity of a movie set. Am I prejudiced?

Anyways, I am finally making it back there later this month and would love to have your recommendations on the top street food options to try.

Seabee said...

Hi Harinair and welcome.

First, the 'authenticity' question. The city of Dubai is still there - if you hit my 'Old Dubai' label you'll find posts not only on Dubai when I first came thirty years ago but also on the old parts that still exist. 'New Dubai' is just that, new developments where there was previously desert. It's hardly a movie set though, apart from the theme park areas. It's hard-working commercial and residenial areas as in any city.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'street food'. Sharwarma stands are dotted about in the older areas. If you mean independent non-hotel restaurants there are hundreds such as the 'Automatic' chain I talked about on this post. The famous Ravis in Satwa is still doing a roaring trade, there are many more Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Arabic etc etc, plus many western fast-food chains throughout the city in Deira, Bur Dubai, Satwa, Karama etc. In 'New Dubai' in areas such as Dubai Marina there are dozens of restaurants.

There's a very good website at - just search for Dubai and look at the restaurant tips that residents and tourists have posted there.

Single PAP said...

some of the best food i have ever had was a small roadside spot in dubai! i miss it!!