A few days back we were invited by Farzi Cafe in City Walk 2, Dubai, to review their special Iftar offerings. I have been to Farzi Cafe once before, for a friend’s birthday dinner, and absolutely loved their concept and ambiance. The food is as traditionally Indian as can be but with surprisingly quirky twists, and every item on the menu is a true work of art!
As we arrived, we were welcomed very warmly, and this was not a special case, I noticed that they greeted every guest with the same warmth and grace. We were seated at a corner table and the Iftar menu was explained to us, while they also made sure that Manaal was comfortable in her high chair and if she would prefer to have something different.
Since the Iftar menu was a set menu, we were also asked about allergies and dietary restrictions (My family eats everything and “anything” so they didn’t have to worry about us!!).
The Iftar Menu set at 125 AED per person, consisted of an Amuse Bouche ( a bite-sized appetizer ) and 4 courses of food. I really liked how they presented each course and then cleared it up completely before serving the next.
Our amuse bouche was a sunset date macaroon. It was served on a platter that looked like a small branch of a plant and there were dates coated with vermicelli and crushed popcorn along with the macaroons. Unfortunately, we could not taste the macaroons, as Manaal gobbled them up before the call for prayer. But I can tell you that they looked absolutely decadent! We were then served welcome drinks, which were made of dates, milk, and nuts. I had this drink right after breaking my fast, and it wasn’t too sweet or too overpowering in taste. All the ingredients were just right and made it absolutely refreshing for an empty tummy.
Then came the Pre-starter which was the Bombay Bhel topped with yogurt spheres. When they served it, they garnished it with the bhel masala right on our table. We were being very sophisticated and tried eating it with spoons, but the Manager himself came to us and told us that the right way to have it was by popping the whole thing into our mouth (Bombay style!!) and that way the yogurt spheres will burst in our mouths and bring out the actual flavour. Boy, was he right?!! Let me tell you I have had street food in India and Pakistan, but this was an experience in itself!
Next, we were served the starters. There was the Tempura Dynamite Shrimps served with kumquat chili air (the foamy part). That “air” had some flavor alright! The shrimps were not overly cooked and the batter on them was not too thin or too thick. It was mildly spicy and the kumquat chili air flavors gave it a different twist. Another starter was called Beef Boti Hash and was served on a slice of a wooden log. Now my understanding of this particular dish was that it was a different take on “alu gosht” (potato and lamb/beef curry) that is very common in the Indian Subcontinent households, but that’s just my opinion! It was made of beef that was chopped into the tiniest of cubes (but not minced), called boti in urdu, and cooked with hash browns. The beef was very tender and literally melted in the mouth and the hash browns gave the dish a little bit of crunchiness. It was cooked like a curry with minimal spices which did not overpower the natural flavors of the beef or potatoes.
Their very famous Dal Chawal Arancini served with Achar Papad and Chutney was also part of the starters and I was overjoyed to see this dish. Dal Chawal (lentils curry with plain rice) is a staple in our homes, and one of our desi comfort foods, but it is pretty plain and almost never served at dinner parties. It was exciting to see that Farzi Cafe took such a simple dish and jazzed it up to make it a star dish at the table. They rolled a mixture of dal chawal into balls, fried them, topped them with rolled up achar flavored papads (poppadums) and served it on a bed of a sauce made of curried tomatoes and mint and cilantro chutney. Viola! your dal chawal is modern now!
By this time, our tummies were quite full and we realized that we still hadn’t even started the main course! The first dish in the main course was Rawa Uttapam with Curry Leaf Pepper Prawns. Rawa Uttapam is an Indian savory pancake, in this case, made of a rice flour batter. This dish was served as a dry prawn curry, with a subtle taste of curry leaf, wrapped in the rawa uttapam and topped with coconut chutney with a vegetable curry sauce on the side. This was another favorite of mine as I love South Indian food and again all the flavors of the different components of the dish combined very smoothly and enhanced each other.
We then had the most different Nihari we have ever had. It was so different and innovative! It was called the Lamb Seekh Nihari. It was literally a lamb “seekh” nihari. Let me explain. The meat of nihari (usually from the thigh of the lamb) was minced and grilled like seekh kebabs (the mince meat is skewed on skewers) but in this case, the mince meat was skewed onto a huge bone and then cooked. The rest of the nihari (sauce) was served in a sauce boat and poured around the lamb “seekh” on the table. This dish was accompanied by naans topped with onion seeds.
The third main course was a Biryani of course! (If you are a desi, you know why I said of course. And if you are not, then let me just say that Biryani is the king of all foods in the Indian Subcontinent, and no party, celebration etc is complete without it!) The biryani was perked up too and called the Farzified Shawarma Biryani. It came on a wooden platter, on which the chicken, cooked in shawarma spices, was skewed onto a metal skewer while the biryani rice sat on the base. This was served with a thick raita (yogurt sauce). It was spicy and flavorful, and the biryani rice had the distinct smell of the traditional spices, but none of them were “in there” to spoil the experience. It was just flavored rice (picky eaters know that chewing on a piece of clove or black cardamom, ruins the “sacred” biryani experience!!)
Are you drooling yet?! if you are, then wait for the desserts and you will be dashing through the door for Iftar at Farzi Cafe! The first dessert was a Gulab Jamun, served with Crunchy Rabri and Frozen Rose. So the gulab jamun (Indian dessert made of a milk-based dough, shaped into balls, fried and then drenched in a sugary syrup) came on a platter with a few berries and rose petals. A server then came to our table with Rabri ( another milk-based dessert, in which the milk is cooked until it becomes thick and creamy) in a bowl and a Nitrogen cylinder. He then froze the Rabri live using the nitrogen, mixed it and topped the gulab jamun with the now ice like rabri, then froze a rose petal and smashed it on top of everything. The combination of the soft and warm gulab jamun along with the cold crunchy rabri was like no other.
The finale of our Iftar menu was the Turkish Coffee Kunafe with Rabri Cloud. It was a very traditional Kunafe with cream in the center along with a Turkish coffee flavored foam, and Rabri which was soft and light literally like a cloud!
From beginning to the end, the Iftar menu was a gastronomical journey, which was a treat to all the senses. The sights, sounds, flavors were distinct and unique for each dish. Farzi Cafe also has a variety of innovative and luscious drinks to accompany any meal and their “Dirt Pile” dessert (check it out next time you are there, I will save you the drools from the description!) is one of my biggest favorites at the restaurant.
Have you been to Farzi Cafe? Have you tried their Iftar Menu this year? I would love to hear your thoughts!
P.S – We were invited by Farzi cafe to taste the Iftar menu, nevertheless, all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.