Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, is soon upon us. This is a time for piety and personal reflection. In the Middle East, we are fortunate enough to have our working hours reduced significantly for the entire month, and this allows for more quality time with loved ones and socializing over delicious Iftar and Suhoor buffets.
Having the distinction of being recognized as the Middle East’s Luxury City Hotel by World Travel Awards and also being listed among the top 25 hotels in the region by Trip Advisor Reader’s Choice awards for two years running, an Iftar booking at The Oberoi Dubai is on a class of its own.
I had the pleasure of being invited to The Oberoi’s Iftar Preview last night. The event was held in the hotel’s very chic Nine7One restaurant, and was attended by a number of senior media personalities.
Although a few dishes from the hotel’s other restaurants have been thrown in (a butter chicken from Ananta, a selection of sushi from Umai), The Oberoi Dubai’s Iftar buffet predominantly features traditional Middle Eastern flavors known to be Ramadan favorites.
We started off with the obligatory platter of dried fruit. Taking cue from the holy prophet, Muslims the world over break their fast with dates.
Given the link between dates and the holy month, The Oberoi has joined hands with Al Dahra Agriculture in Al Ain, well-known for their deliciously flavorful dates. The culinary team has embraced the SLOW initiative (Sustainable, Local, Organic and Wholesome) with a primary aim to support the local agricultural community, use fresh organic produce, and reduce carbon footprint by sourcing ingredients from indigenous farms. A team of chefs from The Oberoi will be regularly visiting the Al Dahra farm to pick the freshest of produce for their Ramadan offerings.
Apart from the dried fruits, each table also had servings of traditional Arabic pickles, khubz (Arabic flat bread), baby tomatoes and a hummus dip. These are enough to gear up the appetite before heading to the heftily stocked buffet.
The buffet as an assortment of dishes. There is something to please everyone, and it is near impossible to try everything in one sitting.
Here is a look at my plate of appetizers. It is a perfect mix of nationalities. I had a serving of dahi vada (an Indian dish consisting of deep fried lentil patties served in a tangy yogurt mix), an assortment of sushi (Japanese ofcourse!), and dolma (an Egyptian parcel of rice wrapped in grapevine leaves).
Caution: The wasabi at The Oberoi kicks a serious punch! Freshly made in-house, this innocently pale green paste is seriously lethal.
The Oberoi’s Iftar buffet features a live cooking station for steaks and grills. Guests can enjoy the choicest of cuts freshly grilled and delivered to their table.
Here’s a look at hubby’s plate; an assortment of mixed grills that can be had with sauces and sides of your choice.
A must-try from the mains is The Oberoi’s Lamb Ouzi, a traditional Mediterranean slow-cooked lamb served with a spiced rice pilaf. The meat was decadently moist and falling off the bone; a very hearty Iftar treat.
My plate of Lamb Ouzi was accompanied with an assortment of Arabic kebbeh and kebabs. I also had a serving of tabbouleh on the side along with fruity sips of Qamar Al Din (a traditional Arabic drink made of apricots).
Apart from Qamar Al Din, the buffet also offers Tamar Hindi (a traditional Arabic tamarind drink) and Jallab (a Middle Eastern drink made of carob, dates, grape molasses and rose water). Guests can also choose from an assortment of soft drinks and fresh juices.
Although the buffet for appetizers and mains offered an excellent array of delicious choices, it was the dessert counter that was stealing the show.
The Oberoi’s Iftar buffet showcases molecular gastronomy with a state-of-the-art nitrogen ice station. I met the very amicable duo Chef Rajeev and Chef Saravanan who were serving up three magical treats that grabbed the crowd’s attention and transformed the area to ‘selfie-central’ (who wouldn’t want a few impressive clicks with nitrogen fumes for Instagram?!).
First up was Chef Rajeev’s debut creation for Ramadan, the Inside Out. Chef Rajev has transformed the age-old Ramadan dessert favorite, Umm Ali, into a bite-sized work of science fiction. Umm Ali is a traditional Arabic bread pudding. Its a comfort food of sorts, and one I never miss at an Iftar buffet. However, this time round, my urge for the decadent milky pudding was overshadowed by Inside Out.
Umm Ali has been pureed, freeze-dried with liquid nitrogen, and then coated in caramel. This decadent ball is then tossed onto a bed of freeze-dried chocolate crumble, and has to be swallowed whole.
Hard-cold yet decadently sweet with the flavorful goodness of Umm Ali, Inside Out has really taken a classic to another level. Created in-house by Chef Rajeev, this dessert is exclusive to The Oberoi as is the other two to come out of the molecular gastronomy counter.
The freeze-dried Pomegranate Meringue was very theatrical indeed.
As soon as I popped one into my mouth, the Chef encouraged me to nibble. Doing so let out fumes of nitrogen from my mouth, much to the fascination of my 4 year-old who is now convinced Mama has dragon-like capabilities!
The Chefs were sporting enough to let us click this animated photo of the duo munching on Pomegranate Meringue. Yet another great selfie opportunity!
The third clever concoction to come out of this station made good use of freshly sourced organic dates from the Al Dahra farm. Cute little sticks of Date Lollipops not only looked adorable, but were easy for guests to pick up and eat on their way back to their tables.
Chef Rajeev shared the unbelievably simple recipe with me. These are essentially pure date puree mixed in with fresh cream, and made frozen in under 5 seconds on the molecular gastronomy counter. As a mum, this is great news! I even encouraged my little bub to have a few more of these ‘good-for-you’ lolly sticks!
Apart from all this sci-fi, the dessert counter is loaded with Middle Eastern sweet treats.
Unwind at Al Majlis this Ramadan and experience firsthand a myriad of Iftar treats amid frangipani trees and a decorative water display. Enjoy shisha to colloquial tunes of live oud and tabla performances. To reminiscent over a colorful past, Al Majlis includes a lavish spice souk as well as a henna artist.
Iftar at Al Majlis, The Oberoi Dubai costs AED 220 per person. You can also choose to have your very own private ‘Majlis’ equipped with a personal butler when the number of guests exceeds 10. The same buffet is also available for Suhoor. Call The Oberoi on 04 444 1444 to reserve your table today!