My husband and I love Far Eastern cuisines, and were quite excited about getting an invite to the Crab Fest at Chimes restaurant. Chimes is one of those little street-side places you could easily blink and miss. The outer signage is old, fading and uninspiring and the gloom factor is exaggerated by the fact that the restaurant resides right at the bottom of Seven Sands, a towering hotel that has been shut down and is now dark and deserted.
We also read a number of negative reviews on Chimes online. People complained about a suffocatingly hot interiors thanks to the very open kitchen plan of the place. Others said the food was below average, and far too sweet. We therefore entered Chimes with very little expectations.
We got a pleasant surprise once inside the restaurant. A stark contrast to the exteriors, Chimes has a warm homely feel about its interiors. The mellow gold lighting makes everything look magically earthy and Eastern all at once. The restaurant is nothing fancy, but is akin to a cozy nook you’d be comfortable eating at even if you were dining solo.
The smells and heat of the open kitchen didn’t bother us at all. Perhaps it was a cooler night, or perhaps the restaurant has since revised their kitchen aerating system.
The serving staff all hail from the Philippines, and we are told the chefs are from Thailand and Singapore. The restaurant itself is under Sri Lankan management. Talk about being multi-cultural Dubai!
“Chimes October Crab Fest, has become a gastronomic festival on our culinary calendar, every year customers look forward to a month long mouth-watering celebration with our hero dish Singapore Chilli Crab remaining the most popular. We are very excited about this year’s festival; we’ve added few more crab dishes to the menu; we can’t wait for everyone to taste. We’ve been working for almost 3 months to perfect these additional items and they are a must try this year” – Shenika De Livera, Co-owner and Operations Director,Chimes.
During the month of October, the focus in Chimes is their crab menu. The Crab Fest offers an interesting diversity of crabs at AED 125 per serving inclusive of your choice of rice or Singaporean Mantou Buns . These delicacies are also available the rest of the year, but the price then shoots up to AED 139 sans the rice/Mantou buns.
Here is the Crab Fest menu:
Hubby chose to have the ‘Singapore Black Pepper Crab’ and I went for the ‘Malaysian Butter Crab‘. Although both dishes use premium mud crabs imported freshly from Tanzania, the flavors of each dish were distinctively different.
The Singapore Black Pepper Crab had a robust soya sauce base accentuated with the fiery heat of cracked pepper, whereas my Malaysian Butter Crab was sinfully creamy with a coconut cream base.
It is a messy business eating crab, and thank goodness for the disposable aprons we were given! We got tackling our crabs hands on, and the side plates were piling up quickly with the cracked shell aftermath. This is definitely not fine dining, and given the casual layout of Chimes, everyone seems very comfortable putting aside table etiquettes and really enjoying the meal.
Although both the crabs were delicious, the Malaysian Butter Crab was absolutely divine. The creamy coconut cream base has the delicate flavors of curry leaves and chili heat, and I could have licked the pan clean if I was allowed to!
Each crab order comes with a small bowl of rice, or a platter of Sinaporean Mantou buns. The buns are sweet, and have the perfect spongy consistency to swipe up the delicious crab gravies. However, each serving only comes with four little buns. Given the pan of crab is so large, a diner would definitely need more.
Chimes has a number of interesting mocktails on offer. Hubby had the Lemongrass Lemonade, and I had the Iced Tea. I like the how these drinks are served in handled mason jars; very kitsch! The drinks themselves are freshly made from scratch, and are very refreshing and healthful.
On the mantelpiece next to our table sits a trophy. When asked what it was for, the staff tell us that Chimes was awarded the Platinum Award at ‘The Art of Thai Culinary: Pad Thai and Tom Yum Kung Contest‘, organized by the Royal Thai Consulate General of Dubai and the Northern Emirates on the 5th of August, 2015. I will have to be back at Chimes to try out their Thai dishes!
Overall our crab experience at Chimes was decadently good. With a casual, homely ambiance that allows you to really dig in, I would definitely come back for more.
Walking past the disillusioned facade, you’d never think of stepping in to Chimes but once you have, you’ll be hooked. Please do try the Malaysian Butter Crab, I highly recommend it!
Chimes is located on the outskirts of Seven Sands hotel in Al Barsha, Dubai with close proximity to Mall of the Emirates. For more information and table reservations, call 04 323 4211.