The UAE is a melting pot of cultures, and living in Dubai we are spoilt for choice with some of the finest global cuisines. Yet local Emirati cuisine tends to get overshadowed. As an expat, I’ve devoured a number of delicious ‘mandis’, but my visit to Seven Sands restaurant this week has opened up a whole new world of Emirati cuisine to me.
Located on The Beach (JBR, Dubai Marina) with stunning views of the sea, we would have never found this gorgeous gem of a place had we not been invited to try it out (for easy reference, Seven Sands restaurant is right across the road from Amwaj Rotana).
From the outside, Seven Sands looks like a black box, and even the entrance is around the corner. However, on stepping inside, I was mesmerized by the stunning decor. The interior design at Seven Sands restaurant pays homage to the glorious heritage of the Emirates, and has been blinged up with the tasteful panache that has put this region on the global map.
The restaurant is split into two floors. The ground floor has a lacquered wall showcasing relics of the past, and upstairs the walls are lined with UAE icons including Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The name itself, ‘Seven Sands’ stands for the seven different emirates that combine together to form the United Arab Emirates. In one corner of the restaurant, sand from the seven regions have been collated together to form a stunning display.
In true Emirati tradition, a staff member clothed in traditional Emirati attire greeted us at the entrance, and offered us cups of kahwa (Arabic black coffee).
We were ushered to our table upstairs by our lovely hostess Sana, who sprinkled our palms with rose water (yet another Emirati tradition!).
The upstairs area has a cosy reading area with informative books about the region. You can even wear the Emirati national dress provided here for a photo opp! Seven Sands will definitely be on the top of my list next time I have guests visiting from overseas.
The views from the terrace are absolutely amazing. You get a panoramic view of the Dubai skyline including The Palm Jumeirah, and it is bang opposite Dubai’s latest attraction, The Dubai Eye (scheduled to be ready by New Year).
The terrace at Seven Sands is perfect for shisha. If you are a non-smoker, they have a separate non-smoking outdoor area as well.
It was still a little muggy outside, and we decided to dine indoors. The gorgeous gilded gold decor continues into the first floor, and I got a little carried away trying to capture its beauty on camera.
With a fine dining restaurant like this, I wasn’t expecting the staff to be child-friendly and was quite impressed when my daughter got given an activities sheet to keep her preoccupied!
The leather bound menu at Seven Sands reminds me of vintage photograph albums.
We started off with cocktails. Nidhal, our waiter for the night, suggested the ‘Black Cinnamon Mojito’ for Hubby, and the ‘Yellow Bello’ for me.
Seven Sand’s ‘Black Cinnamon Mojito’ is an interesting take on traditional Emirati flavors. A simple lemon-mint soda gets a fruity, deep purple twist with the addition of blackberries, and a stick of fragrant cinnamon adds a spicy depth to each sip.
My ‘Yellow Bello’ cocktail is also based on lemon juice and soda, but tastes completely different. It is a delicious muddle of passionfruit and basil. It’s sweet, its tangy, and very refreshingly exotic.
While we flipped through the menu options, we were served with a complimentary platter of cheese bread that comes with an amazingly good chili-feta dip. These little bites are very moreish, and whet our appetite for more.
For our round of starters, we ordered two different salads. Seeing green mango on the menu, I had to try their ‘Homeidh with Green Mango Salad’. Unfortunately they didn’t have homeidh leaves, but were accommodating enough to redo the salad with rocket leaves. Apart from the mango and leaves, the salad also contains succulently sweet baby tomatoes. The dressing is a simple combination of lemon juice, olive oil and spring onions. It is refreshingly tasty with a tangy hit, and as they say, the simplest things in life are always the best.
The other salad on our table was the ‘Seven Sands Signature Salad‘. This is a very clever mix of Arabic flavors. Finely sliced beetroot is topped with rocca and rocket leaves (again the rocket was substituted for homeidh). A sprinkle of black sesame seeds and pumpkin crisp add texture to the dish, and a very creamy homemade yact cheese is piped around the parameters. The dressing is once again based on a lemon-olive oil mix, and also includes a special spice blend and pomegranate. Delish!
When dining Arabic, how can we not order hummous for starters? However, Seven Sand’s ‘Hommous Bajela‘ is not your everyday chickpea dip. It has been mixed in with finely chopped turnip pickles and salted fava beans, and topped with crushed walnuts and bezar (Arabic for ‘spice’).
We scooped up all this decadent hommous with the freshly baked khubz bread in no time. My husband detests beans in any form, and this was the first time I’ve seen him raving about a dish that had them in it!
The khubz is baked fresh in the oven inhouse, and apart from the plain variation, we also had a turmeric and ginger infused version (it appears more yellow than the ordinary counterparts in the photo above).
And here’s a platter of Seven Sand’s ‘Shark Sambousa‘. These deep-fried crispy golden parcels are stuffed with baby shark mince and comes with a very delicious sweet chili dip. Jaws, we finally get out revenge!
However, our absolute favorite appetizer from the night was Seven Sand’s version of the humble kibbeh. Their ‘Kibbeh Al Bezar‘ is baked, not fried and this is probably why its so perfectly soft and tender (as opposed to the overly fried, hard variations I’ve had in the past). The outer breaded crust is soft enough to spoon open, and the stuffing is a beautifully spiced minced lamb with pine nuts and almond. The tahini sauce on the side was the perfect accompaniment with this divinely meaty dish.
Next came our round of Mains. Seven Sands is running a Kebab Festival this month, and has a special menu of kebabs on offer at very special rates. From this listing, we tried their lamb chops.
Beautifully succulent and cooked to perfection, these lamb chops tasted even better than they look, and my only complaint is I wish there was more on the plate! The rice with beans on the side went almost unnoticed as our table got busy grabbing the chops,
Our other main dish is from the menu’s ‘Traditional Emirati’ section. I wanted to try a Fouga. ‘Fouga’ translates to ‘on top’. This is a traditional Emirati dish where selected spices and meats are cooked together with perfumed stock and basmati rice, and topped with a meat or seafood of choice.
We ordered the ‘Shrimp Fouga‘, and I could smell its aromatic flavors, especially the saffron, before it was even laid on the table.
The rice is spiced with Seven Sand’s homemade bezar and accentuated with a pinch of saffron and dry lime. For once, I found the rice of the dish even better than the pump, marinated shrimps that sat on top.
Our very friendly waiter Nidhal insisted we had frappes with our mains, and given his great job at choosing for us so far, we were more than happy to oblige. And then these towers hit the table! I’ve never seen glasses quite as tall, these are roughly a foot high! We have jokingly renamed these as the new Burj Khalifa 🙂
The one on the left is the Date Frappe, and the other one is the Caramel Frappe. Both frappes are decadently rich, sweet and creamy and topped with frothy cream. The date version even has the texture of chewy dates. Delicious as they were, I couldn’t do justice to my glass even with help from my toddler. Best to share I’d suggest (or order this all by itself and sit by their terrace to enjoy the sea views!).
We were mighty stuffed by the end of our meal. Blame it on the Burj 🙂 It’s hard to pin down one favorite; both the mains were fantabulous and brimming with authentic flavors.
We decided to share a dessert between the three of us, and chose to try the ‘Seven Sands Date Pudding’. My rule of thumb at any given restaurant is to pick dishes that the place names after itself. Surely it must be extra special to be given that honor, and also have a special individual twist that is impeccably a signature trait.
Following on from my theory, the ‘Seven Sands Date Pudding’ didn’t fail to impress. The pudding was chopped into bite-sized cubes, sprinkled with almond flakes and drenched in a deliciously sweet toffee sauce. Each spoonful was sinfully delicious, and I almost regretted on my decision to share.
By this stage, we were craving a good cup of tea. After all, a warm cuppa is the perfect ending to a gastronomic meal. Our waiter Nidhal went off to get us the tea menu, and what a gorgeous menu it is!
We were encouraged to unscrew each of the tea tubes on the side to have a sniff. We felt a sense of pride seeing Assam Tea right on top. For those of you who don’t know, my roots are Indian and my family hails from the North Indian state of Assam, famous for its tea.
Hubby chose to have the ‘Emirates Spice‘ tea, an aromatic blend of black tea, saffron and cardamom. I decided to try the ‘1001 Nights‘ tea, a subtly floral blend of black tea, green tea and orange flowers.
If the tea menu can be considered beautiful, the actual presentation of tea at Seven Sands is absolutely stunning!
Our trays came with teapots on candle-warmers, a butter cookie on the side, and three little sand clocks. You basically dip your teabag into the pot and turn the timer over. If you want light tea, you follow the first clock. For a medium brew, the purple is your guide, and a strong cuppa needs to follow the green. What a novel concept! I want one of these timers for home use please!
Idly sipping on our fragrant teas, we couldn’t believe where the time had flown. I can easily spend hours on end in this beautifully decorated space.
With its immaculately styled interiors, first-class service and absolutely divine cuisine, Seven Sands restaurant already has a major fan following since its opening in April this year. It is the ideal choice for a premium take on local cuisine, and is sure to impress both residents and visitors alike. For more details on Seven Sands restaurant, visit their website. I’m planning on booking a terrace table to ring in the New Year. Hope the Dubai Eye will be up by the 31st!