I was invited to do a review on Zafran at Mirdiff City Center over a year ago, and have been raving about them ever since. This week, I had the pleasure of attending yet another bloggers’ meet-up organised by the lovely Monica Kapila from doindubai.com
Zafran is ‘saffron’ on an Arabesque tongue. Saffron, the most prized of spices, the sacred color of sadhus, and a shade that takes up a third of the Indian flag, is the inspiration behind this trendy contemporary Indian restaurant. The last time I was at Zafran, the interiors were a vibrantly bright shade of saffron, and the ambiance was made to look all the more exotic with carved elephants and ethnic prints.
The Zafran chain has now had a major facelift. The colour scheme has shifted to more somber hues of greys,off-white and hints of peacock blue. This new look is more in tune with the ‘contemporary bistro’ concept that the restaurant claims to be.
We were a table of seven very enthusiastic blogging ladies, all with subcontinental roots. Upon arrival, we were served these very dainty looking Welcome Drinks. It is a fizzy concoction with a hint of rose. When asked what it was, the staff were sweet enough to tell us it was a mix of rose syrup with a squeeze of lemon and a downpour of 7UP. Super simple! You can easily do this at home and impress your house guests 🙂
We were also served a very dainty Amose Bouche… this is a cube of refreshing watermelon, scooped and stuffed with feta, and drizzled with tamarind.
What is an Indian meal without papadoms and pickles? At Zafran, they serve an array of different papadoms, and all their chutneys are made in-house. The chutney platter included some very interesting, unusual concoctions such as Beetroot Chutney, Papaya Chutney and Watermelon Rind Chutney.
And this is what we had for our starters round:
Dahee Kebab: Battered and deep-fried golden brown dumplings of hung yogurt accentuated with a hint of ground coriander. Creamy soft on the inside and crisp on the outside, this ‘kebab’ was my favorite starter of the evening.
Aloo Tikkia: A much-loved Indian street food featuring pan-fried potato cutlets served on a bed of fiery chickpeas. Many places do this dish, but the one at Zafran is exceptionally good! It had the characteristic pungency of mustard oil, the heat of garam masala and the potato cutlets were moreishly soft and blended in perfectly well with the chickpea gravy.
Papdi Chaat: Yet another popular Indian street food featuring ‘papdi’ (deep-fried Indian flour crisps) and boiled potato cubes in a sweet yogurt base, topped with tamarind and mint chutney. Given how rich the other starters on the table were, I found myself reaching out for more spoonfuls of this.
The Kebab Platter: Marinated in a range of exotic blends, basted with yogurt and cooked to perfection in a traditional Indian tandoor, this platter featured absolutely soft, succulent servings of Chicken Malai Tikka, Chicken Tikka, Batti Chicken and Rampuri Seekh Kebab.
The Vegetarian Platter: If you are a vegetarian, don’t fret! Zafran has you covered with quite a long list of options. This vegetarian platter features Tandoori Aloo, Tarkari Paneer Tikka and Tandoori Broccoli.
Before delving into the main-course, we had the pleasure of witnessing the making of Zafran’s ginormous Family Naan. I’ve heard of the foot-long dosas before, but never have I seen a restaurant doing a larger than life version of the humble naan. This beast is big enough to feed a family of 6 (or more!) and is carefully rolled out and cooked in the tandoor. Customers can witness the craftsmanship of this creation through the glass windows of the open kitchen.
Our main-course was an indulgent array of exotic curries. I was very pleased to spot my favorite curry from my last visit here; the very creamy, aromatic Coconut Prawn Curry that is inspired by the Bengali style of cooking. I even got the recipe for this off Chef Gaurav! Click here and try it out for yourself.
The Rogan Josh at Zafran is an absolute treat. Featuring succulent pieces of boneless lamb cooked in a rich, creamy yogurt and onion gravy, the dish is finished off with a pinch of saffron elevating it to fine-dining status.
From the vegetarian selection, I really enjoyed the vibrantly green Palak Paneer, the tangy-hot Aloo Masala and the soul-enriching Daal Makhani.
And then there was biryani! I had the Chicken Biryani, a decadent aromatic pilaf accentuated with the aroma of saffron, mace and cardamom. The chicken in this biryani is boneless and is as moist and juicy as the kebabs we had earlier.
Ending on a sweet note, we were treated to the Zafran Dessert Platter. On this platter sits a generous serving of Saffron Kulfi, Gajar Halwa, a soft cloud-like Ras Malai and a plump, juicy-sweet Gulab Jamun.
To balance out all the sweetness, we indulged in aromatic cups of steaming hot Masala Chai.
The team at Zafran gave us a beautiful (and very useful!) memento to take home for our own kitchens:
Contemplating on what to whip up for dinner tonight… Definitely doing Indian thanks to this beautifully aromatic gift from @zafranindianbistro Thank-you Zafran, and thank-you @doindubai for hosting yet another memorable blog meet 😊💕🌶 . . . #zafranuae #spices #indiancooking #masalas #masaladabba #thetezzyfiles #dubaifoodie #dubaifoodblog #dubaifoodblogger #uaefoodbloggers #huffposteats #eeeeeats #cooking #kitchenmusthaves #chili #haldi This pic was taken using the Panasonic LUMIX GF7K #tezzylumix
Overall, I had a very memorable evening at Zafran. Apart from the very warm, infectious banter and giggles with my fellow bloggers, I was pleased to see that the food has managed to stay as amazing as it was since my first visit. Zafran manages to serve 5-star quality dishes in a stylish ambiance sans the hefty price tag. I listed 7 reasons I loved Zafran in my very first post (click here), and I am repeating them here again:
- First of all, the menu is very reasonably priced.
- The menu lists a number of traditional dishes that are often not found under one menu (North, South, East and West India all in one!).
- The ambiance is simply spectacular!
- Both the Zafran branches in Dubai are conveniently located within malls. No parking hassles!
- The food is amazing! Being a true foodie, I have dined in all kinds of Indian restaurants (the hole-in-a-wall stalls, the five-stars) and I now list Zafran as one of my favorite Indian restaurants in Dubai.
- After the food, it is the people that make a restaurant experience memorable. At Zafran, the staff are as warm and cordial as their aromatic curries. Diners feel at ease from the very start.
- Lastly, a point many people may not be aware of: the original Zafran menu was co-created with Michelin Star Chef Atul Kochar! (Yet the menu prices remain very affordable). Currently heading the menu creations of this innovative restaurant, Brand Chef Gaurav has a very impressive CV on Indian cooking including a stint at Asha’s, and representing India for ITC Worldwide.
Zafran at Mirdiff City Center is located on the 1st Floor. For reservations at the Mirdiff City Centre branch call 04 284 0987, and for the Marina Mall branch call 04 399 7357. Bon apetit!