Aseelah is Dubai’s newest Emirati fine-dining restaurant, and is located in one of the city’s oldest hotel establishments; Radisson Blue – Deira, Dubai. With dazzling gilded interiors paying homage to the intricate architecture of the region, the restaurant is a spacious, welcoming abode for diners who are eager to get a taste of both traditional and contemporary Emirati cuisine.
My family and I dined at Aseelah a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say I was blown away by the talent of Chef Rabeh Adel Amer. My palette preference lean towards spicy, robust combinations, and I have often found regional dishes to be a little bland for my liking. Not the case here at all!
When we walked into Aseelah, Chef Rabeh was conducting a cooking class, and the whiff of exotic spices got my stomach cringing with an unexpected pang of hunger. They were learning to prepare Vegetable Margoogat, a traditional tomato-based Emirati vegetable stew. It baffled me how something so simple could smell so divinely delicious.
Chef Rabeh told us it was no secret. He was using a special mix of 20 freshly ground and roasted spices, and this mixture is known as Bezar. No ready-made spices go into his pot! What a difference freshly roasted spices can do to a dish, and let me tell you it tasted even better! Hubby and my picky 5 year-old have an aversion to vegetables, yet they both cleaned up their bowls in no time.
Finally settled at our table, we were welcomed with shots of Saffron Water, and presented a rather extensive menu of options. Here is a look at the elaborate Emirati feast we indulged in:
Spiced Parsnip and Almond Soup: A very soulful parsnip soup laced with the delicate hint of almonds.
Pan-Roasted Quail Salad: Quail is no easy bird to roast. Tiny as it is fragile, just a little over-roasting can absolute destroy the dish. At Aseelah, the quail is roasted to a steamy, crisp perfection and stuffed with roasted pistachio. It is served on a bed of vibrantly orange pumpkin puree, a few slices of glazed beetroot, a garnish of rocket leaves, and finished off with a sprinkle of cinnamon jus. The portion size is enormous, and this salad can easily be had as a main-course.
Lamb Kebab: A hearty platter of skewered pieces of succulent lamb, ehanced with a unique combination of spices. The lamb was cooked a perfect medium-rare, and went deliciously well with the spicy chili paste that was served on the side.
Rubian: A serving of plump, juicy shrimps, marinated in Aseelah’s signature Bezar spice mix and served on a bed of aromatic Basmati rice.
Aseelah’s Signature Chicken Roulade: Absolutely loved this dish, my favorite from the night! This roulade uses boneless chicken leg, and the stuffing consists of fresh dates and Bezar spice. It is served with Freekeh Risotto, smoked eggplant puree, and garnished with roasted peppers and pan jus. This dish is an ode to traditional Emirati cuisine, restyled for a global palate.
Lamb Thareed: A slow-cooked leg of lamb in a very moreish stew accentuated with Bezar spice and an assortment of root vegetables. The meat was literally falling off the bone!
Ending our meal on a decadently sweet note, we indulged in Aseelah’s sinfully delicious Date Pudding. The pudding is soft yet rich, and for a little respite, it is served with a scoop of tangy-sweet mango and passionfruit ice-cream on the side.
The staff insisted we also try a trio of very traditional Emirati desserts. Here is a lineup of Aseeda Bobar (a warm pumpkin mousse accentuated with saffron and cardamom), Sago (tapioca balls cooked in saffron milk and flavored with cardamom) and Luqaimat (deep-fried golden dumplings sweetened with drizzles of date syrup and a sprikle of sesame).
To down all this sweetness, I had cupfuls of traditional Emirati Kahwa (black Arabic coffee).
Overall, Aseelah is a wonderful culinary introduction to Emirati traditions. Going by the words of Chef Uwe Micheel in the Aseelah menu, expect to taste the ‘true flavors of Dubai’ here; a taste of heritage with a nod to the modern influences that have become an integral part of the city.
The interiors are stunning, the portions enormous, and each and every dish is beautifully flavorful and presented with panache. My absolute favorite was the Aseelah Signature Chicken Roulade. Do try it for yourself.
Aseelah is located in Radisson Blu – Deira Creek, Dubai. For more information and reservations, do give them a call on 04 2057333. Bon apetit!