For a taste of Emirati cuisine in the heart of new Dubai, a trip to Seven Sands, The Beach JBR is a must – authentic flavours, beautiful presentation and what feels like a fair representation of a cuisine not known nearly enough to those of us expats who have made the UAE our home.
Dubai being as multi-cultural as it is means we are never too far away from pretty much eating through the world in this city. Most cuisines and food trends get their fair share of attention in the city’s constantly evolving dining scene. Yet somehow, traditional local Emirati cuisine isn’t one of the easiest to find. So when I first heard of Seven Sands serving up Emirati fare with flair in my neighbourhood, I was curious to know what lay beyond my favourite lugeimats (deep-fried doughnuts drizzled with date syrup).
The restaurant itself is tucked away in the quiet corners of The Beach at JBR. The interiors have touches of Arabic design and the music in the background sets a great scene. We were there early afternoon when it had beautiful natural light streaming through its large windows making it just the perfect setting for an easy weekend lunch. The menu itself is simplistic with hot/cold appetisers and traditional mains and desserts.
We started off so well as I absolutely adored their locally produced creamy Yact cheese combined with ricotta that added a beautiful texture. It was dotted with walnuts, pickled onion, fresh parsley, pomegranate and topped off with a date jam. This with a side of freshly baked warm bread, date syrup and olive oil made for the perfect cold appetizer.
But the highlight of our meal was this perfectly cooked Jesh Um al Hala (Orange-spotted trevally fish). Fouga is a traditional Emirati dish where fish or meat is cooked with selected spices with stock and basmati rice served garnished with crisp onions. The flavours are subtle, the fish beautifully flaky and the house-made Bzar (Emirati spice mix) has undertones of saffron and dry limes that create a unique fragrance and flavour. If you’d like to try to recreate this spice mix, here’s the closest recipe I’ve found (via Saveur).
The Chicken Thereed is a Bedouin-style stew that is cooked with potatoes, carrots, marrow and tomatoes, seasoned with saffron, whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Thereed is traditionally served with regag (local flat bread) that is torn and cooked with the stew so it forms this creamy textured base. There’s something very comforting about this stew – its flavours have warmth without any extra heat.
The humble Jisheed with Prawns has fish cooked with onion, herbs, turmeric, bzar spice and piquant preserved lime flavour served with steamed white rice with lime and ghee and topped off with plump prawns. As a Goan, I found much familiarity in the flavours and appreciated this dish for its frugal simplicity.
The luqeimat were calling out to me from the menu as they are usually my go-to choice but for the want of experimenting we opted to share the Aseeda Tiramisu – a simple sponge cake infused with dates, layered with mascarpone cheese (with a more pudding like than cheesecake texture), topped with dried sweet pear, pistachio and rose petals. Very mildly sweet and pretty as a picture.
For a first taste of Emirati cuisine in a very family-friendly setting, Seven Sands leaves a great impression. Most dishes surprise and delight you with an interesting blend of spices that pay homage to local flavours.
Location: Seven Sands, The Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), Dubai