My love for the Cheesecake Factory began when I was a college student studying at the University of Miami in Florida. My friends and I would take a break from drinking and partying in Coconut Grove to brave the hour-long waits (sometimes more) for a much coveted table. Unlike at some less technologically advanced restaurants where diners on the waiting list had to hover at the hostess table waiting for their name or number to be called, we were given one of those pagers that buzzed and lit up when our table was ready, allowing us some freedom of movement.
We would feel oh-so-grown-up eating at a place that wasn’t the school cafeteria or a fast food takeout joint like Taco Bell or an all-day diner like Denny’s. We spent our non-existent student income on $10 appetizers and $15-20 entrees that would set back our repayment of school loans, and more importantly, our drinking budget, quite a ways.
Overwhelmed at first by the the pages and pages of options on the menu (there are over 200 menu items), we probably spent more time studying the varied selections on their spiral-bound menu than we did on some of our school exams. Perhaps because there was too much to choose from, I found myself gravitating towards the same dishes over and over again: Tex Mex egg rolls, Chicken Jambalaya, Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp, and the Oreo cheesecake.
Oh the Oreo cheesecake!
Portions were generous so by dessert time, we were always too stuffed to finish a whole slice of cheesecake by ourselves but with more than 30+ options to choose from (and we were determined to try them all), we would strategically order the cheesecakes To-Go (carry-out to some of you) so that we could have a few bites at the restaurant and the remainder we would savior back in our dorm rooms when our bellies weren’t so full.
I attended many celebratory, end-of school-year, and just-because meals at the Cheesecake Factory in Miami. Maybe that’s why to me, the restaurant and the food is nostalgic and comforting, reminding me of those carefree days of college.
Many of those carefree thoughts ran rampant in my mind as I took in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the grand opening of the Cheesecake Factory’s first international location – in the Dubai Mall.
Overlooking the largest acrylic panel aquarium in the world at the Dubai Mall, the Cheesecake Factory opened its doors in Dubai on August 16, 2012.
The night before the official opening, I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and along with a few fellow food bloggers (Arabic Zeal, FooDee, and Maryam Bakes) and enjoyed an evening sampling the menu and the cheesecakes.
With swirly pastel orange and browns, the interior decor was similar to other Cheesecake Factories I have been to in the US. A huge plus if you can get the seats that open out into the mall overlooking the aquarium. We dined while catching glimpses of sharks, rays, and other fish life swimming across our vision.
I was very happy that some of my favorite dishes were being offered as samplers that night: Tex Mex egg rolls Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp, and the Oreo cheesecake (or so I thought!).
Tiny arrangements of fresh flowers accompanied each tray of food that was passed around by the servers.
While the savory items were served canape style, the cheesecakes were available for tasting in their full-slice glory! Not all flavors were available that night for sampling but we made sure to taste all the ones that were available: the Original Cheesecake, the Lemon Raspberry White Truffle, and what I am told is their newest addition, the Oreo Dream Extreme.
I of course gravitated toward the oreo cheesecake, being the only cheesecake I like on the menu. It looked different from what I remembered, but this is Dubai where everything seems to be created with the intent to enter the Guinness Book of World Records, so the larger than life Oreo cookie on top of the cheesecake seemed quite normal in my Dubaified mind.
After scrutinizing the Oreo cheesecake for a few minutes I finally picked up my fork to take a much anticipated bite.
Hmm…it was rich, and creamy, but it wasn’t quite right to me. I took another bite, and another until I had eaten a whole slice on my own. It was certainly good, I thought, but not how I remembered it.
As I swallowed my disappointment at the thought that the recipe had been changed, a waiter told me that this Oreo cheesecake was actually a new, if not the newest, addition to the cheesecake menu and was called the Oreo Dream Extreme. The original Oreo cheesecake would still be available on the menu – I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I think another visit to the Cheesecake Factory will be needed – for me, it’s all about the Oreo Cheesecake, baby.
Not surprisingly, with the Chief Culinary Officer Donald Moore and CEO David Overton in the house, the food that night was very good and nicely presented with the fresh flowers. But as is the case with all Dubai franchised restaurants – will the quality hold when they return back to their operations in the US?
Disclosure: I enjoyed this complimentary dining experience as a guest of The Cheesecake Factory but all views and opinions are my own.
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The Cheesecake Factory: The Dubai Mall, opposite the Aquarium, Telephone: +971 04 325 3521. Not licensed for alcohol nor pork (so those dishes that originally contained alcohol had to be modified).