When we have guests in Dubai, we inevitably bring them to Madinat Jumeirah (the “Arabian Resort”) for lunch and/or dinner to experience the lovely ambience of dining in a setting that is based on the old architecture of Dubai with the wind towers (traditionally designed for natural air-conditioning) and with the arched walkways of the old souks.
The coolest thing about the resort is that you can dine along the water (man-made canals of course) and take a ride on a traditional wooden boat known in Dubai as Abras (think motorized gondolas but not so pointy and embellished). On the real Dubai creek, the Abra ride to cross over between Bur Dubai and Deira will set you back a whole dirham (25 cents). The Madinat Jumeirah Abras are certainly more posh and comfortable but unless you are staying at the hotel, you will have to pay a lot more than 25 cents for a short ride.
So what a treat it was for myself and eleven fellow Dubai food bloggers – the Fooderati – to not only be taken on a Culinary Tour of the resort where each course of dinner was served in a different Madinat Jumeirah restaurant but to be ferried from one restaurant to another via Abra while taking in the beautifully lit palm trees with the majestic Burj al Arab towering above them all.
We started off with hors ‘d’oeuvres and restaurants at Magnolia, which used to be the only fine dining vegetarian restaurant in Dubai, but sadly, it closed it doors as a public restaurant (it is still available for private bookings and special functions).
It was a beautiful evening, perfect Dubai winter weather for just jeans and a tank top. I bought my pashmina but it was warm enough that I didn’t need it. We were all gathered on Magnolia’s terrace where the setting was relaxing and beautiful and where the vegetarian fare was inventive and satisfying. Photography by mostly candlelight resulted in many blurry photos but here’s one that made the cut:
We chatted with Chef Gabi Kurz, the Resort’s Well Being Chef (who happens to have her own food blog) and bombarded her with questions about the canape selection of the evening: Beluga Lentil Foie (on crispy spelt bread), Green Pea and Mint Soup (with quinoa spelt grissini), Feta and Olive stuffed Polenta Marbles (with tomato relish), and Butternut Pumpkin Mini Strudel (with spicy coriander pesto).
Chef Gabi has such a warm and friendly personality and again, I can’t help but notice how she exudes so much passion when she talks about healthy cooking and eating habits. Her vegetarian canapes were not only well-presented and eye catching but they were flavorful as well. My favorite were the polenta marbles for which she made good on the promise to provide us with the recipe (which I am sharing with you below).
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After saying our goodbyes to Chef Gabi, we stepped onto our waiting Abras to transport us to Pai Thai where we were to be served the appetizer course and meet Chef Rittyos, chef de cuisine of the restaurant.
I’ve been to Pai Thai many times with Scotch and I just love sitting on the terrace overlooking the canals – it’s such a wonderful, serene, and romantic place to dine on special occasions or to take out of town guests. And Scotch and I love Thai food so locale and cuisine make it one of our favorite restaurants in Dubai.
As the appetizers appeared on our tables, there was the inevitable whipping out of cameras to capture each dish before they could be touched or eaten.
We were served: Thung Thong Kung (deep-fried crispy marinated minced prawn wrapper in rice paper, plum sauce), Chor Moung (caramelized sweet chicken dumpling, purple flower, fried onion, soya chilli sauce) and Sate Gai (grilled marinated chicke sate, coconut milk, lemongrass, turmeric peanut sauce)
Us shameless meat eaters also gobbled up the two dishes that were prepared for the two vegetarians in our group – crispy vegetarian Spring Rolls and a Pomelo Salad that was dressed with a citrus vinaigrette. If you’ve never had pomelo, it is basically a sweet grapefruit (and according to Wiki, grapefruit is a hybrid of the pomelo and the orange).
I enjoyed sampling all the appetizers at Pai Thai but was really taken in by how lovely the pomelo tasted with a simple dressing of lime juice, sugar syrup, garlic and chillis – the wonderful balance of sour-sweet-salty-spicy that Thai cuisine excels at.
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After we had devoured all the appetizers, we stepped back into our Abras and continued onwards on our culinary journey to Segreto for the main course of Fresh Mushroom Parpadelle (with Winter Truffle and Lobster Ragout).
Chef Mauro, who seemed like a jovial man, came over to our table to say hello, as well as Resort Executive Chef Christian Gradnitzer to chat with us about the different culinary offerings within Madinat Jumeirah.
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With the main course finished, there was only one course left – Dessert!
Our waiting Abras ferried us over to The Wharf where we sat outside, under the stars, alongside live musical entertainment, and where those with a sweet tooth enjoyed a dessert selection consisting of Sticky Toffees, Brownies, Trifles, Crumbles, and Treacle tarts.
Not possessing a sweet tooth, I sipped my wine until the two words I had been waiting for were finally uttered: “Cheese room!”
Inside The Wharf, at the far end of the bar is a temperature-controlled cheese room where we were all given cheese paddles to fill with as much cheese as our stomach’s desired. Some of the cheeses that I sampled and enjoyed were the Cambozola, Stilton, Stinking Bishop, and Livarot.
Sipping wine, eating cheese, and chatting among good company – a perfect ending to a fabulous culinary tour of Madinat Jumeirah.
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Madinat Jumeirah – for more restaurant details and reservations, please visit their website or call +971 4 406 8999.
A big thank you to Chef Christian for sparking the idea of this culinary tour and to Katie and Sara who kept us company during the evening as well as to all the MJ resort staff who made this wonderful evening possible.
Disclosure: I enjoyed this complimentary dining experience as a guest of Madinat Jumeirah.
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Feta and Olive Stuffed Polenta Marbles
- 100 gm Polenta , precooked
- 250 ml vegetable stock
- 250 ml milk
- 20 gm butter
- 25 gm parmesan cheese , grated
- 2 cups whole spelt bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 stalks rosemary , leaves chopped
- 15 g black olives , stoned and chopped
- 15 g Greek feta cheese , crumbled
- 250 ml frying oil
- salt , to taste
For the polenta, bring to a boil vegetable stock and milk with a pinch of salt.
Stir in carefully the polenta and allow it to simmer while stirring for 5 minutes.
Add the butter and the parmesan cheese and check seasoning. Add salt if necessary but bear in mind that the parmesan cheese is salty already.
Spread the boiled polenta on a deep tray and allow it to cool.
Then add the egg, the breadcrumbs and the rosemary to the cooled and now firm polenta and mix well.
Form bite size "marbles" and place into each one a little bit of feta and olives.
Preheat the frying oil and fry the polenta marbles until they are golden. Serve warm.
Recipe NotesServes 12 as appetizer portions.
Chef Gabi's tips: If you enjoy cooking for parties – here is her ultimate tip for this dish to be well prepared so that on the big day there is not much for you to do: Form the marbles and keep them in the freezer until you need them. Deep fry them frozen until they are golden and finish them in the oven at 150 degrees for another 10 minutes. Chef serves the crispy marbles with a homemade tomato relish.