I have wanted to visit Lebanese restaurant Em Sherif since the day I saw the photographs of its gorgeous blue interior.
I wish I hadn’t taken so long to go as the experience is as wonderful as the pictures promised. A restaurant in Dubai exceeding expectations? Shocking, I know.
Getting a reservation isn’t a given — this place is very busy, deservedly so. When I arrived for iftar on Thursday, it was packed with large tables of families ending the fast together. “This is what iftar should be,” my dining partner remarked as she surveyed at room.
Tables are mirror-topped, and the design falls on the elegant side of shabby chic — little glass bowls that could be from your grandmother’s cabinet are already on the table, holding a dish of lentils and fried onions, or a cold fish mezze.
Blue plates offer up the smoothest, whitest hummus I’ve ever seen; heavenly fried cauliflower and courgette in garlicky tahini; and kibbe nayeh, raw lamb kibbe mix (delicious, do try it).
Recounting the number of cold mezze served at the table would turn this story into a list — and that’s only the beginning.
What prevents this from being a tummy-busting meal is the delicate nature of all these dishes. Hot kibbe are flat and thin, a perfect little nibble. Everything is flavourful, but cooked with a welcome lightness. The mixed grill, of marinated chicken and lamb, was intensely smoky.
Anyone that’s followed my iftar reviews this year will know I’m always pleased by a cheese pastry. Em Sherif’s was out of this world, and it came for dessert: a sweet cheese mammoul. Usually these semolina pastries are dense, filled with dates. Here, they are served at your table warm. The waiter breaks it open and pours orange-flower-water heady syrup over it. It’s heavenly. Everything on the dessert platter seems fit for a fairies’ tea party: A mini-ice cream cone, flavoured with piney mastica; tiny, crisp puff pastries with cream; and thumb-sized sweet cheese rolls dusted with powdered sugar.
The food, service and ambience are faultless, but it does come at a price: Dh330 per person for iftar, by far the most expensive I’ve come across. Take the in-laws.
Where: Em Sherif, behind The Address Downtown (park at Souk Al Bahar, turn right before the bridge to Dubai Mall).
Price: Dh330 for iftar.