This time next week, I expect everyone to be talking about the fried chicken and waffles in Downtown Dubai.
I know. It sounds like an unusual combination, like Kim and Kanye, but goodness, is it fabulous. Like, leave your child’s first birthday party to go get a plate fabulous.
Chicken and waffles at Clinton St. Bakery, the new New York spot that’s due to open any day now at Burj Views in Downtown Dubai, is causing me all sorts of problems — the main one being my love of their fried chicken means I may not get to enjoy everything else on their menu.
DeDe Lahman, the co-founder of the hit restaurant in the Lower East Side, where you can expect to queue for hours to get a brunch fix, understands the menu dilemma. The restaurant is famous for serving breakfast for dinner, but there’s so much more, she told me. “You are going to hear a lot about our breakfast. The thing is, we are really great for lunch and for dinner too, so I hope Dubai customers will try us around the clock.”
Lehman and her husband Nick, an NYC chef for over 35 years, opened Clinton St. 11 years ago, starting out making muffins and American-style biscuits (sort of like a fluffy, savoury scone), then breakfast and brunch items such as pancakes, French toast and eggs Benedict. Now they also serve burgers and fish tacos, and will be doing the same here in Dubai.
“We call it classics with a twist, high quality. It’s food that is comfortable but we don’t call it comfort food, we just say it’s American classics made with the highest quality ingredients with real chef techniques.”
A tasting preview tabloid! had was testament to that — this is homey food on another level, with inventive touches such as jalapeno-sour-cream atop the huevos rancheros, a Mexican-style egg dish with corn tortillas, beans and a palate-popping salsa. The cool-yet-chilli sour cream was a welcome tweak. The hollandaise on the eggs Benedict (served over biscuits rather than English muffins) is chef-perfect, and those biscuits, by the way? Tender and tangy, thanks to buttermilk.
And then I have two words for you: Honey-Tabasco. And then two more: Sugar bacon.
“Some people will wait in line for three hours for the sugar bacon,” says Lahman. In the UAE, they have sourced turkey bacon, which is baked crisp with sugar for an intense sweet-salty experience. The chicken sausage recipe was invented by Nick and is made in-house.
The fried chicken — marinated for 48 hours in buttermilk and cayenne, then fried in a coating has a bit of cornmeal — is served with that honey-tabasco sauce. Meanwhile, pancakes come with a maple syrup butter.
“If you are going to have our eggs Benedict, it will be the best you ever had,” says Lahman. “If you have the burger, everything on that plate is going to be the best quality. Pickles from the Lower East Side, bread from the best baker, caramelised onions, the French fries cut ourselves.”
And despite all the chef techniques, “it’s food that you want to eat, that isn’t prissy or intimidating. It’s good for a date or with friends because it’s simple, you can just enjoy each other’s company.”
Her favourite item on the menu? “The fried chicken sandwich. It’s sort of funny, but it’s like the best McDonald’s chicken sandwich you’ve ever had, elevated, like the Mercedes-Benz of McDonalds. It’s very simple, with pickled green tomatoes and shredded lettuce and lemon pepper mayo and a boneless breast, fried.”