It’s barely six months old on the Dubai food scene, but Al Mashowa has already attracted a loyal following among pursuers of authentic Emirati cuisine (tales of its karak chai queues are widespread, but more on that later).

The restaurant prides itself on an offering of traditional eats as you’d find served in Emirati households, using local produce. Located in bustling City Walk (opposite Hub Zero), we enter the light and airy space to oars plastered on to the walls, boat frames, and two little aquariums — the name Al Mashowa refers to boats.

The iftar served here is a mix of a set menu and buffet. After snacking on some dates and dried apricots, for soups we chose the rich creamy lentil and the clear and light chicken, the former offering good flavour, the latter a bit too watery. There are also three choices for drinks: Vimto, Laban ayran and Jallab.

The cold mezze is served buffet-style, so you can load up your plate with fattoush and hummus/moutabbal for all your warm flatbread — we loved the thin, almost translucent Emirati markouk bread. The jarjeer (arugula) salad with its caramelised onions is a must-try too – so simple yet delicious. The hot mezze, meanwhile, is served to the table, and is a platter of taste and combinations: we quickly devoured the spicy, crispy bakora, samosas and cheese sambousek.

For the mains we chose a version of biryani and some lamb kebabs. The biryani, served in a little blue pot, was the absolute winner – layers of nuts and spices and onions with tender meat and fragrant rice. Top marks for both presentation and taste. The kebabs were juicy and perfectly flavoured, the spices and herbs used made for one succulent dish.

It’s back to the buffet for dessert, with various treats including kunafa, luqaimat, and the Insta-worthy sweet dumpling with cream and nuts called katayef. And along with it we asked for a cup of the famous karak chai — rich, smooth and creamy, it was so good that my friend declared she already missed it as soon as we drained our generous cups. Believe us, you want to make this your new chai spot in town.

It’s already garnered the collective approval of Emiratis, and Al Mashowa is now on its way to charm all us expats too.

The details

Location: Al Mashowa, City Walk

Price: Dh120

Timings: Sunset until 9pm