Tresind_Ramadan trend story
Kebabs at Tresind’s Indian Steakhouse iftar Image Credit: Supplied

After years of being criticised for wasteful buffets that break the bank and run contrary to the very spirit of Ramadan, UAE restaurants finally seem to have gotten the message. In what’s probably also a response to the greater degree of competition — 1,109 new restaurants opened in Dubai last year; figures for closures are not easily available — this year’s iftar propositions certainly hew closer to the principles of the holy month, although more can be done. From value offerings and sustainable menus to more traditional fare, there’s more for the discerning diner although there are still plenty of blowout buffets to be had for those who want them.

A serving of value

“Diners in Dubai have a wide variety of dining options at their disposal and are looking for a value-for-money spot to enjoy iftar with friends and families that serve staple iftar items, so our menu at Purani Dilli offers Arab and Indian favourites,” says Afroz Alam, Sous Chef, Purani Dilli, Four Points by Sheraton, Downtown Dubai.

For Dh95 per person, you’ll get your fill of hummus, moutabbal and fattoush, as well as signature Indian mains such as lagan ka murgh, dal makhani and biryani.

The sub-Dh100 iftar is well in evidence: City Walk casual Italian Sapori’s four-course home-style iftar is priced Dh89, while Aussie chain Coffee Club has a three-course deal for Dh85 per head across the UAE.

Sustainability rules

Value takes a different twist elsewhere, with other eateries choosing to communicate some of the principles behind the holy month this year. Sofra BLD at the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri in Abu Dhabi is laying on a classic spread, while donating $1 for every iftar purchased to the UN’s World Food Programme through the ShareTheMeal crowdfunding app. Each donation feeds two children one full meal each, the hotel said in a handout. Vida Downtown’s contemporary 3in1 setting, meanwhile, bills its iftar as sustainable because its main courses are cooked to order. This cuts down on food waste and underscores the hotel’s environmentally responsible credentials.

A touch of culture

Ramadan is also about culture and tradition. At the Emirati restaurant Seven Sands on The Beach in JBR, the traditional iftar comes with a side of Arab culture for Dh255 per head. On Mondays and Fridays during the holy month, the restaurant hosts business coach and cultural tourism designer Nasif Kayed, who will lead an open discussion on topics such as ablution, fasting, culture, food and the significance of Ramadan.

“Our philosophy is focused on offering uniquely local experiences that celebrate the traditions, culture and cuisine of the UAE,” says Saad Tassoufra, Operations Manager of Seven Sands.

Over in Fujairah, meanwhile, the Majlis at the Fairmont Fujairah Resort’s Thamella Hall hosts Emirati heritage experts to talk about Fujairah’s historical sites, Emirati cuisine, fishing heritage of the UAE and Eid traditions.

A repast for renewal

Dubai diners are well known for their obsession with innovation, so we’re expecting Jiggs Kalra’s Masala Library at JW Marriott Marquis will be the most-Instagrammed iftar this season. Iftar at the new restaurant takes the form of a modernist tasting menu in contrast to the more usual buffets and giant platters, says promoter Zorawar Kalra. “We offer an experiential meal with an experimental menu that is still steeped in and respectful of tradition,” he tells GN Focus. “People are hungry after fasting all day, and it’s only fair that someone spends time and energy into creating something special for them.”

We offer an experiential meal with an experimental menu that is still steeped in and respectful of tradition.

- Zorawar Kalra, promoter, Masala Library, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

That something special is a series of 12 dishes, including a starter of date granola with power grains and superfoods, followed by the brand’s signature mushroom tea, kebabs, biryani and fusion desserts, priced at Dh230 per person (Dh195 vegetarian).

At Dubai favourite Tresind, this year’s twist is the Indian Steakhouse, a theme chef Himanshu Saini and his team have been working on for months. For Dh179, its date candy in edible paper makes a comeback, followed by six meat dishes, including kebabs and a gueridon-style lamb recipe, Pot Nihari, as well as a mango and deconstructed baklava dessert.

Innovative food at value pricing? Sounds just the ticket.