Foodies travelling to the United Arab Emirates will find a whole host of delicious foods to try from all over the world. You can find a good selection of restaurants serving regional food, particularly from Lebanon, but it is much harder to find a truly local meal. The UAE produces more food than you’d think. Smaller Emirates grow a surprising amount of fresh produce, and much of the dairy consumed is produced in the country. Although there are a good number of Emirati ingredients available to try, a true Emirati meal is harder to come across.
It was therefore with great excitement that I found out about Mezlai restaurant, which is located in the utterly spectacular Emirates Palace Hotel, serving authentic Emirati cuisine.
Mezlai has the look and feel of a regional restaurant, with local musicians playing and many Emirati families dining here of an evening. The menu offers an interesting selection of regional specialties – most of which we hadn’t come across before.
We started off with the Mezlai salad, which was a simple crunchy salad of lettuce, sliced apples and pomegranate seeds, which was very plain, but extremely refreshing in the hot climate, and, we found, exactly the kind of thing we fancied after a day in the sun. We also tried the excellent Rocca salad with lobster, which included delicious chunks of sweet, cool lobster and fresh spinach.
The restaurant is very helpful and accommodating when it comes to look after diners with food intolerances, but, if you can, do try the Rgag breads. I’ve not had anything quite like them before, and they were wonderful. They’re more like a crepe quesadilla than a bread: wafer thin, crisp rounds of pancake-like bread filled separately with za’atar, egg and cheese and utterly moreish. The za’atar and egg fillings were particularly successful.
Moving on to the main course, we shared the lamb medfoun, which is a traditional marinaded and roasted shoulder of milk-fed lamb. The lamb was exceptionally tender and served on the bone with some of its cooking juices and rice. The standout dish for us was the chicken with yoghurt, which was in fact pieces of chicken marinated in a yoghurt and dried lemon powder sauce and chargrilled. The chicken was exceptionally juicy and tender and the dried, ground lemon gave it the most intriguing flavour. It was served with some delicious roasted cauliflower.
Drinks are really interesting. There are a number of milk-based drinks flavoured with cardamom, dates and rosewater and the like along side a really delicious selection of juices.
There are some very tasty desserts on the menu, with the cardamom and rosewater milk pudding a favourite for us. Do finish, if you can with a
Chai caraic and an Arabic coffee, which is a white coffee flavoured with cardamom and rosewater to complete the Emirati experience.