Levantine Delight or Another Average Arabic Restaurant?
Olea at MOE is one to try!
Home Away From Home
Does food travel well? Dubai is home to so many cuisines from all over the world, and many visitors and expats alike often compare their native cuisine here to that in their home country. That's no different for people from the Middle East. I've often heard friends from the Levant region say that food in restaurants at home tastes way better, and often to my experience, they are right. They also say food from their mum's kitchen is better still.
So when I planned to review Olea, a new Levantine restaurant in the Kempinski Hotel in Mall of The Emirates (opened 5 November), I immediately invited a friend who is a native of the region to really put it through its paces. She seemed pretty pleased with the place. Here's five reasons you should check it out too...
1. Great location
There is a large area between Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina which seems a little defunct when it comes to good places to eat. Yeah, there's Madinat Jumeirah which is great and Al Quoz and Al Barsha are coming into their own, but for easy access, especially from the mall and the metro, the Kempinski Hotel is stealing the show. We are fans of Salero and Noir at the Kempinski, but it's great to have another choice too!
2. Alfresco Dining
One of the best things about Olea is the outdoor dining area. It's a garden meets private dinning space with a great view of the beautiful Kempinski dome roof and the Burj Al Arab. At this time of the year, it's great to be able to sit outside for a few hours and enjoy a nice meal with good company, and this is a great sitting. This area, as with Olea in general, is more suited to the evening or weekend when you have time to spare to enjoy a long, slow meal (the staff are pretty relaxed). It's probably not a place for a quick lunch.
3. The quality shisha
It's safe to say that Arabic (and I use that cuisine reference loosely) restaurants live and die by their ability to provide good shisha. It's usually the first thing that is ordered, even before bread and water (this might explain why in Arabic translation you 'drink' the shisha rather than 'smoking' it) and it's the last thing that is cleared away, with short breaks taken to consume food! My companion confirmed that the shisha is of a very high quality here, I had the grape-mint, it was smooth and the staff frequently refreshed the coal.
4. Amazing Mezze
The best dish we ordered was the kebdet dajaj (warm chicken liver). A special mention should also go out to the smoked mutable (aubergine) that came in a theatrical display (see below). Olea do a really good job at representing the specialities of Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Cyprus all on one menu, quite a feat given the range of dishes from each country. They are also careful to choose the famous dishes from each country such as Mansaf (lamb in yoghurt) from Jordan.
I am always amazed with how good Arabic deserts are, my problem is that I can never pronounce the dishes or remember which one I had. Luckily the waiter was very helpful, as was my companion with their recommendations. We opted to share the Osmalliah, a sweet vermicelli with keshta and honey syrup. It didn't disappoint.
The Important Stuff
Starters range from 35 - 50 AED
Mains go from 70 AED to 120 AED with a mixed grill shareable with up to three people for 250 AED
Deserts are 40 AED each
The cost for dinner for two is approx 600 AED (minus shisha). For more check out Olea here.