You Need To Try This Iftar During Ramadan As They Even Have A Hummus Fountain
Our least favourite style of dining has to be a buffet set-up. Not just because it requires all the walking back and forth, but the long queues, greedy co-diners who take the best bits and the standard issue of food losing its taste because it has been lying around that long. But there's one place that's proved us wrong. And big time! Introducing the DIFC Majlis at The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC.
We arrived at the Iftar in the nick of time, else getting to our table would have been a battle of sorts. The venue (which is the hotel's beautiful ballroom) was packed with a crowd that looked like they had arrived straight after work (the suited corporate guys). We were led to our table which was at the far end of the Majlis. Partitions were used to split the ballroom in sections to accommodate various groups of diners. Our food journey began with dates and a glass of fresh orange juice, though they had traditional beverages such as tamar hindi and qamardeen available.
Our first stop was the salad station which even included a counter where you could create your own with greens, veggies and some dressing. We opted for the ready ones - tabbouleh, fattoush and and okra. With its mix of parsley, mint and the zing of lemon, the tabbouleh was a refreshing pick. Next we moved to the seafood station. The star was the poached prawns with a dollop of thousand island dressing. Simple and succulent. Did we mention there was no shortage of seafood here with squids, mussels and octopus making an appearance too?
We helped ourselves to some hot mezzes such as cheese manakesh (options included za'atar and labneh as well), delicious sambousek and crispy falafel. The odd bit though was the waffle and chocolate fountain placed right after these hot snacks (away from the dessert counter). Before we could ask, a chef ran up to us and explained we must give the falafel waffles a try. And so we did. We pierced these mini squares with a toothpick and swirled them through the hummus fountain (that very same one we thought was white chocolate) before biting into them. It was a very innovative way to enjoy the winning combo.
After a generous round of appetisers we headed to the counters with the longest queues (blame it on our curiosity). It led us to the Arabic sushi station. What's the difference between regular sushi and Arabic sushi? Well, the fillings. Forget salmon, tuna or crab. Here we sampled shawarma sushi and falafel sushi, but our top pick was the lamb kofta sushi. It was a first for us of the moist meat enveloped in sushi rice.
It was show time at the next stop with the chef tossing a purple-violet lumpy batter into a bowl, then using liquid nitrogen to produce a savoury ice-cream. The result: a scoop of beetroot ice-cream. It was quite a tease to the taste buds with its pasty texture and bold flavour.
The mains were an equally elaborate affair with dishes such as slow roasted beef, Asian duck and the Indian vegetable kadai on display. But what's an Iftar without lamb ouzi? The spiced rice (strong on flavours of pepper and cardamom) with tender (or let's just say flaky in a good way) bits of meat was the highlight of the buffet. The massive dish had an attendant alongside it. His job was to separate the meat from the bones. (Note in this case: looks are deceiving)
So far so good! Or let's just say...so far amazing! This Iftar proved us wrong in many ways. First, the food was hot, well-presented and constantly refilled. Second, a combination of the buffet and live stations gave us so much to choose from. Third, there was a service standard in place. This wasn't your usual buffet where you'd need to jump on your seat to get a server's attention. Staff were eager to assist in any way they could (to the extent that they were willing to even bring us stuff so we didn't have to walk to the buffet during our meal). Most importantly, they were a friendly and happy bunch of people - something quite rare when you have an influx of diners hitting your venue at the same time.
We spent the last few moments of the evening at the dessert room (yes, an entire room dedicated to sweet treats). There was a crepe station, a chocolate fountain with all dipping goodies, baklava and desserts such as vanilla creme caramel, saffron rice pudding and Philly cheesecake. Wiping off the last bits of the Emotion Envy (delicious milky balls floating in a rose water-like liquid) we knew we'd be coming back for a repeat of this experience.
The important information
The Iftar costs AED 195 for adults and AED 98 for children (6 to 12 years). It is available from sunset until 9pm. For information and reservations: call 04 372 2323