Dubai is everything but ordinary—the buildings, the scenery, and even the restaurants—each has its own way of deviating from the mainstream. And when it comes to restaurants, is there any better way to stand out than featuring molecular gastronomy?
Molecular gastronomy is where science meets food. It has been on for years, but admittedly, I don't think I'd ever been to a restaurant which offers such. Well, there may be some which offers one or two dishes, but none which incorporates molecular gastronomy to almost every dish in their menu.
Restaurants specializing in such art has been sprouting like mushrooms here in Dubai, one of which is Farzi Cafe. It opened just a couple of months back but it has taken Dubai's food scene by storm. I remember being flooded with photos of food with smokes, foams, and funky platings in my social media feeds.
Mark and I got to sample and experience what the hype is all about, a couple of weekends back.
Farzi Cafe is a modern Indian bistro which originated in Guragon and New Delhi, India, and has ventured its way to Dubai.
From the outside the restaurant looks plain yet chic, but from the inside, it's high ceiling, light bulbs, star-lit walls, modern chic wooden and leathers interiors, exude an enchanting vibe.
An Indian friend once told me that farzi means fake or an imitation, but Farzi Cafe claims it to be more like "creating illusion", which I thought was very apt as they offer traditional international dishes with an Indian twist.
I somehow had a hard time choosing from the menu, good thing one of the servers came to the rescue and told us that there's already a list of food that's in store for us. For someone who is not well-versed with the Indian cuisine and who usually associates Indian food to spices and curry, I must say that Farzi Cafe changed all my impressions. They serve a fusion of Indian and international dishes incorporating molecular gastronomy in each dish.
Yogurt Amuse Bouche with Cumin-specked Berry Coulis Shots
We started off with Yogurt Amuse Bouche with cumin-specked berry coulis shots on a bed of dry ice. It was interestingly yummy and bursts into a sweet and tangy goodness. Although I can't quite understand why we had desserts for appetizer and how this would whet our appetites, it actually revved up the kid in me which made me excited with the rest of their offerings.
I was skeptical when the Dal Chawal Arancini was served, with spicy Indian food still in my thoughts, but when Mark gobbled up two of it in no time, I was already sold. Laid on a bed of tomato coulis, this crispy balls filled with mushy rice and lentils were a winner. Topped with achaar mayo, mint chutney, and a crispy poppadum, it's an Indian take on the Italian fried risotto balls. A lot of textures and flavors going on in one small dish. It was exquisitely delicious that we wiped the plate clean, Mark having eaten most of it. :p
Dal Chawal Arancini
The foam topping on the Raj Kachori got me curious, but it's as if I still wasn't convinced at how wrong my Indian food perception is, that I had Mark try it first yet again. :p And when I got the go signal, I immediately dug into the foam. Haha! The foam which is tamarind chutney definitely captured that authentic tangy tamarind taste. And to top it off, since it's basically air, it's 0-calorie. How about that?
Raj Kachori with Fried Okra Salad
What looked like a spicy dish for me, was actually a sweet one. The crispy puffed kachori was filled with sweetened yogurt and tangy pumpkin and mint chutney. It was a burst of sweet & sour freshness in every bite! Oh and what I thought as fried anchovies were actually fried okra salad and it was yummeh! I don't eat okra, but this one I can eat all day!
Along with the starters, we were also served with a refreshing Karak Chai Soda. It's karak chai concoction with tea spices, sumac berries, topped with soda & hints of cinnamon. Served in a teapot with all that smoke effect from liquid nitrogen, it greatly resembles that of the Arabic tea. I loved that the tea wasn't overpowering and the berries and cinnamon went well with the soda. Such a refreshing drink!
Karak Chai Soda
An Indian take on our Mexican and British specialties—Chicken Quesadilla and Shepherd's Pie—were served next.
Sandwiched in crispy flat bread, the chicken filling captured that authentic Mexican taste. Adding the Indian touch to this Mexican favorite were the yogurt and curry sauce alongside. Mexican and Indian flavors are pungent on their own and I never thought that they would go perfectly well together in this Chicken Quesadilla. But although the quesadilla was good, it was cheesy and savory, it was also a little too spicy for my liking.
I've had Shepherd’s Pie before but nothing that would make it a favorite, until I tried Farzi's version. Farzi's take on this British dish is deconstructed, with succulent juicy chunks of Wagyu beef, sweet potatoes, and dried beetroot chips scattered on a bed of savory potato mash. I was wondering where the Indian influence is which I immediately tasted when I sank my teeth into the tender Indian spiced beef. It was tender it melts in your mouth. Same goes with the sweet potatoes which are infused with Indian taste.
The beetroot chips were also a revelation! It added crunch and hint of sweetness to the whole dish. The dish was also elegantly presented in a crescent plate. This is definitely one of my favorites!
Deconstructed Shepherd's Pie
Just when I thought that we're done with the starters, we were yet again served with another set of remarkable dishes.
The Tandoori Mushroom Chaat is a feast for all the senses. It has 4 types of wild mushrooms, tomato, and walnut crumble, Parmesan, and garlic bits on top, and was served in a translucent bowl with truffle vapor steaming out of the pipe.
The aroma of the truffle not only filled the air but also got infused to the actual dish. The chunky mushrooms were savory, I loved how the walnuts and garlic added texture, and you could really taste the truffle in it.
The Tempura Dynamite Prawns is Farzi's take on the Japanese favorite. And well, it was the bomb! The mildly sweet supple shrimps were enveloped in a crispy light batter smothered with chili-mayo and topped with roe and chili foam. The chili foam captured that distinct chili taste. Although a little spicy for my liking, the spiciest among the dishes that we had that night actually, I still loved this dish that I didn't mind my already runny nose. :p
Tempura Dynamite Prawns with Chili Foam
The Ananas Orbits has got to be the funkiest pina colada that I had. It was served in a funky glass which kind of resembled a gas lamp. It felt weird on my first sip, simply because I'm thinking of it as a gas lamp, but I actually enjoyed this drink. The taste was on point—that distinct pineapple and coconut taste was there—and the pina colada caviar burst with goodness in every bite. The pineapple scented liquid nitrogen alongside also added that overall pina colada taste.
We were already full but a lot more dishes kept coming to our tables. The Khao Suay, which is apparently a Burmese dish, also got a dose of that Indian twist. It was initially intimidating but it turned out to be another good dish. Generous chunks of vegetables swim in a light yellow curry with a distinctive flavor of Indian spices.
To eat it you have to pour the curry over the hot rice, top it with spicy peanuts, fried noodles (I guess), and black rice puffs (not really sure), and drizzle it with a squeeze of lime. This one actually worked for me. It tasted like the usual curry dishes that we have back home. I just thought a little saltiness would make it even better.
Arabic and Indian cuisine were creatively combined in this Mutton Shawarma Biryani. Served in a vertical skewer which resembles a shawarma grill, over biryani with labneh on the side, this dish is another must-try. The mutton chunks were fork tender and had that pungent Indian spice which goes well with the biryani. The rice is admittedly on the oily side though, but had I not been full from the former dishes, I'd still definitely wipe this plate clean.
Mutton Shawarma Biryani
An Indian feast would not be complete without masala with naan/roti (or what ever that flat bread is called, I still get confused), at least that's what I have observed. And I being nuts over roti and masala (Mark can attest to that), nearly squealed when the Chicken Tikka Masala and bread were pulled out from a miniature British telephone booth (don't ask me, because up to now I also still can't decipher why).
My tummy was begging off but I just had to savor the goodness of dipping the naan into the piquant sauce with tender chicken meat. :D
Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan
I was amused with what Farzi had to offer, with all those glitz and theatrical presentation, that I so looked forward to how they'd do it with the desserts.
Sandwiched in slightly sweet Lotus cookies, the filling of this Lotus Cheesecake had that strong acidity which was just off for my palates. You'll have to drown it with the milk sauce to tame the sourness down. I loved how the chopped pistachio added texture though.
The Ras Malai Tres Leches, with that sugar crystal rose petal topping, Saffron milk, chopped pistachio, and carrot puree, is undoubtedly an eye candy. I've tried Ras Malai a couple of times before but I still haven't come to love this dessert. I don't know, but it just feels weird having a cold sweet milk bursting out of the spongy curd cheese when I bite. Farzi's version had carrot puree which was delicious though. Oh and I loved the sugar topping. :D
Ras Malai Tres Leches
Chopped sweetened nuts are enclosed in crunchy wonton wrappers (or so I think) and is served with vanilla ice cream and chopped pistachio. I'm not sure what this dish is called but it tasted very much like my favorite baklava, so I'm calling it the Indian Baklava. :p
Indian version of Baklava
Both Mark and I still haven't gotten used to some Indian and Mediterranean desserts, so Farzi's desserts also didn't quite appeal to us that much. Well, at least from the ones served to us, for me, only the Indian Baklava stood out. Not sure if they already have it in the menu, but a chocolate-based dessert would probably be a good addition.
Also, although I found it amusing, I just felt like it's unnecessary for most of the dishes to be in such theatrical presentations, specifically the huge and unusual serving dishes, which didn't even add value to the already yummy food. Add the fact that the tables were a bit cramped, leaving almost no room for our plates. I can't remember how many times Mark felt that little heart attack whenever I move, worrying that my clumsy self would bump into the dishes and break something from our table. XD
But then, I can still say that our overall dining experience was superb. The dishes are not only uniquely presented but most of them are also equally delicious. Service is fast and all staff, from the manager to the servers, are well-versed with what they offer. It’s actually a great place to bring guests especially because of the guaranteed ice-breaking entertainment. I haven't tried much Indian restaurants in Dubai, but among the few ones that I've tried (I also haven't tried is fancy counterpart yet) and although there are a lot more room for improvement, I'd say Farzi Cafe would be on top of my list.
City Walk, Al Safa & Al Wasl Road Intersection
Al Safa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 (0)4 394 2556
+971 (0)52 689 2012
* Table reservation recommended.
We were guests at Farzi Cafe and our meal was complimentary, but as always, this post is sincerely written and all views and opinions are my own.