Baja Fresh

Another week, another American fast-food franchise opens in Dubai. It’s as if the UAE is going for that world number one spot in the obesity rankings (currently it’s in 18th place). So, like a paramedic arriving at the scene of a culinary pile-up, we rolled up our sleeves and waded in to help. Baja Fresh, however, claims to be different from standard US food-court grub. The company website promises that it uses ‘no microwaves, no can openers, no freezers, no lard, and no MSG’ in the preparation of its Mexican-style offerings and, when we enquired, the staff insisted this was also the case at the Dubai outlet. But after spying a huge freezer behind the counter, with a digital temperature readout on zero, we politely enquired again. Cue embarrassed faces and shuffling of feet. One of the staff then begrudgingly admitted that the chicken and beef are frozen. It was the second ambiguity of the day: the first was the location. The press release proudly proclaimed that Baja Fresh was unveiling ‘its first international location at the entrance of the world-famous Burj Khalifa’. We naturally assumed we’d find it right at the foot of Dubai’s loftiest landmark, so were rather disappointed when we finally tracked it down in the basement of The Dubai Mall. Its setting, rather than nestled alongside the Everest of construction, is a mall food court where culinary aspirations go to die and where children seemingly go to scream, shout and stand on the tables. To avoid the wailing kids, we sat in the Nando’s area opposite and hoped the food would be better than the marketing. But my Baja burrito (melted Jack cheese, guacamole, Pico de Gallo chicken) was lukewarm, sloppy and without anything that could be defined as a flavour. The Tostada salad was better, served in a crispy flour tortilla shell and filled with lettuce, tomato, beans, guacamole, cheese and sour cream, but it was going to take more than a crispy hat of salad to lift the mood. When the best thing about a meal is the paper carton of diet Coke, you know something’s not right. The location was misleading, the food was disappointing and the ambiance was like a screaming crèche. If someone suggests Baja Fresh to you, then amigo, just run for the border and never look back. The bill (for two) 1x Baja chicken burrito Dhs25 1x Tostada chicken salad Dhs27 2x Diet Cokes Dhs14 Total (including 10 per cent service) Dhs66

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