Em Sherif

Em Sherif, a new restaurant concept from Beirut, is located in the very heart of Downtown Dubai, directly opposite the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountain, with a small terrace that offers great views of both. Inside, this restaurant’s attractive interiors could successfully compete with the city’s most watched tourist attractions. The venue is decorated in sultry greyish blues and is filled with eclectic, eye-catching detail. It has high ceilings, tiled floors, colourfully embroidered chairs and lavish silver ornaments on the mirrored tables. Aside from the large bread oven and baker on view from the dining room, Em Sherif looks like an opulent domestic villa. When we decided to book a table at the restaurant, it was a shockingly arduous process. We were pretty much refused a table on several occasions. Not, it turned out, because the venue was full (although it was very busy when we finally got in with a reservation), but because they only had two tables in the entire restaurant for two people. This seemed strange, but it was only really once we arrived that we understood better what was going on here. While our waiter seemed shocked to have to explain the venue’s concept to us, we learnt that Em Sherif does not have a menu. Instead, dinner is charged at Dhs320 per diner and what comes out to the table is the same set meal that everyone else in the venue is eating. It’s a great idea, however, the sheer quantity of food served to a table of two means you cannot possibly eat to the full value of Dhs320. And, since tables of three and four appeared to be served exactly the same quantity of food, they (though at least not swamped) too are also not eating to the value of Dhs320 a head. Tricky. Still, what comes out is a flood of classic Lebanese cooking, but it is of a very high standard. Among the myriad of mezzes to arrive is good and classic tabbouleh and fattoush, the tiniest zaatar manakish, well-prepared and traditionally conceived moutabel, and kibbeh nayyeh. Instead of vine leaves, you’ll find a more Armenian twist, with minutely folded miniature triangles of soft Swiss chard leaves seasoned with a sharp and zesty acidic punch – perhaps a little too sharp for us. Highlights included hummus with a decadently creamy, yet light and silky texture to it (among our favourites sampled in Dubai), and fattet, which had a fantastic dynamic of plump chickpeas, still with some nutty bite to them, and an additional crunch of hazelnut. Once the cold and then the hot mezzes had arrived, it seemed as if an additional endless stream of food was still coming. As a result, waiters here are keen to serve the food for you, and equally keen to get you through the dishes before more arrive, serving out second helpings and whisking plates away (finished or not finished, and often without asking) to make space for more dishes. By the time desserts arrived we were barely up to tasting them and yet several of them still managed to bring pleasure. Among them was umm ali with roasted coconut, adding an unusual but excellent flavour to the dish, although the texture was far too soupy for us. Crispy pieces of mille feuille successfully broke up what would have otherwise been a monotony of soggy bread. A cup of pomegranate seeds amid a light rose-scented jelly and plenty of flaked almonds tasted fresh, light and healthy. The food and setting at Em Sherif are fantastic for a classic and very glamorous Lebanese experience. However, the current system of how much food is served versus how many dirhams are charged with little consideration to how many diners are at the table, frankly strikes us as odd, chaotic, and not very good value for money, regardless of how many are at the table. The bill (for two) 2x set menu Dhs640 1x large water Dhs27 2x tea Dhs52 Total (excluding service) Dhs719

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