Fudo

In 1984, at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan, the National Geographic’s Steve McCurry photographed Sharbat Gula, a 12-year-old girl whose family had fled from Afghanistan to escape Soviet bombs. The girl’s piercing green eyes became symbolic of the plight of war refugees around the world. In 2006, at Fudo, a new café and restaurant next door to the Mercato Mall, the photograph of Sharbat Gula appears on the inside page of the tea menu and hangs proudly on the wall of the women’s toilets. Another ghastly set of misappropriated images line the rim of the ceiling – turbaned warlords, African children etc – but next to these hang prettily petite chandeliers. Thankfully, the rest of Fudo’s decor is quite splendid, unless it’s meant to be a refugee-themed cafe in which case the tiny pineapples on the tables are somewhat inappropriate. Other tables are piled high with interior design books (everything from Florida Design to Moorish Architecture), cow skin-style sofas are soft and comfy, and outside there’s a striking black granite water feature. Back indoors, we’d like to see the goldfish in tiny tanks given a little more room to breathe – we learned about goldfish maintenance the hard way when poor little Bingo died – which leads us neatly to the odd image on the back of the staff uniforms, of a fully-formed fish made only of bones. Cruelly inspired, we ordered sushi for a main course, which impressed. The estame combo was a large-enough-to-share selection of sashimi and nigiri, with tuna, salmon, eel and red snapper, and everything had been proficiently sliced and tasted exceptionally fresh. Fudo’s something-for-everyone approach – which perhaps explains the misguided attempt at multiculturalism, or cultural pluralism, or whatever 12- year-old Afghan refugees could possibly signify – results in four menus: Thai, Japanese, Italian and Lebanese. Fearful of a culinary cultural misunderstanding, we stuck with Asian food pre-sushi, before making a last minute dash for the tiramisu. This overly dry, too bitter dessert was the meal’s joint low point, along with the chicken skin starter; tasteless and utterly charmless twigs of crispiness. The tom yam soup wasn’t great either; the pedestrian broth home to only two wimpy, slightly squishy prawns. But the three dishes that joined the mangy chicken skin on the Thai appetiser platter were very good, tender battered cuttlefish, a garlicky chicken skewer and spring onion and snow pea stuffed duck spring rolls. With such a long and varied menu you’re always going to have successes and failures so we’d like to return soon to try the Italian and Lebanese food. We can’t help but mock Fudo’s crass connoting of togetherness, and can’t help but notice the staff at times performing their duties lackadaisically, but we can’t argue with the great location, the sofas under the stars, the good music, the frothy fruit cocktails, fine sushi, and the very reasonable prices. The bill (for two) Estame sushi combo Dhs95 Thai appetiser platter Dhs49 Tom yam soup Dhs35 Tiramisu Dhs22 Fruit cocktail Dhs22 Lemon and mint juice Dhs16 Total (excluding service) Dhs239

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