Restaurant Review - Mays El Reem
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Lebanese cuisine is cooked to perfection at the Mays El Reem in the JW Marriott; but Brian Salter just knows his waistline will pay a heavy price
I don't know who it was who famously described Lebanese Cuisine as rabbit food with a bit of lamb thrown in. It might have been one of the reasons that I had always found this type of food somewhat on the underwhelming side of the gastronomical divide; but perhaps after visiting the newly opened Mays El Reem in Dubai's JW Marriott, it is time for me to rethink my opinions.
The JWM is one of those hotels that is infuriatingly difficult to find if you don't live in that part of town. But once you do manage to work out a route, it boasts seven restaurants, two cafés and two bars – more than enough to satisfy the most demanding palettes, I would imagine.
The Mays offers a fixed price meal costing 250Dhs, and the first thing that strikes you is that either the tables simply aren't big enough, or that somebody, somewhere, should whisper in someone's ear that 16 cold appetisers, followed by seven hot appetisers, followed by a choice of six main courses and seven deserts is really more than anyone can munch their way through, however long they have held back from satisfying their culinary cravings.
Nabil – our Lebanese man of the moment – announced each of the dishes in turn as they were laid down on the tablecloth with panache. Baba ghanouj, Batata harra, Fattoush, Vicia faba, Makdous, Mujaddara….or to us mere mortals struggling to hear each word against the rhythmic music of the Oud musician band, aubergine… spicy potato… toasted pita salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, chickweed and mint… brown bean and red lentil mash…stuffed eggplant…cooked lentils with rice and onions… the list went on and on and it was just impossible to fit all the various plates of mezze onto the table in one go. Olive oil, herbs, spices, vegetables, yoghurt and garlic in abundance simply added to the cacophony of taste sensations.
My companion for the evening fell on the plate of Mujadarra like a soul winging its way to heaven. For her, this was the crowning glory of the entire meal; not that she had even begun to sample some of the extraordinary dishes such as my favourite - lambs' tongues in lemon juice.
Admittedly there were some dishes that we both found a little disappointing, most noticeably a Lebanese adaptation of the famous French Steak Tartare: Kibbeh nayye or raw minced lamb meat; and some air-cured beef which did not have the melt-in-the-mouth softness that the Swiss have so perfected in their cuisine.
The hot starters (we'd already been here over an hour by now) followed next with, for me, a delightful scrambled egg mixed with minced meat stealing this part of the gastronomic show. But it wasn't long before the main course of lamb chops, grilled chicken marinated in olive oil, lemon, parsley and sumac and countless other additions to this heaving platter miraculously appeared. Could we really eat our way through all of this, after over-indulging on the previous 23 dishes? A quick glance around the restaurant showed us we were not alone with that thought!
So quickly onto the final course with platefuls of fruit to wash it all down, as well as halwa, glacé figs (oh.. those figs… simply to die for!) and sweet delicacies for which you just knew your waistline would be paying the price the following morning!
We declined the offer of argileh (flavoured hubbly bubbly or shisha) and waddled out to the waiting car, which I could swear was groaning as it edged its way out into the night-time traffic.
What we liked: The décor, the smiling and helpful staff and the huge variety on offer
What we didn't like: The Oud band, which to a non-attuned ear took on a monotonous role; and the raw meat dishes which were bland and looked unappealing
Dhs250 per head
Mays El Reem @ JW Marriott Dubai, Abu Baker Al Siddique Road - Adjacent to Hamarain Shopping Centre
Tel: 04 262 4444