One of the most opulent backdrops in the Middle East is home to Mezlai, the artisan restaurant for authentic yet refined Emirati cuisine.
Before I arrived, I was a little sceptical about Emirati cuisine, what it entailed and whether there really any difference between this and a Lebanese feast. Having travelled across the Middle East cities such as Damascus, Amman and even Muscat have their own stamp on Arabic delicacies, not only from the taste but also the mannerism and etiquette of dining. I’ve never really embraced an Emirati dining experience and therefore I was looking forward to sampling something new today.
Mezlai means “the old lock of the door” which is somewhat befitting to the flashback in time we were about to experience. I started with the Eggplant Salad, because this is one vegetable that an Arabic cuisine has to get right. From Morocco to Salalah, everyone loves the purpled bruised teardrop, and when cooked right is divine. This hint of garlic was just enough to set off the eggplant, and with the blend of peppers and tomatoes, was a refreshing start to our meal. This was accompanied with a selection of homemade breads or Rgag, blended with Zaatar which is a treat on it’s own.
With many Middle Eastern countries close to a shore line, it’s not surprise they do fish well, very well. The seafood selection was a little disappointing in terms of variety, however looked tempting with the blend of flavours on offer. I chose the Lamb Medfoun for my main, and I was really looking forward to this. Taking the traditional slow cooking method of wrapping the meat in banana leafs, and then serving in a fine dining establishment was quite a feat, but the tenderness and simplicity of dish was fully justified. I would love to try this eating on the floor of the desert one day, and maybe take this chef with me to do it.
To round of our Emirati date, a sampling menu of Mezlai’s dessert menu was offered to us. The Farni and Aseeda were as you would expect them to be, but the stand out dessert was the Bethitha, a rich date pastry laced with saffron and cardamom which was divine. Normally, I prefer all my deserts to have a punch of chocolate, it’s a bad habit, but this needed none of such common ingredients. It felt like a royal treat, but it’s background is very humble traditionally known as the energy bar of the pearl divers.
With the Arabian Sea in one direction and the backdrop of the Emirates Palace in the other, Mezlai is fantastic experience, and one you must try on your next visit to Abu Dhabi.