Bu Qtair has been a long term darling among the foodies in Dubai, and even before Poul and I moved down here, I had read about this place. So what has kept me away for so long? Hard to say, but I guess the hype about the place made me want to wait for a few more month.
I don’t really like queuing, and it is also my experience that super-hyped places usually disappoints, because no matter how good the food is, it will never be able to match those sky-high expectations you’ve built up. So I waited…and waited, but Bu Qtair just grew even more popular, and I realized that now was the time to go. If the success of this place continues, it’s just a matter of time, before it will turn into a theme park or a worldwide chain of restaurants.
Bu Qtair is all about fish and the concept is simple: The catch of the day is marinated, then sold by weight and fried to perfection in giant frying pans in the steamy kitchen. You place the order inside the portacabin, which is where all the action takes place, and you then proceed outside to wait for your table. When we were there, we could choose between fish (I think it was sheri) and shrimps. I’ve heard rumors that Bu Qtair charges higher prices for guests looking like they can afford it, and there were no price tags, so we didn’t really know what to expect. We paid 110AED for one big fish and half a kg of shrimps, which I think was a very reasonable price.
We arrived just after 19:00, which we thought was quite early, but all the tables were occupied, so we were in for a 30 minutes wait on the plastic chairs in the designated waiting area in front of the cabin. I always get a bit grumpy, when I’m hungry, and as time passed I asked myself several times how great such a fried fish could possibly be while Poul sent me numerous “it’d better be worth waiting for” looks. Most people in Dubai have troubles pronouncing my name (my real name, Sanne, not my Mitzie Mee alias), so we missed the first notification that our table was ready, but it was quickly solved, and we were seated.
The food arrived immediately, and it looked and smelled so delicious that it took quite an effort to keep Trine and Poul from digging in, before I had finished my mandatory photo shoot (oh the joy of being a food blogger). We added a curry sauce, flatbread and some rice to our order, and it also arrived in a flash. The food came with plastic cutlery (forks and spoons), but we decided to do what most other diners did and just eat with our fingers.
Bu Qtair is Indian so the fish is served in quite a different way from what you see in Europe. First of all there’s the marinade, which is red, fragrant and very aromatic, but I couldn’t really place the different spices used. I’m not sure, whether the same marinade was used for the shrimps, but they were a bit spicier than the fish was and called for a gulp of coke to prevent burning our tongues. The fish had some cuts along the side to make it easier to grab a slice, and we also ate the crispy skin, which was attached to the tender, white meat.
I must confess that except for the most common species used for sushi and sashimi, I don’t know a lot about fish. On a good day I can tell a plaice from an octopus, but that’s about it. Poul, on the other hand, is from the Faroe Islands, which is primarily a fishing nation, so he knows a lot about the creatures of the sea, and he is not easy to impress, when it comes to fish dishes. Unless you’re Bu Qtair, and make super-fabulous-so-fresh-that-it-hurts fried fish so to say…
It was so good! Who would have thought such basic food in such simple settings could be so outrageously delicious? Not me, not Trine and definitely not Poul. It didn’t take more than one bite though, to fully understand why people are lining up outside this fish shack each night, and why 30 minutes of waiting time is fully justified by the heavenly bites, which await you.
So if you’re living Dubai, don’t do like me and let two years pass, before you visit this place and if you’re planning to visit Dubai, put Bu Qtair on top of your to-do list, (yes, right up there, above Burj Khalifa, gold souks and Mall of the Emirates). Tall buildings and indoor ski slopes in all honor, but it’s the great food you’ll remember years from now.