I was visiting Al Bait Al Qadeem (let’s just call it Al Bait) last month to shoot some images and videos for my new recipe project, but before getting to work, I was treated to a delicious dinner with specialties from the region.
I really liked all the different sauces and condiments. In spite of being in Dubai for almost a decade, this was my first time to try mehyawah (anchovy sauce) which is a popular staple in Emirati kitchens. According to the leaflet on the table at Al Bait, mehyawah was brought to the Gulf region some 400 years ago by Portuguese sailors. You don’t really see it in the grocery stores down here, but if you get hooked (as I did), you can buy it from the reception at Al Bait.
The roasted lamb shank was so tender the meat just fell off the bone, and it tasted delicious together with the rice with dried cherries and pistachios. The samboosa (Emirati samosas) had a fusion-style filling of mozzarella and chicken, and a delicious green semi-spicy dipping sauce. A great starter, before diving into more hardcore authentic items at the menu.
The restaurant is located in a beautiful old house dating back to 1909, but even though the traditional indoor seating area was tempting, I opted for a table outside. The patio felt like an oasis right in the middle of the Deira hustle and bustle at the outskirts of the souk, and after sunset, this was no doubt the most beautiful part of the restaurant.
It is easy to write off Al Bait as just another tourist trap, but that would be a shame. Yes, there is a shop catering to Korean tourists (temporarily closed) on the rooftop terrace, and yes, the menu features several regional cuisines + Indian food(!), but the food is well-prepared and authentic within the respective categories, and the staff is genuinely kind. If your usual habitat is the Marina or Downtown Dubai, you will also be pleasantly surprised by the inexpensive dishes, that leaves no excuse for not getting both starters and dessert.
Al Bait, Opposite Al Ahmadiya School, Al Ahmadiya Street, Near Heritage House, Al Ras, Dubai. Tel: + 971-56 496 3338 The restaurant can be a little tricky to find, so give them a call if you get lost